© Copyright 2018 by Reese Conners
“Relevé”. . . tighten your core, squeeze your inner thighs, shoulders down, heels up, chin on a shelf, roll towards your big toe, lengthen the back of your legs, relax your face….
As class continues, all of my discomfort diminishes and my body and mind begin to work together. When my teacher closes out barre with an exhausting set of battements designed to test our stamina, I feel the pain encroaching on my supporting ankle once more and ask myself again… why am I putting myself through this? We transition to center and I, an individual, become one with the class. Our movements are perfectly timed in an eight-count rhythm, and we feed off each other’s energy while emanating confidence from within ourselves. Any stress we hold from outside influences, pains, or worries we have completely subside, and executing the movements presented to us with grace and technicality becomes top priority. I see myself in the mirror, drops of sweat on my face and chest, cheeks blushing, but I don’t feel winded. I am reminded why ballet has become my holy grail. I am reminded why I love ballet. Ballet is an art form that requires such concentration and precision that achieving perfection is nearly impossible. Maybe that is why I love it so much.
While I dance, I try not to compare myself to the girl next to me. I look around and see that while we all dance as one, we all have our idiosyncrasies. When the choreography for our first corner to corner combination is given to us, I interpret it differently than the girl standing next to me. While neither of us are wrong, we dance the movements presented to us slightly differently.
My teacher yells, “Up,” when it is time to leap and we both lift at the same time, but one of us lands with more plié than the other. While I dance across the floor I am able to focus on myself without worry of what my partner is doing. However, when it comes time for a water break I find myself over analyzing my movements and the way my body appears executing them. I look around me and feel blessed to see a variety of body types. Anorexia and bulimia plague the ballet industry, and it is easy to see why. As the class progresses, the focus on body position and placement increases steadily. I feel the pressure to conform to the ideal slim figure that most professional dancers possess. My teacher tells me “tighten your core,” and I try my best. I see my friends struggling with the same correction and feel thankful that it is not just me who grapples with the double meaning of the phrase. I embrace my differences from my peers and work them into improving my technique. Ballet is an art form that I find myself and lose myself in all at the same time. My self awareness increases as the movements we are told to execute become more difficult. I remember all the technique I learned at the barre and it helps me stay erect during our last combination before the reverence. The challenging steps given to me bring me joy as I realize I can do them with determination. My love for ballet grows as it teaches me that perseverance is key in any situation.
The reverence begins and I reflect on what a fulfilling class this was. I lose myself in our final curtsy right before applause erupts, as it does at the end of every class, in respect for ballet and our teacher. I drive home looking forward to tomorrow when I get to do this all over again.
My name is Reese Conners and I am a junior at Little Rock Central High School. I have enjoyed ballet as an extracurricular activity for as long as I can remember. It has become my creative outlet as I have gotten older, and I don’t know what I would do without it.