The Graceful One

The Graceful One

via Daily Prompt: Graceful

I don’t usually participate in the daily prompts, but this one I couldn’t pass up. This will simply be me reminiscing about my former life, and maybe what could have been had certain events not taken place.

I grew up dancing. From the age of three to the age of twenty, I was a dancer. From the age of eleven to the age of eighteen, I was involved in musical theater as well, which was the best of both worlds to me because I loved singing and acting. But at the heart of it all, I was a dancer.

There’s a certain freedom in dancing that you can’t find anywhere else. Even though when you are dancing, you are constantly thinking of things like technique and holding your center and smiling and *breathe* the adrenaline rush is unlike anything else. When you soar through the air in the perfect jete or nail that triple pirouette, you can’t help but feel like for once in your life, you’re actually good at something.

I wasn’t a bad dancer. In fact, I was pretty good. I did all sorts of kinds of dance, but my favorite was always ballet, from the very beginning. It’s also probably the most difficult form of dance there is because of the crazy amount of technique involved (why do you think dancers in professional companies still take class almost every day? Because ballet is hard.)

The Nutcracker, 1995

From a young age, I was challenged to dance with girls who were 3-4 years older than me. It was a difficult time for me emotionally, as events unfolded that led to my development of social anxiety disorder. But problems aside, I worked hard to be as good as the older girls. When I was 9, I auditioned for the 9-12 year old age bracket for a local ballet company’s annual production of The Nutcracker. My own ballet teacher warned my mom that I wouldn’t make it because I was too small and they would only take 12-14 children from throughout the entire city. But I did indeed make it…as the smallest party girl.

Pointe duet in 2001 (age 15)

I started taking pointe (that’s dancing on your tippy toes for the uninitiated) when I was only 9 years old, which was unheard of at the time. Most girls wouldn’t start until around the ages of 12-13 or so, but my ballet teacher wanted to experiment with three of us little ones to see if it could be done. I regret I didn’t have more time to devote to pointe as I went through the rest of my years of dancing, because I loved it. I even co-won the annual Ballet Award with my friend and classmate Kelly (see picture) when I was only in 7th grade, something that was again pretty much unheard of, as the awards usually went to juniors or seniors in high school.

Freeze Frame, 2004 (age 18)

It wasn’t until high school that I was given the moniker “the graceful one” (a name Kelly and I shared for awhile until she graduated a few years ahead of me.) This became so ingrained into who I was as a dancer that during my senior year, in a dance when we all had different, handmade costumes, mine was half a dress, half a leotard (see picture); it had to be a dress because I was “the graceful one.” It was the most awkward thing to wear, but it looked very cool, even though it’s hard to tell in the picture due to the lighting.

For a long time I had considered majoring in musical theater in college. There ended up being two reasons that didn’t happen.

First, at the start of my sophomore year of high school, I made it into our school’s nationally renowned show choir. Our choreographer at the time (who quit a month later) was a real piece of work, calling us names and insulting us when we did things wrong, because “That’s what it’s like in real show business.” Well, I decided, if that’s real show business, I want no part of it. I deserve better than being told I’m worthless and I suck at life because I did some dance steps wrong. I made my decision then to not pursue musical theater, but kept it a secret for two more years.

Amazing Grace, 2002 (age 16)

The other reason also happened my sophomore year, ironically also during one of our seven-hour long show choir rehearsals (we rehearsed twice a week for seven hours each day, but also sometimes during the school day.) We were marking through a number (not dancing full-out) and I planted my foot to do a double turn. I was just going to mark it, but my brain and body miscommunicated and I turned with enough force to do a double turn…but my foot stayed planted. SNAP!  It burned a little, but I didn’t think much of it. I had injuries all the time, from pulled muscles to twisted ankles to shin splints. Unfortunately, this was worse than I thought. It wasn’t until I saw the above picture (I’m on the left), taken during a performance, and my dance teacher gently scolded me for having my knee slightly bent. I didn’t realize it until then, but because of the injury, I couldn’t tell when my leg was fully straightened and I had to push it extra hard to make it straight. But I toughed it out for two more years, only finding out my senior year that I had torn my meniscus. I re-injured it twice that year. After the second time, which was at my second dance rehearsal in college, I realized I was done. I had wanted to at least do a dance minor along with my pharmacy major, but my body wouldn’t let that happen.

It’s now been 11 years since I last danced. Even though my knee was finally fixed three years ago, I don’t think I could ever dance again. But if I ever manage to get myself to a dance class, I think I’ll find that the graceful one is still there inside me.


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