This is a true story. It didn't quite happen this way, well, when we moved I tried to do ballet here before fencing, but it just didn't work, the dance schools here are... *shudders* I don't want to think about them. That's when I did fencing and then just today I started Irish Dance. It's good to be back, to be flying again. :P
Sometimes I don't tell people because I think then they'll think this is the reason I quite ballet. But it's not, I love ballet and I know you can do beautiful dances with softshoe.
I threw a chunk of rosin across the stage, then ran to it and smashed the fragments into dust, spreading it around. Around me, three of my friends were throwing and crunching the rosin.
It didn’t quite seem real, tonight was our dance recital, Peter Pan. Every other year, my dance school, Milligan School of Ballet, put on a recital.
This time was different, though. A few months after the recital we would be moving overseas. I crushed some more rosin with my feet, trying to enjoy the evening as much as I could. I would find another dance school there, I thought, not nearly as good as Milligans, but there’s got to be something over there.
We always had warm-up an hour before the performance would start, then a make-up check before we had to go backstage to wait. Warm-up was lots of fun. Shawn (a graduate with a dance major, playing Captain Hook) got there late, just as we were about to start. He settled down behind me, then smiled at Miss Karen. She said ‘Well, I guess now that you’re here, we can start.’
And we did. We began with plies, a few grand plies, some bends, rises, and demi plies. Then came tendus. We skipped degajes and maybe rondejambe (I can’t really remember), maybe even frappe and fendu. But we did grand batmante, and an extremely fun jumping pattern – 4 tempsleves in first, second, then in fifth. Then we went faster. And faster. Finally, we went from the corner. We started with sisone tombe padaburee glissade, grandjete, which we call ‘I just broke my arm, so take me home,’ because that fits the rhythm of it. After doing that from both sides, we did peka tours, or for those who hadn’t learned them, chene tours. We went again, this time, the group I was with did ‘peka down, peka down, chene, chene, chene.’ Then right before our make-up check, we did falee asamble. I almost fell right through the curtain because of my diagonal.
Since the recital was Peter Pan, the dances matched different things in Peter Pan with narration in between them. My classes were The Indians and the faeries.
The Indian dance was first. We had orange costumes, a velour leotard with little gold vines, then a layered skirt below it. Miss Karen had gotten us suntan tights to wear under our costume, and we were barefoot. I had rubbed baby powder on my feet before we went on, but walking back stage had caused it to come off. Thankfully, all my turns were smooth. Near the end of the dance, a friend and I glanced at each other and had to hold in smiles, since this was supposed to be a sad dance. When we finished, I watched a few dances in the wings before I went to change into my faerie costume, which was an empire waist with a long blue and lavender skirt. Miss Karen had sewn silver netting onto the back for wings. I changed, and we waited longer, through intermission and most of scene three. The faerie dance went perfectly. It was a lot of fun, right to the finish. I felt sad when I left the stage, but at least I would be leaving on a good note, if you will. More like a good foot.
We got back late that night, and I cried myself to sleep.
I had to face it: from now on, I was a student of an unknown dance studio. It sounded strange, but it was true.
The next few months were filled with finishing up school, testing, packing, and farewells. I wrote Miss Karen a few times during those months, and our goodbye to her was one of the hardest ones for all of us. But something else happened in those months, something that changed my life forever.
I thought my parents were just taking me out for dessert to talk and remember Milligans, since they had asked me to bring my ballet scrapbook. We went to Baker’s Square, and found a secluded booth. I ordered a piece of pie, and we started looking through the scrapbook. Then Daddy got serious, and Mommy came to sit by me. He pulled out a letter written in Miss Karen’s handwriting, and I knit my eyebrows together.
“Kyleigh asked me in a letter a little while ago about pointe… I talked with Karen” – my mom – “about this some before, and thought it would be best if you told Kyleigh instead of me. Karen, you had noticed that Kyleigh has a hip tilt making it hard for her to have proper ballet form. And without proper ballet form, she would not be able to go on pointe without overworking herself, which would only make things worse.”
From the first sentence, I knew what was coming, and was trying to hold back tears. By the end I was sobbing. Daddy didn’t have to ask if I understood what it meant, it was quite clear that I did. They talked to me for a while, I can’t remember all they said, just that we were there until I calmed down a little.
I cried myself to sleep again that night.
In the morning I had school, and before I did math I opened the door to our balcony to look outside. A Bible verse entered my head, and soon after it another. “Joy comes in the morning,” was the first, and it was true, I was feeling a bit better, and knew there were other options other than ballet. The second was “a time for mourning and a time for dancing” from Ecclesiastes… and I realized I’d danced for 8 years, maybe it was time to move on.
I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened, nobody ever asked anything. We had recital pictures three days later, and I remember walking around the studio one last time looking at everything and seeing a pair of unused pointe shoes sitting on Miss Karen’s shelves… and remembered how I used to hope they were for me someday, and that after every class she’d call me over and tell me.
We moved to Dubai a month later. It was beautiful there, and I loved it. Since it was summer, we didn’t have school or any activities, so we were busy unpacking and meeting new people.
The youth group there had a progressive dinner, and I met David there. Little did I know that this American intern from Austria would play a big role in my decision. In the car on the way from place to place, we somehow got on the topic of dance, and I mentioned I used to do ballet. And they asked if I’d be doing it here. I shrugged. Then David’s next words surprised me:
“I did ballet when I was younger. My feet were turned in.”
Then he asked what I thought I’d do if I didn’t dance.
I told him I’d been considering fencing, and he told me about all sorts of different kinds of fencing, like Japanese versions and such.
That night I thought more about it, praying and thinking about what else I could do. I decided to give fencing a try.
Excited for my first evening at fencing, I got all my things out early that afternoon, then wrote my friends about what I was going to do.
The fencing club was almost twice as big as the studio at Milligans. Three pistes (the area where a match takes place) stretched across the floor, and there were benches, warm-up areas, and racks full of fencing equipment. I stared at it all, then started to do my own warm-up until the instructor came.
I loved my first night of fencing, and kept up with it for a few months. But I’m always jumping around from thing to thing, changing my mind until I find something challenging enough.
Fencing wasn’t quite challenging enough. I still did it for another month or two, during which David left back to Austria.
Then one evening I was listening to some classical music in my bedroom when suddenly a song I recognized came on. I remembered it as one of the songs we used to use for Plies at Milligans, on a cold winter evening, those times when your favorite place in the world was a dance school. I started crying. Before long, I was sobbing. A picture popped into my head of me dancing in the studio. Miss Karen was standing by watching, while I went through plies. It didn’t seem like anyone else was there in the studio, just me and MK, as we often called her. I grabbed the back of my chair and plied along with the music.
Then I was sure of one thing: God was telling me to dance again.
I ran and got my ballet shoes, pulling them on.
I took a step.
It felt good to be back in ballet shoes after so long. Somewhere in my head, music began to play. Lifting my head high, I took a starting position in the corner. One, two, three, one, two, three… and I began to dance. Mazurka. Balance turning. Slide hop. Slide together. Sisone Asamble. Sisone ferme. Peka down, peka down, peka down, chene chene chene chene. Pirouette. Susu…
As I danced, the steps came back and I jumped higher, turned more steadily, and the old freedom I had felt when I used to dance was there.
It didn’t matter that what I’d originally been working for was gone, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t go on pointe.
All that mattered right then was that I would dance again.