Ballet is a form of dance that many believe to be easy and cute. In reality, classical ballet is a rigorous practice that demands a lot from the human body. I should know because I was a ballerina for fourteen years.
My Emotional Classical Ballet
I started ballet at the age of three, and it went on for all my scholar years. I began on pointe shoes at ten, and it was the happiest day of my life.
I waited so long to wear the most beautiful shoes in the world. I even remember the appointment I had at La Maison de l’Artiste Claude. The shame of a ballerina body started when I got my first ballet slippers.
Classical ballet was at the center of my life. I’ve never loved something as much as I loved dancing ballet. It had everything I loved, control, discipline, classical music, a story, and unique performance. Many believe that ballet is for little girls and dolls, and it’s easy. Believe me, classical ballet is everything but easy.
A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes
When I was a ballerina student, I surpassed many other dancers with me. I was put in a more advanced class and could follow easily. I took ballet quite seriously and practiced at least an hour per day. I listened to ballet music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, my favorite, but also Sergei Prokofiev, among others.
My bedroom was like a ballet retreat, and I had enough space, fourteen feet by sixteen feet, to practice my positions for each step to learn. I had so many books about ballet, some to learn and others with stories. I could use a French storybook for entrainment and learning called Martine Petit Rat De l’Opéra.
I was quite flexible, and I could twist and bend easily due to my double-jointed congenital condition. I was even asked to join a gymnastic class, but it didn’t appeal to me. I belonged to ballet. I loved everything about it. I had ballerina dolls of all kinds, stuffed ballerina animals, posters, porcelain music statues.
But the greatest surprise was when my mother and grandmother showed up at school early.
Sugar Plums And A Christmas Tree
The Nutcracker Ballet was my favorite Christmas story. I was only nine years old at the time. It was my first experience seeing a ballet. I wore my gold holiday dress, black wool tights, and my mother curled my hazelnut hair going down near my hips.
I had a ballerina pendant and held the first nutcracker my grandpa gave me as a Christmas gift the year before. I was so excited and mesmerized by the overwhelming feeling of being in the Place Des Arts in Montréal.
I watched the ballet. My eyes were wide open. We had perfect seats. We were in the middle section of the central rows on the parterre. I could see the orchestra and admire the work of hundreds of artists and dancers.
It was the most magnificent concert I have ever seen in my entire life to this day. It transported me into Dresselmeyer’s Christmas House and lived Clara’s dream.
For nearly a decade, each year before Christmas, my mother and I would see The Nutcracker Ballet performed by Les Grands Ballet Canadiens at the Place Des Arts in Montréal. It only reinforced my love for ballet.
But my dream of becoming a prima ballerina shattered when I hit seventeen.
The Ballerina And The Whale
Everything changed when I hit seventeen and fully developed. I had breasts, and I started gaining weight without reason. However, I caught on and developed bulimia after hearing my grandmother say her dream for me to become a professional ballerina ended.
She reminded me how fat I was and how big my breasts were. She loved my appearance up until I gained a little weight and my breasts popped out. I tried hiding my body as much as I could with oversized sweaters and sports bras.
I kept practicing ballet but never forgot to regurgitate each meal I took. My grandma had me on this five-hundred-calorie per day diet. My ballet teacher noticed I wasn’t myself and so talked to me about it. She asked what I ate, and once I told her I had an appointment with my doctor and my grandma. Let’s just say he put her back in her place.
But to her eyes, I was now a whale, and soon, my ballet teachings would end because it was a waste of money.
A Whale Of A Tale
I was the best student my teacher ever had. She often told me that my body was simply adapting to being a woman as I started my periods at only eight years old. My teacher encouraged me to keep practicing and not let anyone tell me that I was fat because I was just growing into my womanly body.
The damage was done. I kept on hiding when I wasn’t in a ballet outfit in class. Nobody at school made fun of me. We were all dancers who went through puberty at different stages. It was like everyone knew my body would place itself but for me.
My grandmother said that my teacher told her I could only become a teacher at best. Sadly, my dream of becoming a ballerina shattered like glass. It left a hole in my heart that never healed. To this day, I wonder what my life would be if I hadn’t listened to my grandmother, who raised me.
What I dreamed of becoming, what I worked for all my life at the time, crumbled down. My last year of ballet was my fourteenth year. Scars never healed, and I grew bitter and hated myself to the point of cutting my flesh.
Shame Is A Dangerous Game To Play
I kept to myself the words my grandmother would tell me. However, I did ask my teacher about my future in ballet, and she said I had an excellent chance to aim for the conservatoire school. But I had to ask myself if my grandmother would go along. She didn’t. I was too fat, and my breasts were too big.
She talked to me about liposuction and having my breasts reduced. She even took an appointment with the family doctor to have both surgeries to put me back on my ballerina track.
The doctor refused to say that no surgeon would operate on a teenager. He reinforced his statement by saying I was not fat, and my body was in changing phase. Because I grew so fast—at eight years old, I was 5’2” and started my periods—my body was still adapting. It was “baby fat” that would settle due to my high exercising lifestyle.
But it never stopped my grandmother from shaming me for my appearance. I kept vomiting my meals afraid of eating and going on those crazy diets she would inflict on me. She had me take diet pills, too, and those low-calorie soups.
I didn’t have to hurt myself because she did it for me. I just didn’t know.
The Ballerina In Me Never Died
At twenty-four years old, I spent an entire year incapable of leaving the house. Those crazy years with unnatural food intake and regurgitating turned my digestive system against me. I could not eat anything because nothing would stay down, but I wasn’t the cause this time.
The years I spent wanting to vomit all my fat away happened. I lost thirty pounds in less than a month. It took months to find out what I had. Irritable bowel syndrome mixed with intolerances to meat, gluten, lactose, and anything fried or with an oily base. I became vegan.
My grandmother wasn’t there during that “Year of Hell” that I call. She passed away four years before it happened. She never knew, but I never stopped cherishing the ballerina in me. The one who hid deep within my heart.
Today I Start A New Chapter
The desire to hide never went away. It became a routine and a part of me. Even with therapy and people who love me, it doesn’t shut off. It’s not a switch I can turn on and off at will. It remains there, and I must learn to live with it.
I despise mirrors and myself. I can’t look at myself and find one nice thing to say or one part I like about me. So, to try and rectify some damage done, I decided to buy and give a chance to Ballet Beautiful.
I took out my pointe shoes, ballet slippers, and leg warmers, and I think I’m ready to tackle ballet again. I ordered a foot stretcher to help me regain my flexibility, although I didn’t really lose it—thank you, double-jointed mutation!
All I wish to accomplish is finding a new me or the “me” I lost because of my grandmother. I never told my mother about how she treated me when it came to ballet. Somehow, I know it would hurt her very much. She knew it was my everything.
Ballet Beautiful Myself For The New Year
In the past two years, I gave up on myself. I hated myself more and more every day. There are patches here and there where I just hate myself more than usual. It took a toll on me, but I know I can’t live like this.
A gym is not for me since I want to hide and not see mirrors. I don’t even want to walk outside. So, the best of both worlds would be rediscovering the ballerina in me. I hope to find a little peace and serenity.
Let’s hope I achieve this little dream.