What It's Like Returning to Ballet After a 3-Year Hiatus

For most of my childhood, if you asked me what I did for fun, my answer would be dance.  I started ballet at three years old and was a competitive dancer from fourth to ninth grade.  Dance was, quite literally, my life. I was at the studio most days of the week, learning jazz, hip-hop, and pom routines and taking lessons in ballet, technique, and more.

Photo credit: Grace Sullivan

However, by the time I reached high school, I began to realize that dance was the only thing I was doing; I had no time to hang out with friends or join other clubs. I knew I was never going to be a professional dancer, and slowly my favorite thing in the world turned into more of an obligation than a hobby.

So, I left behind the crazy world of competitive dance.  I joined the yearbook and student council, took every single AP class I could, and got a job at a toy store.  I was happy, but I still longingly dreamed of competing on So You Think You Can Dance? or being featured in one of Kyle Hanagami’s Youtube videos.

Entering BU, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and extracurricular opportunities there were, but one class at the FitRec immediately stood out to me. PDP229: Intermediate Ballet.  The description said it was designed for dancers returning from a hiatus, and I knew it was meant to be. I added the one-credit class to my schedule, signing myself up for an hour and a half of dance every Monday and Wednesday during my first semester in college.

Putting my leotard and ballet shoes on during the first Wednesday of classes, I was surprised they still fit after sitting unused in my closet since high school. It was an oddly familiar feeling as other similarly-dressed girls and I marched into the studio on the lower level of FitRec and began to stretch.

Photo credit: Boston University

As the class began, I was completely overwhelmed. The teacher called out phrases like port des bras and double frappé, and I stood dumbfounded as I got off beat during a simple tendu combination. Slowly, however, my muscle memory kicked in and I stopped stressing over technique as I began to remember what I was doing.

At the end of the class, I was drenched in sweat. I was embarrassed that my grand battements were half as high as I remembered them and that I had struggled to do a double pirouette, but I was happy. Something about the ting of the classical piano and the synchronized movements felt comfortable, as if, after a long journey away, I was finally returning home.

As I’ve adjusted back into dance, I’ve realized that it will take time before I am as confident as I was before. I’m less flexible now and take longer to remember across-the-floor combinations.  Nevertheless, I am so excited to continue to grow as a dancer over the course of the semester. Whenever I’m struggling in the class, I try to remember a quote by Mikhail Baryshnikov, a 20th-century ballerino: “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”


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