After dance practice today, I saw Davis. "You're so excited about dancing," she told me, smiling, "I haven't seen you like this."
I joined the dance show totally randomly. I stopped by Davis's room one day, for no reason, and her roommate, Seana, convinced me to join her at the Dance Co audition, for moral support. I didn't want to go at first -- I had work, I'm lazy, it's easier not to go. But I wanted bonding time with Seana, so I agreed. Plus, I have a big dancer envy and so basically, I think dancing = cool. So, why not?
It's been a really long time since I last danced. When I was little, I was such the girly girl. Barbie dolls, pink sheets, ballet slippers. What I wanted most in the world was to be a ballerina. My poor mother had to line up in the cold to register me for ballet classes at the community centre since I just HAD to be in and I wasn't the first little girl to have ballerina aspirations. Those first classes had little to do with first position and more to do with rustling tutus and soft, pink slippers. I learned to do the "princess wave" that became my signature.
Those first, tiny ballet shoes still sit on the top of my keepsakes box in my closet. Actually, there are a few pairs, each one larger than the last. My mom couldn't sew the elastics into my new pair fast enough for me.
I grew up and grew into classes at dance studios with mirrors and bars. My mother and I would sit in the waiting room and I'd gaze up at the older girls, duffel bags slung across their slender frames. The ballet buns gave them all incredible cheek bones. I couldn't imagine any creature more beautiful, more graceful, more confident than these divine spirits who breezed through my life for seconds every Saturday. My tondues and demi-pliers would become their arabesques, one day.
But then they didn't. I took ballet, tap and jazz combo classes and decided to try jazz at a new studio (the blue leotard probably did it -- I was 11 and so over pink). I quit all those and tried hip hop. After that I quit dance altogether. My busy, new teenage life didn't have room for my soft, pink slippers.
After auditioning with Seana, I looked back and scratched my head. Why did I quit? I really enjoyed dance -- I spent the last two years of high school trying to make room and quietly envying the ballerinas I knew. I wasn't able to get past the planning stages, the vague ideas. I watched "So You Think You Can Dance" instead.
So why the fuck did I ever quit? An hour after the Dance Co audition, I sat drinking a beer at a party and wondering. I'd felt a rush, dancing in the audition. The rush was awesome. Then I remembered my last class I signed up for. It was jazz; I went to the store to buy the leotard, but they didn't carry my size. "My size" wasn't really your normal ballet size. While it was being shipped, I wore baggy sweats and a T-shirt to dance. I have a vivid memory of standing against the back bar, looking into the mirror in the studio; week 3 of no leotard yet. The room was filled with slender, chinioned girls prancing around, and there I was, this monster at the back. I just knew there was no way my 11 year old, developing body would ever be like those mature ballerinas. I never went back after that class.
Except that's totally bullshit. None of the girls I know who are dancers are skin and bone the way I imagined back then. I have no idea what they actually looked like, these girls I looked up to, but I'm guessing they looked a lot like me. It only took me 7 years to figure it out.
I feel a little bit sad about the lost time. I see so many girls who have been dancing for so long and they are so beautiful. There's one piece in the show that makes my eyes fill with tears of beauty and regret when I see it. That's what I want to do. I want to be beautiful like that.
I'm in beginner level dances in the show this year, a far cry from the breathtaking pieces some other girls are doing, but there is this moment in one of my dances. It's the last one, in lyrical hip hop style, and there's this moment at the end of the song where the whole group is doing the same thing at the same time and it feels like we jump right in to the music. It feels good like improv felt good. I'm saving up my pennies for dance classes next semester -- I don't think I'm quite ready to give up my ballerina dream.