I was born wanting to dance.

My parents apparently believe that one can only “succeed” at dancing if one is a professional ballerina or on Broadway. They decided early on that I would never be able to achieve that. Therefore I didn’t “need” to get any serious training.

Now don’t get me wrong. I ADORE the studio where I studied as a child. It was warm and loving and became a second home. However, I now know first-hand that competitive studios can be equally warm and loving (I’m sure that they aren’t all as wonderful as Studio One, but they clearly aren’t all as harsh and driven as the place in Dance Moms).

They searched high and low to find a studio that DIDN’T compete. Therefore, I never had a chance to test myself against any kind of objective standard. Our studio never even went to the competitions for the sake of the workshops. In all honesty, I didn’t even know that there WERE dance competitions.

I’m sure that finances were a problem, they didn’t have a ton of money when I was a kid. Maybe that’s why they kept me in just one hour a week, a tap/jazz combo, for so many years, not letting me add ballet or do any more hours in general. Ironically, they had constant concerns about my weight, and being more active (such as dancing more) might have helped with that concern. I did finally get to add ballet – when I was 11. I was put in the beginning class and then jumped up to join my age group. To this day, I run across things I never learned (two separate steps this past Friday that I’d never known) because my early training was so spotty. And yeah, not even the vaguest chance that I could ever have gone on pointe, between my mom’s weirdness and my late start (and now my weight issue, even if it would be possible for one to start dancing on pointe in their 30s, which I doubt).

Even with those handicaps, I might have had half a chance if I had been allowed to believe in myself. I might have been able to pick a college with a good dance program – in a style that appealed to me. Mills has quite a good program, but all modern, and I really did not like the type of modern that was popular in the 90s. I might have been able to do some research into other dance groups, other than professional ballet or Broadway-level. I might have found that there are such things. I might have at least been able to audition, see if I could have even held a candle to the girls with competitive training.

If NOTHING else, I might at least have looked for studios with adult classes. I might have harassed the owner of the studio I grew up in to offer some (she does now, but she didn’t then). I might have looked for a studio with adult competing teams that I could have joined, gotten some more intense training while I was still somewhat young (18 isn’t too far gone in dance, not like it is in gymnastics) and in relatively decent condition.

If I had kept dancing, I am POSITIVE that my depression would not have gotten as out of control as it did. Therefore I am also positive that my weight would have stayed somewhere in what could be considered a normal range. I strongly suspect that I could have finished college. Finishing college probably would have had me figure out how crazy my parents are sooner than I did. I would not have lost so many years. I would not now be fighting such a freaking uphill battle against my body – both the weight and all of the fun injuries I’ve had that have been direct results of the weight (stress fracture, hip injury, shin splints, etc). I might have known the camaraderie of a performing team, a good duo partner, a professional group… all things I can now observe from the outside, but will never experience. (I pretend sometimes that I might someday be able to join Pure, but let’s face it, I’m already 33. It will take a couple of years at best to get the weight off, my technique is nowhere near that level, it’s not going to happen.)

Then I see these girls at my studio. Some of them are AMAZINGLY talented, and I am so grateful to see that their parents are supporting them. But there are a few who have the talent… and don’t care. They don’t work in class, they don’t push themselves when they perform… and it baffles me. And yeah, it makes me angry too. I would give ANYTHING, literally anything, to have had the chances that these girls have, and to see some of them throwing it away just makes me die a little inside. Even seeing the ones who work for it (which most of them do) makes me jealous and hurts a little. Who would have thought that a grown woman could be jealous of 14-year-old girls?

Am I feeling sorry for myself? Yeah. I admit it. But this is the ONE thing in my life I have ever had serious passion for, and having been forced to lose any and all chance at being able to seriously follow it… Trust me, that kind of thing will destroy a piece of your soul.


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