Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
My legs kick out into a split for a grand jeté, and I float in the air while the studio around me spins. While I’m hanging up here, I can see a lot. A bird’s eye view of the studio. Ahead, my ballet teacher shouting, “Good!” Behind, twelve improbable years of ballet lessons.
I whoosh back down, landing lightly.
I was destined to be a bad dancer. An eye condition, for which I had worn pink glasses since I was one, had caused me to have terrible depth perception. I had inherited the flexibility of a wooden nutcracker. When I was four, my pediatrician suggested ballet due to my gross motor delays. My brain reversed images so consistently that my ballet teacher learned to anticipate that I would start choreography on the wrong foot.
My one asset: I could jump. As evidenced, perhaps, by my Peter Pan book collection, I wanted to fly. And for a motor-delayed, inflexible, image-reversing child, I got pretty close.
Unlike others in the business, my ballet teacher always encouraged her students, no matter our body shape or flexibility. She encouraged us to encourage each other. Slowly, the choreography unscrambled in my brain; my coordination improved.
I was surprised to be cast as Clara for my ballet school’s “Nutcracker” when I was nine and intensely shy. My teacher choreographed extra grand jetés for me. The experience of leaping center stage accompanied by a live orchestra in front of hundreds of people was awe-inspiring.
I would perform “The Nutcracker” six more times. I was a candy cane, a flower garland waltzer, a Chinese dancer. My body might be terrible for ballet, but I have focused on it so much for so long that the movements are ingrained in my bones. On a gorgeous riverfront stage in
Connecticut last summer, it was unreal to dance with my teacher and other professionals in “Sleeping Beauty.”
But this is no Misty Copeland story. My technique is still questionable. Each time I attend class, I am both humbled and reminded of the confidence I have gained. I know I’ll never be a professional dancer, but I will always find joy in dance.
In my favorite book, The Little Prince, the Prince is saddened when he learns that the rose he has loved and cultivated from seed is just a common rose. “It is not a common rose,” his friend tells him. “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes it so important.” I too have cultivated a rose, and my rose is ballet. I may not be a particularly talented dancer, but the time and love I devoted to ballet makes it integral to my life. I don’t worry about the number of fouettés I can do. Instead, I appreciate the friends I have made, the stage fright I have overcome, and the magic of flying in a grand jeté. Ultimately, my time was not “wasted” at all.
My rose has opened up a garden of interests and dreams. The musicality I learned in ballet enriched my eleven years of piano studies and performance, for which I have more natural talent. My ballet teacher’s inclusive approach inspired me to teach and nurture younger dancers, artists, and journalists–and to aspire to become a teacher. My passion for the arts has led me to become an arts writer and editor for my school newspaper, where I explore the social and historical contexts of art pieces and performances. In my New-York Historical Society internships, by studying the Black Panther and #BlackLivesMatter movements, I’ve become inspired about the role that art plays in social activism.
Because ballet has helped me work beyond my limitations, I’d like to help people grow in new ways from exposure to the arts. I hope that the unlikely dancer in me can teach others that art is for everyone, and art can inspire change.