The Nostalgia of Ballet

Stage fright and fears of inferiority annihilated my princess soul. I was born a ballerina and never questioned my place at the barre as a little girl. It was such an integral part of my being that I hardly noticed when it slipped away. I assumed it always would be. I realized some time ago  it had been 20 years since I’d been to a ballet class. It didn’t seem real! Ever since then I’ve been keeping a regular practice at home as a supplement to my main engagement of Irish dance. Yesterday as I was feeling the ecstasy of a classical barre workout, something inside me broke free. I felt a sob come from deep within my solar plexus and clutch at my heart. I finished the routine but later began to contemplate this strange, spontaneous fountain of grief.

I’ve never believed I belong anywhere. Everything is for everyone else, but not for me. I repeatedly feel a subconscious obligation to retreat from all that I love. It is a form of deep-seated shame that has held me in its grip since before high school. I feel ashamed to exist and participate. It is a pathological refusal to succeed. Instead of claiming a place in the world, I keep the idea alive in my soul and exile my body. The ballet movements stirred bodily memories of my innocence in pink, satin pointe shoes. They physically reminded me of a time when I belonged and felt my future was mine for the taking. Now I find myself suddenly in my 30s at the tail end of a ten year depressive fog. Everyday is a struggle to convince myself I deserve to be seen and take part anywhere with anyone.

The combination of classical piano music, wearing ballet slippers and the familiar, natural movement gave way to years and years worth of pulsating grief. I am an artist. I am a musician. I feel at home on the stage and anywhere artistic transcendence abounds. Why did I retreat? Why didn’t anyone help me? Where were my teachers? Why couldn’t I help myself? Am I ghost? Why do I feel so lost?

I intend to keep my ballet practice as a form of spiritual meditation. I will treat it as a daily devotional practice of finding myself again. I want to rediscover the childhood innocence that validates the princess and her art. My body will change and feel that it, too belongs. My mind will change and believe that it belongs together with my body and all of its capabilities. Quitting ballet was a form of disembodiment and dissolution of soulful unity. I can only look forward to discovering what a daily, disciplined practice will transform and bring into my life–my life as a dancer.