Blood. Sweat. Tears.

By Alessandra Kelly 

Blood, sweat, and tears—these are a constant reality in ballet: blood from blisters popping and toe nails breaking, sweat from the countless hours of exercise, and tears when disappointment and sadness strike the heart.  

Since eighth grade, I have attended ballet classes at least three hours a day, six days a week. During my freshman year, I was selected to be Clara, the main character in Los Gatos Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker. My friends and family were thrilled with my glorious achievement. 

Soon hours of practice filled all my freetime; I wondered when I would ever see sunlight again. Despite my fatigue, my heart soared with excitement for the first performance. The first dance went smoothly, my hours of rehearsals demonstrated with superb execution of each step. In the second dance, catastrophe struck: I failed one of the partnered turns in the choreography. Once I went offstage, I wanted to burst into tears. Compounding the situation, the blister on my pinky toe from weeks and weeks of practice finally popped, ripping the skin and leaving raw flesh exposed. My hours of rehearsals felt worthless.

Nonetheless, I recomposed myself. I slowed my breath, and reshifted my focus to the task at hand: finishing my performance. I quickly wrapped my pinky toe with gauze and began preparing for the second act of the production. Now my character would only dance once more in the performance. Despite this, I still needed to set my mind at ease. Anxious, I attempted to calm myself by reminiscing over the various other performances I had participated in over the years, and soon, my tension ceased. The love and passion for my craft eased my consciousness, enabling me to enjoy myself and smile.     

By the end of my performance, a radiant smile emerged from my face. Patting me on the back, my artistic director congratulated me with the utmost care and sincerity, describing my performance as demonstrating excellence and grace. In that moment, overwhelmed with relief, despite the strenuous hours, my performance eclipsed the harsh work filled with blood, sweat, and tears.