“See you tomorrow!” The girls called as they slung their bags over their shoulders and left.
Smiling wanly, I raised my head in acknowledgement and managed a wave back. Then, I was left in silence, slowly packing my things and contemplating my situation.
After 16 years of dancing, you’ve had thought that I’d be somewhere, achieved something. Instead, I was just coming to a horrible realisation that I practically had zero knowledge on how to use my muscles and execute certain movements correctly. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed in myself.
I had considered myself a big ballet buff; I had been dancing just before I turned four, I passed my exams with higher-than-average scores, I joined performances, and I spent hours watching Natalia, Svetlana and Polina on YouTube. I couldn’t believe that right now I felt as confident as a cat in water, or a fish on dry land. What went wrong?
Apparently, my environment was what went wrong.
As I progressed through the grades of ballet dancing, more and more of my classmates left. By the time I reached the highest level (Advanced 2), I was alone. I had no one to compare myself to; it was always just my teacher and me. I suppose that was when my progress became stagnant. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I then had to leave my studio. I uprooted and relocated to another studio nearer to my residence. And that was where I learned that I learned nothing.
The day I prepared for my trial class, I was a little on edge but confident nevertheless. Hardly anybody made it to Advanced 2, and I had made it, hadn’t I? Surely I couldn’t be that bad.
The instant I stepped into the studio, I reeled. A sea of at least 15 faces stared back at me. I had never even heard of an Advanced 2 class with so many students in it (in Malaysia anyway). Trying to get over my initial shock, I smiled rigidly as my new classmates came forward to say hi, shake my hand, introduce themselves, and curtsy to me. I only remembered two names that day.
And then, we started dancing.
My teacher put me in the last group as I was the newbie and also on the tall end. As I observed my classmates dance, my heart plummeted, like a malfunctioning lift that jerked and dropped lower and lower periodically. God, they were professionals; what was I doing there? There was no time to brood on it, as my turn to dance had come. I did some silent minor swearing and scrambled to keep up even as I was low-key panicking. Despite my best efforts, I was clearly out of my depth.
I was scared numb by the trial class, but I also knew that this was my one real chance at improvement. I confirmed my place as a student even though my nerves were frayed and a small voice in my head was screaming, “why are you doing this to us?!”
Weeks later, I still felt apprehensive as I prepared to go for my ballet classes. The pressure was immense, and on certain days I actually had to talk (and force) myself into attending classes. One would’ve thought that I was making a life or death decision, the way I battled with myself.
And today, today was a deeply unsatisfactory class as we practiced grand jetés. Everyone else could do a perfect 180-degree split in the air, whereas I just about managed to do a jump-over-a-rather-large-drain action nowhere near any sort of line. I sighed and stuffed my shoes into my shoe bag. It was time to go home.
Tomorrow, I’d try again.
Disclaimer: This was how I felt about ballet dancing 3 years ago. Today, I train harder, know how to use my muscles in a better way, and still am dancing. I remain a big ballet buff and my grand jeté is inching closer to the 180-degree mark now. Special thanks to the four of you; you know who you are.