Friday, July 27, 2012

Ballerina Blues

I'm in mourning, which is why I haven't been attending my Haphazard Truths, lately.  Don't worry, nobody died--except maybe a little piece of the me.

I'm being melodramatic.  I'm firmly intact, but I am sad.

It's complicated, or maybe it just feels complicated because I'm in the middle of it right now. Anyway, it really isn't about me.  This is about Sunshine.

Maybe it's a little about me.

I'm just going to say it: Sunshine quit dancing.  June marked her last class and her last performance, a beautiful presentation of Giselle. She danced the role of one of the ghostly Wilis. It was magical!

Sunshine is the third ballerina from the left.
I knew, sitting in the audience, that this would probably be her last performance.  She'd been talking for months about giving it up.  There were a few factors spurring her decision and I'm not sure one deserves more weight than the others, but here they are:

First, during her freshman year Sunshine discovered Forensics, which is today's term for Debate Team ("Debate sounds geeky, Mom.") and her gift for public speaking.  It's her newfound passion and her commitment to it often conflicts with her rehearsal schedule. She chooses debate.

Two: Speaking comes naturally to her. She's winning awards without much effort. Ballet is harder.  Even with training ten and twelve hours a week, after ten years, she isn't earning solos. It's frustrating for her, and breaks her heart a little with every audition.

Three: She never wanted to be a professional ballerina. She just loves ballet, and performing, and the thrill that pushing herself to her limits brings. Balthazar and I were hoping she might land a dance scholarship to help us with tuition cost. That was our goal, but we assumed she would go on to pursue a professional career in something other than dance.

Four: There was a bully amongst her dancemates. A mean little girl with the ability to persuade many of the others to ostracize Sunshine (Sunshine is just her latest victim--others have fallen before her.)  This was Sunshine's first experince as the target of a bully.  She's a personable girl and savvy so, in school, she could hold her own, if ever there was an occasion to--but in a dance class of maybe ten girls, who ignored, snubbed, giggled and whispered about her, five days a week, for six months. Well, they wore her down.

"I  just want to quit," Sunshine said, finally and firmly, in May.

We've talked at length about what this will mean for her, and about her real motives for quitting.  She assures me that she's ready to be done with it. And what can I do? To be a ballerina requires as much passion as it does intense commitment, and if her passion has been compromised....

In the meantime, the quality of my own life has much improved.  Her decision has earned me twelve to 24 more free hours in my week. Now, where I used to drive and hang around the dance studio, I'm cooking, and writing, sitting out with Balthazar, walking the dog, playing family games and eating family meals.  It's really rather wonderful--except that I'm really very sad.

A part of me hopes she'll change her mind, and another part of me doesn't. So far she's seems content with her decision.  She's reveling in her lazy summer days, sleeping late in the morning then sprawling across the couch--"like a normal teenager," she tells me--so that I have to busy her with chores.

Today, I sent her to clean out her closet and drawers. "Inventory your clothes," I said, "so we can plan some back to school shopping."

"You should see how clean my closet is, Mom," she said, after an hour.  "And I have all sorts of clothes that don't fit me, to put away for The Storm."

"Great," I said, "I'll come have a look."

"Oh, but there's a big drawer of dance clothing I'm just going to leave, because I don't feel like cleaning it out right now."


To be continued.... Maybe? Maybe not.

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