Diary of an Uncoordinated Ballerina

8 Apr

I settle into the plush, red seats next to my Canadian friends at the Royal Opera House. We’re among the few people dressed in jeans, surrounded by girls in pretty dresses (some ill-fitting and unflattering and others elegantly outfitted with accessories) and men in shirts—meaning dress shirts, my Canadian readers— and trousers. We’ve come here to delight in the ballet production of Cinderella.

As the lights dim, the curtains threaten to open and I sit there in anticipation, I’m reminded of the days when I imagined I’d be a ballerina–not just any ballerina, but a Prima Ballerina. Yes, my five-year-old clumsy past self once nursed this impossible dream, despite never having even seen a production (tonight is the first performance I’ve ever seen).

I have no recollection as to when or how I decided upon this future career path. I think I just wanted to wear the pretty costumes and have people fawn over me. But I’d like to imagine I had deeper reasons, like that I saw something in the faces of the dancers in posters and in films—the love that they felt for their art and the pain that they suffered at its hands.

Dancers in Pink 1 by Edgar Degas

Whatever my reason, my Mother and Father indulged my dream as much as they thought sensible. My father took me to a bookshop and bought me My Pretty Ballerina, a book about a little ballerina whose favourite day is Saturday because Saturday is ballet class, which I read over and over again until the pages faded.

They bought me a little pink tutu, which I pranced around the house in, attempting to imitate the moves I saw in the book.

My mother even specially ordered a print of an Edgar Degas painting to hang in my room. (Degas is famous for his depictions of ballerinas).

The one thing they refused to do, however, was send me to ballet classes, which they thought too expensive for their daughter, who had the enthusiasm, but not the penchant for footwork. Instead, they enrolled me in gymnastics class where I quickly proved to their fears—of my lack of coordination—to be true.

Dad, if you’re reading this, I don’t resent you for stomping out a little girls’ dream.

It didn’t take many classes of gymnastics for me to hang up my ballet slippers. Sure, I kept the painting on my wall but I stopped wearing the tutu and the book ended up on the floor of my closet somewhere. And when we moved to London years later, I didn’t take the painting, the tutu or the book.

That was the end of my dream.

Yet, as I watch the magic unfold on stage, I can’t help but feel a twitch of envy of that little girl who once dreamed the impossible.

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One Response to “Diary of an Uncoordinated Ballerina”

  1. Blake April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Ahahah, yeah I totally remember that phase. I remember the shoes and the painting. I remember you played games and acted out shows in front of your stuffed animals too, despite your total lack of skill at the art. Still, at least you tried your darnedest 😛

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