Dancing for Food

Overcoming the ballet body image.

Dancing

My dancing journey began when I was just 4 years old. My parents, as most parents of a young daughter would do, decided to enroll me in a once a week ballet/tap class. I don’t remember much from those days, except that the classes were at the local YMCA and my teacher was named Robin. I did two recitals there before moving to an actual studio: Hart Academy of Dance.

I’m not sure how long I stayed at that studio. I think I did 1 recital and that was it, so maybe a year or so. At that point I would have been required to take jazz along with the ballet and tap I was already doing, and neither me nor my mom wanted me to do that. So, off I went to my third studio: Claylee’s Dance Academy. At Claylee’s, my love for ballet really took off. I was there for 2-3 years, and in that time I started taking 2 classes a week, focused on ballet rather than tap, and even took a Cecchetti ballet exam. (Cecchitti is the Italian school of ballet, named after Enrico Cecchetti. But, by the time I was almost 10, I wanted a more “serious” and classical ballet education. So, off I went to Lois Ellyn Dance Studio, home of the Nouveau Chamber Ballet.

Lois Ellyn turned me into the dancer I am today. I don’t have any action shots from the early days, but here are some from recent years:

The last performance I did was in September 2010. After that, I was just too busy with work to do it, and I also didn’t have the energy. I stopped going my usual 5 days a week in February 2011, shortly after Mat proposed.

When I first stopped going, I took a good 3 weeks off. I realized that not only was I burned out from many things in my life, but I needed to find a healthier relationship with ballet.

Basically, ballet had been controlling my life in more ways than one. It dominated my thoughts, controlled my eating habits, and not surprisingly, had a terribly negative impact on my body image. I was never anorexic or bulimic, but I’m fairly certain I had some sort of eating disorder – I believe therapists would call it “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.”

Not only was my relationship with food affected, but ballet controlled my life in another sense: if I had to miss class, I freaked out. Not only because I was missing out on all-important exercise, but I also felt guilty simply for not going. I had committed my life to ballet and given 110% of my time to it for so long that I just felt off if I didn’t go.

In the days and weeks that followed my decision to lay off ballet, I cried. A lot. It was SO hard to fathom the fact that I wouldn’t be going to class much anymore, probably wouldn’t be performing anymore, and that my life was fundamentally going to change. As hard as it was at first though, I knew it would be better in the end.

You know what? It has been better. I’ve learned in the last year how to love ballet for what it is and how to love dancing again. See, without me realizing it ballet had become something I had to do instead of something I wanted to do. It was that whole control thing I mentioned earlier. Now ballet has gone back to being something I love to do. Plus, it’s harder to pay for it these days what with getting married and saving for a house and all, so any class I can go to is a class that I cherish.

Ballet has always been a huge part of my life, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found a much healthier balance. I know now that I can always say I’m a dancer whether I go 5 days a week and rehearse for performances all the time or I go once a week to keep up with my skills. It’s a good place to be. 🙂

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