Contrast

The phrase “good girl” resonates strongly with my childhood. “Pretty and sweet” were two words reiterated throughout my dialogue with adults. As I began intensive training in my art form, these were exactly the traits my teachers were emphasizing. Well-behaved and perfection were the goals. We were striving for unattainable perfection, all while expected to appear soft and delicate. We were to have big muscles, but they were to appear long and lean. The various body parts of our bodies were separated into those had good feet, bad feet, hyper extended legs, and small waists. The girls who always won the praises of the teachers were the ones who could pull of that “innocent” look while executing each exercise perfectly. “Our problems are like suitcases, we must leave them at the door as we enter the studio. Then, we may pick them back up when we leave”, reiterated a teacher once to the class. Another, very well known figure in the dance world, said to us at the age of 16, “ballet dancers can’t afford to go through the insecurities or problems of adolescence”. When we partnered with males, although in reality we often did most of the work of maintaining our core and balance, it was to appear as if we just floating across the stage and the men were picking us up. As my art form became my escape, as I desperately attempted to create a new world for myself, on the surface I seemed to fulfill these qualities. But inside lay the character I developed from living a rough & tumble childhood in a rural area aside many siblings. The other part of my childhood was red-mud stained feet, hair blowing in the wind, and running with the dogs in the backfield. My time at home was filled with the sound of roosters, while the sound of pick-up trucks broke the silence of nature. I am from a place where peers will be confined to this town, forced to become adults long before their years. Yet, ballet “in the city” allowed me to enter a very different world. However, I could easily fit that role that the instructors declared “was part of being the whole package”.  All of these “good girl” qualities were reiterated throughout other areas of my life, as phrases of “well-behaved and sweet” echoed throughout phrases from teachers, relatives, and community members. I had learned it. This was the key to composure; this was keeping it all together.