When reality TV hits a sore spot
I used to be a dancer. For the better part of 12 years, I spent 3-5 days a week at the dance studio. I loved it, partly because I felt more alive when I was dancing than anywhere else. I was never the best, but I was alright, and I got so much joy out of it that my level of talent didn’t really matter to me.
And then my body started to lead the revolt. I broke my arm the night before I was to get my first pair of pointe shoes, but made it to the fitting with all my dance friends wearing a freshly set cast. Then I started growing like crazy, and what we thought were just growing pains turned out to be a chronic knee problem which would often sideline me for days at a time. Then my knees got bad enough that my doctor told me that I could do pointe work anymore.
While all this was going on, I was moseying my way through puberty. I was one of the first girls in my group of dancers to get breasts or my period. I got hips, too.
By the time I was 16, I was a curvy girl, but still learning quickly and working my hardest. Then one of my teachers told our class that only 2 out of our group of 10-12 girls would be allowed to go through a particular level of RAD testing, because the rest of us were either not strong enough in technique or didn’t have “the right body type” and wouldn’t have passed.
I was crushed. The level we were practicing towards was difficult, but we had all been working hard enough that we thought we deserved the chance to try, even if it meant failing. But to be told that my body was simply the wrong shape was mind-blowing. The level we were seeking was the minimum requirement to teach ballet at most studios, and teaching dance was how I saw myself working through university. Suddenly this fun, joyful, safe space had become exhausting, painful and heart-breaking.
So when the time came to enroll in classes for the next year, I put it off over and over again, making excuses to my parents that I just wasn’t sure what classes I wanted to take, or how many hours I wanted to dance that year. Eventually, it was too late, and dancing was off the menu.
Quitting dance is probably one of my biggest regrets from high school, but I understand why I did it. I just couldn’t bear to have something that brought me so much joy turn into something hurtful or unhealthy. It’s been 7 years since I stopped dancing anywhere but around my house when I clean. I think about going back all the time, but my body is fatter and curvier now than it was at 16, and all those old fears have had a long time to fester.
So last week, when I watched my weekly summer fix of So You Think You Can Dance, I sat on the couch and cried watching Will and Katee’s pas de deux. It sucked me in and spat me out in the best of ways, and I wanted to share it with you all.
Filed under: beginnings&endings, body acceptance, inspiration, who i am | 1 Comment