Why ballet?

There is a moment before the music begins where silence whisps through the room. Your arms are in bras bas, your feet in first. In that moment, all outside distractions melt away. The focus that ballet brings allows the thoughts, memories, and concerns that clamor through your mind to dim and recede to the background. Every muscle is taught. The chin is placed at the perfect angle over the shoulder. There is an intake of breath. That sensation is priceless, like the hush before a free throw or the pause at the summit of a roller coaster.

Then music fills the room. As the chords ring out from the piano, movement begins in unison. Everything is perfectly clear. You pour into your port de bras every bit of emotion, every tear or giggle, and your lips part into a genuine smile.

Why ballet?

Slowly, intentionally, you extend your foot forward, brushing the ground. As your toe etches a circle on the floor in a rond de jambe, your arms glide, creating a pattern that tells a story. Juliet meets Romeo. The dying swan gasps her final breath. Coppelia appears, repaired by the skillful Doctor Coppelius. You lift your leg à la seconde and fouetté towards the barre.

Leg higher. Hips straighter. Arms more fluid. Waist smaller. Knees more pulled up. Back held stronger. Feet more pointed. Better turn out. Faster. Higher. Straighter. Longer. More. There is always another level to achieve, another turn to complete, and another performance to rehearse. You will never find true perfection, yet every day you strive for it. “Good enough” is unacceptable. There is always more to try for. Still, “can’t” is not in ballet vocabulary. If you have grit and passion, you will succeed. That is ballet.

Why ballet?

You move to the center, beginning with adagio. This is your sanctuary in life. Still a wanderer in a world of chaos and noise, this is where you belong. Your place of peace. Gone are the worries that accompany school and relationships. Gone are the troubled hearts, the censored words, the people who refuse to tell you what they truly believe. You penché with your partner lightly holding your waist. In ballet, there is no hiding your innermost feelings. While dancing, your soul is wide open for the world to see. You turn into a tendu en avant, glissade to arabesque, and fish dive with your partner. It has an elegance only known to dancers. It breathes with emotion; honest and unrestrained. It breathes with freedom. It breathes with life.

Why ballet?

They say lift before you land. You float to the floor, completing a delicate balance after a pirouette en dedans. In a flash, you are off again, moving in a manège of chaînés and piqués. Your muscles burn and your breath is ragged, but somehow it feels exhilarating, not exhausting. Your fatigue empowers you to push yourself ever further. Past your limits, past what you even imagined possible. Eventually the pain becomes a part of your training; something to be proud of. Something that you love almost as much as the dancing itself. They say lift before you land but you keep rising, floating through life.

Why ballet?

You begin to jump, feet moving faster and sharper as you assemblé and petit jeté across the floor. You are Nikiya or Aurora or Cinderella. The audience in your mind is captivated as you soar across the stage. No longer are you a student in training. You have become the desperate Firebird, or the countess overwhelmed by love. Across the floor you bound, beaming as you tour jeté and cabriole. You saut de chat, splitting your legs in the air and reaching your arms in second arabesque. Because the audience sees you not as yourself, but as the character you’ve become, they are not concerned with your personal status. You cannot buy your way into a lead role or rely on your parentage to improve. In this way, ballet is perfectly equal. It is not your circumstances but your effort that define you as a dancer.

Why ballet?

My ballet is flawed. Every class I miss landings, mistake positions, and lose my balance. Every day I find myself underdelivering. What’s more, my body doesn’t fit the ballerina mold; I am too tall, too broad, and my arches are too stiff. So, for a curvy, imperfect, clumsy, overwhelmed, awkward teenager…why ballet? I am a ballet dancer because my imperfections are what make me powerful. I am inspired to improve because success isn’t a hand out. I love that I have to work harder to overcome challenges unique to me. I love that the energy, sweat, and time I devote to ballet strengthens my attachment to it. I love that there is no plateau of perfection; there is always an uphill climb with more to work for and dream about. I love that every class I am encouraged to surpass my previous capabilities. Instead of accepting me for how I am, it embraces my potential and expands it. I am a ballet dancer because ballet captured my heart. And by doing so, it set me free.