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Ballet

By , Mandeville, LA
Waiting in the wings, I look out onto the stage. The lights illuminate it and the radiating glow energizes me. Right now, it is empty. I however I am an artist. That empty stage is my canvas. When I dance across it in a few seconds, I will paint a picture. I am the artist in control of what happens. I will glide and leap and make all sorts of marks on it, because for ninety seconds, it is just the music and I working together. My goal is to make a piece of art that the audience will want to take home with them. A picture they frame in their memories, one that tells them a story.
I knew I had to dance. As an eight year old I went to New York City with my mom. Sitting in the front row with the orchestra below me, watching the New York City ballet, something moved me. My eyes were opened to a whole new kind of beauty. Not the kind on the runway or the cover of a magazine, but the kind of beauty that inspires. As an eight year old, I just did not understand how ballerinas made it look so easy.
I credit my sudden growth as a dancer to my dance teachers. I knew I had to be a dancer, and they taught me that the only limitations I have are the ones I put on myself. They helped me realize that unlike sports that have off seasons and long breaks, dance focuses on the need for commitment. A teacher once told me it takes one day to make up for everyday you miss. Inevitably, as I got older, class intensity increased. I began to take daily classes which began to last longer and longer. It was not until high school that I realized how much sacrifice it would require. I had to learn how to balance school, friends, and family around dance. I really do not think anyone around me understands how much work is involved in dance. It is sometimes frustrating when people do not take it seriously. Dance can be so rewarding, but you truly have to fight through a lot of things. Injuries can happen so quickly and end a dancer's career forever. I have experienced a few injuries. I hyper extended my knee three days before I was supposed to leave for a ballet program. I went to physical therapists and an orthopedist, yet no one could fix the mental and physical pain I was in. It was so stressful, but after ice and rest it felt a lot better when I left. I also have tendinitis in my ankle which can make it uncomfortable to walk sometimes muscles dance. One of the things that I live with everyday is my unbalanced hips. I have to wear a brace sometimes and it causes me a lot of back pain, yet the joy I get out of dance is so rewarding that the uncomfortable parts are easier to deal with. Some days the schedule is so monotonous that it can be hard to focus and work my hardest. My friends I have at dance are what make it easy to get through this.
After dancing at my studio for thirteen years, when I was a sophomore I began to assist other teachers in ballet class. I would help keep the kids focused and calm. That year I had the opportunity to dance the lead role of Clara in the Nutcracker. It had been my dream forever to do that. It was an amazing experience and the most fun I ever had. As I got older, I began to take classes to teach. I teach 3,5,6,and 7 year olds. Some of them I taught for a few years. I have really begun to see how I impact them. They really look up to me and sometimes it's a lot of pressure. I look forward to teaching them, as they are all so important to me. They make the cutest comments and say the cutest things. Teaching is another part of dance for me that is a commitment. Often go straight from school to teach and then I take class and have rehearsal. Some days, I do not get home until nine. Spending five hours at dane right after school is often frustrating and I do not like it. Dance makes school ten times harder because I have to manage my time so much more and I never have enough time for homework.
Now, as a senior in high school, it is hard to look back on everything dance has provided me with. Recently, I danced the lead role in the Nutcracker. As snow queen, I had to dance for six minutes straight. Most people don't understand how much dancing that is, but it's similar to sprinting for six minutes. As a little girl, I always dreamed of being snow queen, to finally have the opportunity to dance the role was amazing. I saw how the little girls I teach ballet to admired my costume and pointe shoes and it was weird to think that was me once. Having a lead role, also means a lot of rehearsals. I spend every Saturday there from 9-2. It is so exhausting and I often wish for a normal Saturday morning. The only day I have off is Sunday and so the weekends fly by way too fast with only one day to rest. It's weird to think about putting hours and weeks into rehearsal for a show that last maybe two hours with one or two minutes of dancing. Most people don't understand that, but that's why I love dance, because you're never done and there is always something that needs work.
Despite the sacrifices, the rewards dance has given me surpass everything. Dance teaches me things that I am able to carry with me in other areas of my life. It taught me that good things require hard work and positive thinking. It is constant and daily self-improvement. It has also showed me what true passion and dedication is. Dance requires good communication which is an important quality to possess. Dance is always my escape and how I express myself. It enables me to communicate with strangers without even saying a word, it gives me a figurative voice in a piece music, I can be whomever I want to be.
Waiting backstage, I think back to that day when I was eight years old and how far I have come in my life because of dance. This is what I live for. The stage manager gives me my countdown, 3-2-1, the music starts and I step onto the stage. Just for the next minute or so I am a story teller, character, and artist. But forever I am a dancer.





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