Sept. 14, 2020
As part of College Confidential's essay series, we're sharing personal essays from students who were admitted to college during a prior admissions cycle. The student who wrote this as her essay was accepted to the University of Virginia, and we are sharing it with her permission.
I once made the mistake of sitting down during ballet class. My thighs were quivering from the petit allegro combination, my forehead stung from the unyielding pull of my excessively hair-sprayed ballet bun, and the raw skin on my toes was peeking out all bloody and tender from being shoved in wood pointe shoes for the past two hours. My ten-year-old body throbbed off-beat to the pianist's Prokofiev. I slid my sweaty back down the wall of my ballet classroom, and sat. Big mistake. Although my attempt for physical reprieve was evanescent, my Hungarian teacher experienced an ardent, even possessing, rage because of it. This fairy-like woman transformed into a red-faced banshee who lectured me vehemently about the disrespectfulness of my action. Sentenced to the corner, I was instructed to reflect on "what I had just done."
Sitting down during ballet class may seem trivial to most people, pretty much all people actually, but ballet enjoys a historic strictness that includes classroom etiquette. The austerity of the art is not limited to a ten-year-old-sitting policy: Ballet is rules -- complex, detailed, and painstaking rules. Laymen may not believe there is a right way for me to position my pinkie during a pirouette, but I assure them there is. Weirdly, the stringent intricacy of ballet is what made me fall in love with dance. The structured consistency provided me with comfort during times when everything was changing. When I moved from London to Ohio, I was faced with myriad cultural differences that were unsurprisingly unsettling. Ballet, however, was not one of them. A plié was still a plié. The consistency of dance was a soothing reminder of home in a foreign place.
Ballet continued to play an anchoring role in my life, but by seventeen it was less solace inducing and had taken on the more literal properties of an anchor. Training pre-professionally was all-encompassing. The time commitment alone was immense, topping twenty hours weekly, but beyond that I dedicated my physical, emotional, and mental self to ballet because the art demanded I do so. Ballet was in charge; I performed as it instructed: think color-by-number painting. This rigidity that once brought me peace grew dull and monotonous, even suffocating. Eventually, dance lost its color. As time went on, ballet increasingly conflicted with the independent and open-minded woman I was becoming. It exacerbated a paradox in my life: what was pushing me the hardest was also holding me back. High school to me meant student government, team sports, and art club. Ballet disagreed; it became jealous and possessive. I resented its control, and I fell out of love with the art. It was time for us to break up.
Ballet's departure from my daily life left a void, but simultaneously freedom. I finally had time to try the extracurricular activities that characterize the high school experience. Participating in cheer and French club, as well as my other endeavors, allowed me to diversify my high school experience in a way pre-professional ballet never would have allowed.
However, the funny thing about my relationship with dance is that it is entirely cyclical. I left my ballet program to immerse myself in my high school community, but in the process of doing so I came right back to it. I started AHS Moves, a drop-in beginner-oriented dance club for any and everyone at my school. What I could not have predicted was the way in which taking ownership of this group would heal my relationship with dance. Directing and choreographing for kids who do not have formal training, and quite frankly do not care, has enabled me to enjoy dance without the pressure of a pre-professional ballet environment. I have realized that my issue with dance was not actually that I did not love it, but that I wanted to do it on my own terms. And now I can.
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