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Insight: I want ballet to be more than a relic of my childhood

Ballet helped get me through high school, but as a college student I struggle to find where I fit in the dance community


"Like any athlete who leaves a sport, I miss the way that ballet made my body feel."

I mused in my admissions essay for Barrett, the Honors College about the lessons dancing ballet taught me. That essay was supposed to be a testament to my character, but now it seems like a eulogy for a piece of myself that I left behind in high school.

My family signed me up for ballet classes because, like many little girls, I loved wearing sparkly dresses and watching "Barbie in the Nutcracker". I stubbornly clung on to ballet through high school, doing barre exercises in my bedroom during the pandemic, rushing between my first job and the studio, and staying up late after practice to finish my homework. 

During my junior and senior years, ballet class became a haven from the stress of grades, extracurriculars, social pressures and college applications. I adopted ballet as my form of self care, sweating my troubles away to the tune of classical music. Wrapping my mind up in complex choreography instead of the next day’s calculus test kept my high school burnout in check. 

The summer after high school, I stopped ballet. I told myself there would be ways for me to dance in college as a non-dance major, and that I would find ways to be a part of the adult ballet community, something I have yet to do.

Like any athlete who leaves a sport, I miss the way that ballet made my body feel. Dance kept me in shape, and though it often left my muscles sore and my feet covered in blisters, it also made me feel strong and capable. I have noticed that I don't have the same energy or confidence in my body as I did when I regularly practiced ballet. 

I also miss the artistry. When I see my tights and shoes, which I have tucked away in my closet, I remember the feeling of floating across a stage. When I listen to music, sometimes the perfect turn sequence to pair with a tune flashes in my mind, or I mark with my hands how I would dance to the song. 

One reason I have not danced ballet much since graduating high school is because I struggle to justify prioritizing a dance class. I am fortunate enough to pursue a career I am passionate about, and I always make my goals as a journalism student the first priority. Last year the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at my campus started offering an evening drop in ballet class as a part of their group fitness series, but I struggled to fit the time to go into my weekly schedule.

Social media is scattered with videos of girls in aesthetic wrap skirts that say things like "restarting ballet after 10 years" and "taking my first ballet class in my 20s." Surely, if these dancers can find a place for their passion for ballet in their lives, I can find one in mine.  

I am not sure where I fit in though. I was never competitive, but I danced in local Arizona performances and did pointe work, which requires strength and more advanced technique. I don’t feel like I belong in or will grow in a beginners class. 

However, I worry that in an intermediate level class – where there may be more experienced dancers – or even Ballet I, ASU’s introductory ballet class available to all majors, I will let myself down because the time that has elapsed since I last consistently practiced has set me back in strength and flexibility. I fear that it is not possible for the college version of myself to be the dancer I was, and it's easier to just avoid that disappointment. 

There are groups of students at ASU dedicated to carving out room in their busy schedules to foster creative passions together. One that I am familiar with is the Devil's Inkwell, a creative writing guild with members from a host of majors, many of which are STEM related. If there can be a community of non-English majors that develop their writing together, where is the group of ballet dancers that brings non-dance majors together from different levels to bond over the craft?

READ MORE: The art of bringing STEM majors together

These groups help me see the importance of bringing my passion for ballet back into my life. Until I find a space to do that, I remember that ballet will always be a part of my journey, an experience that got me through high school and an art form that I love. 

Sometime soon, I look forward to wrapping my hair into a bun, donning a pair of tights and getting back to ballet.

Edited by Claire van Doren, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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