“You’re not good enough,” my mother explains. I was only thirteen years old when those dreadful words pierced my heart and stole my passion.
Classic. Exquisite. Breathtaking. My first taste of ballet is sweet and soft, like honey. I enter through the double doors of the Russell School of Ballet. The studio is basic; equipped with well-maintained Marley floors and wooden barres attached to the wall. I am ten years old. I am a boat on a river, going with the flow. I am a beginner among other beginners.
“Samantha, you have very beautiful flexibility,” my teachers tell me.
“Samantha, you have perfect turnout,” they tell me.
“Samantha, good pirouettes on the left,” they tell me.
“Your daughter has lovely lines,” Mrs. Russell, the director, says to my mother.
Never once do I feel less than the dancers around me. I feel equal. I feel whole. I fall in love.
A year of dance is complete. I’ve taken only forty classes, but I am addicted. The second and third years are the same as the first: it’s a breeze. Yet again, I coast along the river. I am corrected when I am wrong and praised when I am right. My head is in the clouds. I’m living a child’s idea of an artistic dream.
Then arrives an announcement: a change in directors; a flip of the switch. Mrs. Russell and her husband will be retiring and selling their business to two of her most loyal customers, Karla and Hans Petry.
I enter my fourth year. I am an intermediate dancer now. I start my engine and prepare to take off. But my engine, my drive, fails and I am left behind in the wake of the dancers around me. Halfway through the race, I am pulled aside after class.
“Samantha, please tell your mother to see me when she picks you up,” Karla says.
What will she say to my mother? Did I do something wrong? Anxiously, I wait for my mother’s arrival. At last, I see my mother’s car turn into dance studio parking lot.
Promptly, I tell my mother, “Mrs. Petry said that she needs to talk to you in her office.”
My mother disappears into the office. I try my best to hear the conversation, but the door is too thick for any intelligible sound to slip through. Almost five minutes later, she emerges from the office with a neutral face.
“Let’s go,” she tells me. Without another word, we exit the studio.
“What did you and Mrs. Petry talk about?” I asked, curious about the conversation my mother and the director had. “Is it something about my classes?”
My mother sighs and tells me the horrible news. Karla says that you should be demoted to the Intermediate I level. She reported that you cannot keep up with the other girls. She says that you aren’t good enough.”
You’re not good enough. You cannot keep up. My heart shatters. The space where my broken heart sits fills with sadness. Then, anger.
“Well, if she doesn’t want me in her class, then I won’t be in her class!” I exclaim through my sobs of defeat.
The passion of dance inside my heart rushes from its chamber as I prepare to raise my white sail—to surrender. I am barren and alone. I feel less than. I feel unequal. I feel partial. I am disenchanted.
My defeated boat floats to the port of a new dance studio: The Center for Ballet Arts. Anxiety. Fear. But, nevertheless, hope. This studio looks much like the previous, but it is, in fact, very much different. My first year at my new studio begins. I am noticed by the directors.
“You’re ready to be placed in a higher level,” Benn Savage, the co-director, tells me.
“We want you to join our pre-professional company,” his wife, Debra, adds.
My heart fills with what seems like the ambition I once held long ago. I am no longer living an artistic dream, but an artistic reality. Every pirouette, every grand jeté, every tendu burns like the ignition of ethanol in my engine, deeply into my heart. I pour my feelings, my heart, and my soul into my movement. The shiny satin on my pointe shoes aren’t just a symbol of balletic status, but a symbol of accomplishment, improvement, and excitement. The wrapping of ribbon around my ankles is much like binding and tightening the bond between dance and me. The relationship between dance and me is not, and will not, be smooth sailing, but alas I have developed an unconditional love for it.
Classic. Exquisite. Breathtaking. The audience’s first taste of my dancing is fresh and smooth, like silk. Never again do I feel less than. Never again do I feel unequal. Never again do I feel partial. I feel accomplished. I feel good enough. I am good enough.