If you’ve ever clicked on those links that say “You Were a Dance Kid If…” then this post is written for you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m pretty sure I’ve clicked on them all.
Do you ever catch yourself with your hand on the handle of your grocery cart in the oh so gentle way that reminds you of the ballet barre? It’s funny how the position of your hand can transport you back to a time of leotards, pale pink tights, and hair pins. But it does, doesn’t it? Sure, there was always pressure there, but you could always find comfort in that pressure. It was predictable. You could thrive knowing that the barre routine would be the same as the day before allowing you to master each delicate roll through the foot, gentle turn of the head, and reach through the fingertips. There was always something about barre work that allowed you to feel like a real ballerina. The slide of the canvas shoes on the floor during the ron de jambe sequence, and the scuff during frappe work. All of this coming from your spot at the barre. That’s so funny, isn’t it? In my college classes, we could stand anywhere. But everyone had “their” spot. Maybe that’s part of the mindset of a dancer: planned, routine, rehearsed. I think there was also an unspoken hierarchy to each line of us positioned around the room. I definitely wasn’t at the top, but I like to think I was somewhere in the middle. My feet weren’t bad, but my turnout didn’t ever come easy.
I loved the ballet barre. I still do. Sometimes, away from the grocery store, in my home, the kitchen counter becomes my barre. The music I have on as I make dinner becomes my barre accompaniment, and I begin my plies. It doesn’t last long, but for a brief minute, I’m taken back to an era of my life that seems so far away and like only yesterday all at the same time.
From the time I was 8 (a much later start compared to many of the dance kids out there) until I was almost 20, there was no defining myself without dance. It was me. It was who I was. Most of my friends were friends from the studio, meals revolved around dance schedules, every song I heard was a routine, and nothing (NOTHING) was ever scheduled during competition season or recital time. Of course, there was the social drama that went along with dance and the physical issues and injuries. But most of all, there was a drive to to perform. There was some internal push to see what I could do: jump higher, turn faster, dance stronger, captivate an audience, convey an emotion, feel the music. Dance took me through elementary school, my awkward middle school years, high school when I thought I knew so much, and nearly young adulthood.
Then, dance and I broke up.
It was hard. And scary. And I had to work to figure out who I was without it. I think so many of us “dance kids” have a moment when we move away from our dancing, or it leaves us behind. For me, I knew I would be happier and healthier if I left dance behind, at least just for awhile.
READ: I ran into an old friend – ME.
Now we’ve been apart for 13 years, just longer than we were even together.
It sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it? But when something is so relevant and defining for you for so long, it becomes permanently embedded in who you are. I’d compare it to the dad who coaches little league baseball with flashbacks to his own high school and college career. Or the mom who coaches soccer after her own days as a forward on the field. It’s hard though to get that taste of dance back. Sure, there are adult classes, and I’ve taken a few here and there. (Clearly I’m itching for one again!) But, as a dance kid, sometimes you’ve got to get your fix in different ways. Maybe it’s fitness classes at the gym, crossfit, or swimming. Maybe it’s the balance, poise, and control of yoga. For me, very recently, I’ve decided I can find that same physical push, mental focus, and sense of accomplishment in jogging. I should probably really call it “slogging” because it’s slow, and ugly, and I don’t even really go that far. But I’m doing it! And it feels good!
I guess the point out of all of this for all of us who once upon a time almost dancers, is that we WERE dancers. And some part of us will always be dancers. The first few notes of a song can take me back to the competition stage where I can feel the heat from the lights and the material of a barely worn costume. The edge of a countertop can be that old, familiar barre. We just move on, grow older, and find new ways to fulfill our need to push. We find new emotional outlets. We love dance parties with our kids, do plies in our minds at the grocery cart, and then we go for a run.