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  • Writer's pictureEva

i did ballet for ten years

i remember when i had super long medium-brown hair and my mom would throw it up into a bun every day before ballet class. she did it for me until i could finally do it on my own. i was never really that good it at though, it would be like falling out of the frickin hairnet every damn day.

i rly was meant to have short hair.

i grew up taking ballet classes ever since i was like 3. some of my first memories were taking class at the bar in New Jersey in my little leotard and tights just waddling around while some dude played piano. it wasn't until i was 5 that i moved to PA and began taking ballet classes in Wilmington at First State Ballet. i have so many memories of that place that i haven't really revisited in a long time. being in my old room brings them back. some are really good. some are really bad. overall i think that ballet is an incredible art form. to this day ballet and contemporary are my two favorite styles of dance to perform.

when you do something for ten years it's just natural. i would go to the ballet a lot as a kid. i had story books that narrated all the classics– Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle. you learn the stories and fall in love with the dances. when you grow up having a passion for the art, you will always love and respect ballet. it's something i did and still enjoy doing (just in my own way now). it made sense to me. you learn combinations at the bar and then transform those movements into a variation. when i took my first hip hop class at like 16 it was so pathetic i remember being like, "we didn't learn any of these frickin steps before learning the combination!!"

when you're among incredible ballet dancers at such a young age you develop an eye for what looks good. you notice the lines, the shoulders, the hand placements, the feet. when i think about going to a very serious ballet school for many years i really don't regret the experience. of course there were really difficult times. and at the end of the day, i always knew i was never ever going to be a prima ballerina. but the discipline was good. going to class 3-4 days a week was good. sweating like a pig was good. i learned a lot of valuable skills and had a lot of intense moments. i once asked my teacher what time it was... i think because i had an appointment to go to that day or something and he literally snapped at me so hard, "DO NOT ASK THAT QUESTION THAT IS SO INCREDIBLY RUDE EVA."

i peed myself in class one day because i was scared to ask to go to the bathroom. if i ever talked back to a teacher i quickly learned that i should shut up. no one talked in class. we had insane respect for anyone that taught. they really ingrained in your head that you had to respect your ballet teachers. i carried that respect through school. i did okay in the structured environment because in a lot of ways it was just a harsher more intense version of school dynamics. i was a super emotional kid but i learned to grow a thick skin. it's always been difficult for me because i have a hard time disassociating so i took everything super personally. but slowly and surely i learned.

there were a lot of things i really didn't like about ballet. if i had to pinpoint a specific thing i would mostly point to the culture of professional ballet. there's a turning point when you study ballet seriously, i'd say it's usually around like 12-13 where you really begin to grow into your own body, classes go from 3 to 4/5 days a week, you've been taking pointe for a while and you start to be like...

"is this what i want to do with my life?"

but for me, as an emotional, fun loving, cuddly person i always felt that the culture was incredibly cold especially the older i became. there are really intense power dynamics. you address your female teachers with Miss. if you get a "good" from a teacher i'd get picked up from my mom and be like, "omg mom i got a good today." yeah dude... it's like that. if i had problems outside of the classroom those things didn't really matter– ballet class was ballet class.

the majority of the company was white with an athletic build and were all extremely thin. ballet is historically known for having a specific and favored body type. there's a certain look that is "good" for ballet and i for damn sure did not look like it. i didn't necessarily suck like i said in the title but i definitely knew being a pro was totally not for me. i wasn't the most graceful dancer ever. i didn't look like my peers. it was just something i liked doing. i remember being like 12, i had just gotten my period, and that was really where shit began to change for me. i would suck in my butt so hard that my muscles would literally spasm and i STILL could not get my ass flat enough to be perfectly in line with my back. i had to start wearing training bras because every time i jumped my boobs would literally bounce up and down so hard it hurt. it was way harder to move the same way. my feet hurt extra bad in the pointe shoes because i had thick feet, teeeeny little toes, and bunions. my fellow classmates would stretch and work their feet out every day. it was super serious. ballet is really intense, there are specific rules and very specific ways that teachers want you to look and i understand that, but i really wish there was more diversity. diverse bodies, skin colors, hair styles, anything. if you work hard at it, you can be a successful ballet dancer no matter what body type you have. unfortunately, lots of professional companies will not take someone no matter how good they are if they do not look the part.

when anyone asks me if ballet is fun i say fuck no, but it's incredibly rewarding.

here's the thing... i don't regret doing ballet in that environment for as long as i did because i got a lot out of it. i learned a lot about professional ballet culture and ultimately that it was just not my cup of tea. but the best thing that came from the training was that it was a great base to learn other styles of dance. i decided to go to another dance studio when i was around 13-14 called Anna Marie Dance Studio. and jesus christ that place is the antithesis of First State. everyone there is extremely warm, you address your teachers by their first name, the most popular dance classes they offer are Musical Theater, Jazz, and Tap, and they really make an effort to focus on their students holistically. of course, it was a lot more expensive based on the fact that you had to buy costumes for the shows, they didn't have a venue like the Grand Opera House to perform in, but i thought the experience was totally worth it. of course there were annoying dynamics at play there too socially (like with any dance studio) but for me the vibe was so much better. i loved being comfortable in class. i felt like i was dancing for fun and not because i was low-key competing against everyone else. i felt at ease there, like i could just be myself.

when i left for college i knew i wanted to keep dancing any way that i could. dancing for me is like therapy. it's the best way for me to get a workout without thinking it is one. so my first and second year at school i made an effort to join Ballet Oberlin. i wish i did more in the group just because i don't have much time with all the other shit i'm doing (like working and school and partying hard ofc) but it was a lot of fun to be a part of. Ballet Oberlin's mission is to change the way that we think about ballet and i am ALL for that. we want people who join to feel that ballet is open to everyone, it doesn't need to have gender binaries, it doesn't need to be so intense, it doesn't need to be so negative, or shameful or anything like that. whoever wants to do it can do it and can have fun doing it. i think there is definitely important aspects in learning about the world of professional ballet, but we need to restructure the way we think about ballet in modern times. dancers like Misty Copeland are changing the way we think about professional ballet as the first African American Female Principle Dancer in American Ballet Theater. that was in 2015. yeah... we have a long way to go.

i will always love ballet. i think it's beautiful. i will take my kids to the ballet. i will enroll my kids in ballet class. it was definitely a rocky experience for me. it's not for everyone. i liked a lot of aspects about it. i hated other things about it.

i want everyone to know that if you don't have a "ballet" body that you do have a ballet body. i want everyone to know that you don't have to be in the binary to do ballet. you don't have to have your hair in a bun to do ballet. you don't have to do be skinny and white and perfect to do ballet. you DO however have to smoke a pack a day tho... JK !!

i'm curvy, i'm emotional, i'm opinionated, i'm free spirited, i'm queer, i'm a rule breaker

and i'm a ballerina



me on the right

pc: my dad

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