A Lost Art by Kristy Brunner, New City, NYEver since I could remember, I was in a dance studio with my ballet slippers thrown over my shoulder. I started taking ballet lessons when I was two and a half years old. I took ballet lessons, tap lessons, jazz, modern dance lessons - anything you could think of, I tried. I would be dancing from the second school ended until dinnertime. Some nights, I even missed dinner. As I look back, the majority of this experience was good. But, like many things in life, the older you get, the more competitive it became.Every year our dance company performed The Nutcracker. I always seemed to get a semi-decent part. As junior high rolled around, I was asked to try out for a major ballet company's summer program. Well, this is where everything went downhill. I was accepted into the program. I know it sounds exciting, but it really was not. It required me to live away from home for a month all by myself at age 12.The first problem was dealing with my friends who did not get in. They started spreading rumors that the only reason I got in was because I was skinny. I never thought skinniness counted until the camp. The majority of the kids were bulimic. There would be a line to get into the bathroom after meals because everyone was throwing up. We were only 12 years old. I had no idea what was going on. I would just sit and eat Lucky Charms until the line dwindled. Don't get me wrong; I never made myself throw up, but as time went by, the dancers made it seem like a necessity.When camp was over, I thought everything would be okay. But when I returned to my studio, it seemed that bulimia was now the "cool" thing to do. The teachers didn't encourage it, but they did not stop it either. After one more year I thought, Enough is enough. I confronted my parents about quitting. I never told them the real reason. All I said was that it was too much work. It was taking away from my social life and especially my schoolwork. My sister and I agreed that it would be cool to quit the competitive classes and take an MTV Hip-Hop class. That was a lot of fun. If we didn't like what we had to wear or the song we were dancing to, our teacher would try to change it. One thing I loved about this class was that the girls just didn't care. Some of them were even overweight. I forgot what an overweight person looked like during my month in Boston.I secluded myself from my old ballet teachers and friends. But when I saw them, there was never any "Hello" or "How are you." It was dirty looks, whispers, and giggles. They would say I couldn't handle the pressure. I was not what they thought I was. The head of the company tried to make me feel guilty by telling my mom I could have been a great dancer and that I would have had a big part in The Nutcracker this year if I had continued. I didn't buy it. If she thought I was such a great dancer, I would have had a good part last year.Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and quit the company altogether. I couldn't understand how an activity could be so competitive and make it seem that being bulimic was okay, and at the age of twelve. At that point I thought I was the only one who danced for fun. It is a hard thing to be asked to harm my body just to be a "better" dancer. I wouldn't do it and neither should anyone else. My love for dance is still there but every time I see a performer, I can't help but wonder whether she is treating her body with respect. c
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.