Information & insights for graceful living.
What Brought You To Ballet?May 18, 2017
There’s that moment you realize you’re in love. Do you remember what it was like? How did ballet begin for you?
Here’s my story…
From the time I was a toddler, I wanted two things. One was pierced
ears; the other was ballet lessons. I don’t recall seeing anything about
ballet as a 2 year-old (in Tallahassee no less!), but somehow a singular
longing for ballet took root in me.
So I began lobbying (begging)…
The ear piercing was performed with ice cube, needle, and thread on my
third birthday. I had been warned it might hurt. But whether by reckless
determination or the inability to understand pain in the abstract, I
could not be dissuaded.
The first puncture produced blood and a few tears. I remember my
mother’s pained look, asking me if I wanted to stop. “No!” I answered as
emphatically as any toddler. I wanted those little gold studs!
The ear piercing seemed a fitting rite of passage… it was my first taste
of turning desire into reality with persistence and yes, a little bit of
suffering. The experience made me ever-more-determined to get those
Despite the lack of instruction, my affinity for ballet continued to
blossom. The living room became my studio, with a John Denver album for
music. Some nights my brother and I would collaborate–me in my
prettiest nightgown dancing on the toy box with him holding the
flashlight and manning the record player.
A gift set of classical music 45’s with my very own turntable
transformed play time. I spent hours being moved by all the feelings I
could hear in the music. The feelings did not have words, just like the
music, but I could feel them–very intensely–in my body.
Ballet (or at least the idea of it) became a universe. I danced in my
room with irrepressible enthusiasm and precocious solemnity, entirely
ignorant but completely full with energy seeking to express itself
through movement as love, beauty, delight, and longing. I felt complete
My fate was sealed at the age of four when I saw my first ballet. Like
so many little girls before and since, I was utterly enchanted by The
Nutcracker. Sitting there in the Fresno Civic Auditorium, I knew I must
dance. Sure–the pretty costumes, falling snow, and toe dancing were
part of the allure, but most of all I wanted to dance ballet because the
music and movement made me feel so much! When I danced, I felt most
Kindergarten was my lucky year. Ms. Mulhern recommended extracurricular
activity to keep me engaged and encouraged my mom to grant my wish for
ballet lessons. AT LAST! I had already spent over half my life trying to
get them! And then…
Tap dance?!?! I had to take tap lessons before I could do ballet
classes??? I worked diligently through my impatience and frustration in
those “tap years”, savoring every second of the 20 minutes of ballet
instruction each week. Three years later my heart’s desire finally
arrived–ballet lessons, unobstructed.
And so began my life’s journey into the sometimes severe, often sublime
world of ballet. I began working the long arc of my dream to become a
professional ballerina and never looked back. By the time most teenagers
were going to prom and graduating from high school, I had my first job
in the corps de ballet. Working till my muscles ached and my toes were
raw (and for so little money!), I considered myself to be one of the
luckiest people on earth. To truly love what you do is a gift beyond
All these years later, I don’t wear earrings. But ballet persists in my
body, my psyche, and especially in my heart which still swells with
feelings that want to burst into movement! My life in ballet has been
rich with dedication, drive, disappointment, and delight but never
regret. After over four decades at the barre, I love ballet more than
ever and feel so grateful to get to do what I love.
What brought you to ballet?
Please share! I’m looking forward to hearing about your ballet
HAPPY DANCING! -Tiekka
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