Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. I could sing and dance a whole day away. And every once in awhile, my mother would let me try to stand in her old toe shoes. At home, there was a stage, and I was always a star. That soon changed.
When I was about eight-years-old, I took my first dance class: a basic ballet course. I had mixed feelings about it. Although I felt very grown up, learning how to dance “for real,” it was a blow to my ego messing up in front of the other girls. The self-confidence I had dancing with my sisters at home shattered when I sensed that I was being judged by a room filled with strangers.
I remember the instructor: I thought she was wonderful, but she rarely danced because she was very pregnant.* She helped me when I put on my tutu incorrectly, and would “shh” anyone who laughed at my poor technique.
Once, the entire class lined up to attempt the grand jeté. I remember being nervous that I’d make a fool of myself, but I’m sure I was beaming afterwards when the teacher said “Very good” in front of the whole class. When she chose me to lead in the back row for the dance routine we were preparing, I had regained much of the confidence I’d lost. By the time of the spring performance, I felt like a princess, gliding effortlessly across the stage. I could dream again.
*I believe the baby was due the week after our dance recital.