By Alessandra Kelly
Like school, I began ballet at a very early age. At only seven years old, I commenced a more serious regime, with the mindset of facing each rudimentary step as a new lesson for growth. While growing up, ballet and school drew exact parallels in my life, allowing me to pull from each experience to move onward in the other.
We start in sixth position—surprisingly the easiest position, despite being named last—both feet stand parallel, directly next to one another to begin. While the placement feels natural, dancers know so much more takes place. Straightened knees, engaged abdominals, lengthened spine—all describe only part of the effort necessary to maintain the placement. Freshman year, the easiest year of high school, went smoothly for the most part. Like middle school, I finished with all As, maintaining a similar schedule to my 8th grade year. Holding my placement, I danced as many hours as I went to school; thus, life felt normal, until January. Leaving my knowledge behind, I forgot how to straighten my knees, engage my abdominals, and lengthen my spine. Life started becoming difficult, I was forgetting how to just sit and breathe. Thankfully, summer was just around the corner.
In first, or the basic starting position, a dancer’s heels are together, but their toes spread apart to create a 180 degree line from toe to toe. For a dancer, the position remains simple, but when first taught this position, you feel like you are about to fall flat on your face. Sophomore year was exactly that, I fell flat on my face and my life changed forever. I didn’t get all As, to many people’s surprise, including my own. To be completely honest, I didn’t care much about the grades, but the constant expressions of disappointment on so many people’s faces killed me. In fact, the reactions hurt so much I wished for the world to gobble me up and swallow me whole. I continued to fall on my face and I wasn’t sure if I could get back up again to breathe, but I did, eventually. The funny thing about depression is that you don’t actually feel sad, instead you feel numb to the surrounding white noise that fills your life.
Then we have fourth position, an extremely convoluted version of first position, with both feet turned out, but legs split with one in front and the other behind. The entire position feels like a balancing act, similar to part of my sophomore and junior year. Despite the fact that junior year was entirely held online, I struggled balancing everything like many other students. For starters, my personality completely changed, and the little girl who used to laugh boisterously and couldn’t care about the amount of stares drawn to her, finally resurfaced. Yet, I still needed to learn to control my emotions, emotions I hadn’t fully experienced in years.
Lastly, we end in fifth position, the most difficult position for an amateur in ballet. Conversely, for an artist fifth is home, and the position which all ballet steps derive from. Senior year—an experience complicated, yet simple—felt like a complete shot in the dark. To begin the year, I broke my foot. Well, I didn’t break my foot at first, but the doctors couldn’t say with absolute certainty when I broke my foot so… Anyways, my life turned upside down. Thankfully, school kept me going! My beloved teachers, especially Andrew Evans and Chris Haskett, kept my spirits high while my foot was low. In fact, my senior year allowed me to fall in love with my academics once again! Even the research paper, a despised assignment by most, allowed me to fulfill my love to learn and write about a subject near and dear to my heart: ballet. Ultimately, with a complicated start to the year, I end with a simple message: high school was great, but now it’s time to dance away.