Columns, Opinion

SHEA: First position

If you were to look through any photo album from my childhood, the likelihood of me wearing a tutu in any given picture is high. From age three to 13, I was obsessed with ballet and became quite good at it — only to betray everything I learned to become a cheerleader in high school. It’s an elegant hobby and takes a lot of discipline, but the results in posture, coordination and even memory skills make the hard work totally justifiable.

My favorite night of the year was always in June when our dance class had our recital. It was the one night of the year I was allowed to wear makeup in public, so I’d always exploit the opportunity to wear as much of it as possible. My closet back at home contains a rainbow full of different sparkly costumes from my decade of dance, as well as worn-out old shoes and leotards.

The reason I like ballet more than other types of dance is because it is highly structured. The Vaganova method, the technique used at my ballet school, incorporates every miniscule muscle on the body, from toe to fingertip. The idea of “losing yourself in dance” kind of repulses me in the same way that drunkenly telling someone my true emotions does. Thus, I’ve never liked types of dance that look like a Bacchic frenzy, such as jazz or modern. I’m way too upright for that kind of thing.

While I’d encourage everyone to give ballet a try, it is more difficult for those who haven’t developed the proper muscles since childhood, muscles that I’ve probably lost since I haven’t danced rigorously in several years. And if I wanted to take up Pointe again — that is, tiptoe ballet on wooden shoes — I’d have to reshape my feet with a rolling pin. Not everybody does this, but it makes the top of the foot look more arched as the rolling pin gradually reconstructs the bone over time.

Pointe itself is an expensive hobby, and from my experience, it is usually only continued on a professional level. Pointe shoes themselves are about $50, and serious ballerinas must buy new shoes for each performance because the structure can give out after one wear. It’s a bit high-maintenance, too — I remember having to sew on elastics and ribbons for every pair I owned, which is pretty frustrating since I’m not a very good seamstress.

I also miss being flexible. I have never been bendable in every way possible, but I used to be able to at least do a split and lift my leg up really far, which come to think of it, would make a convenient party trick.

Although my body is far from ready to take up ballet again, I don’t think the ballerina inside me is completely dead. I still catch myself casually standing in first position at times, and I bet the next time I’m home I’ll attempt to squeeze back into one of my costumes if I’ve have enough gin and tonics.


Sydney L. Shea is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].

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