Late Bloomer Ballerina


It was the late 80’s. Phone calls to your BFF were made on landlines with the chord stretched under the crack of the door to your room – and you hugged that precious line for hours. You taped music videos on VHS cassettes off of MTV to learn the classic Michael Jackson moves (and MTV still PLAYED music videos). And I was a young girl who had just received a very special birthday present from my best friend.

The iridescent music box, inlaid with gold, tinkled with the familiar strains of the Swan Lake theme. Inside, two opal swans danced in a circle around the mirror, on magnets, as though gliding across ice. It would be a treasured object that I keep to this day.

I loved watching her dance ballet. I went faithfully, every year, to see her dance in the Chrismastime showing of the Nutcracker. I would never dance myself – I took a few classes at the community center, but I was too old, too tall, and just not right enough. But that never hindered my love of the dance, even though I was the ugly duckling, and she was the beautiful swan queen.

She went off to study ballet at prestigious schools in New York, and I went to college, studying theater arts and writing for the stage. She never became a full time, principal prima ballerina; I went on to have a real estate business, a husband and a child in my early thirties. I shared with my infant son the joy of classical music, and ballets, like the Nutcracker and beautiful Swan Lake.

Depression followed me like the black swan, haunting me. I watched Natalie Portman bring her character of Nina Sayers alive onscreen, and it spoke to me loudly. I related to Nina’s struggles with her body – her self harming, her bulimia, her crippling desire for perfection. But I got something else from the film, too. Here was Natalie Portman, not a young protege ballerina, but a fellow actress just a few years older than me even, who took on this challenging role later in life. And she nailed it! Her role and her dancing was pure perfection, and the Oscar on her shelf proves that.

So I made a natural, yet still daunting decision – I would take ballet. My dear friend would be my biggest supporter. “I love it!,” she said, “you’re not crazy at all. It’s a beautiful technique for any and all no matter your experience or age.”

Am I a 30-something mother still carrying some baby weight, yes. And completely not right enough, yes, that too. All those things. But I would do it for the pure joy of it, and the love of the dance. And maybe, just maybe, this pen will end up taking off yet.

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