By Millicent Sykes
What does Ballet mean to me?
When I think of ballet, I think of a form of expression. Ballet used to be my life, the one time I was able to fully be in my body and express myself. This art form is the platform in which I could tell a story and embody a vision of another (e.g., choreographer). This art form felt like a natural way to embody and express my emotions in another manner, then merely voicing. Ballet was my outlet: an activity where I could destress, find a sense of being grounded, and tune into my body in a creative manner. While escaping from the mundanity of everyday existence, I improved my self-control, musicality technique, and body-awareness.
Why did I want to be a professional ballerina?
I wanted to be a professional ballerina because the profession is difficult to succeed in. This position is very competitive, prestige, and a challenge to obtain. In alignment with my outlet of creativity and passion, I was drawn to the challenge of staying focused, committed, and mastering my art. My goal was to be paid for doing something I loved.
How did the loss of this dream impact my life?
At the beginning, I was shocked. I did not understand what had happened and the impact this event would have on the trajectory of my life. Oscillating between a hope of returning to ballet– with a professional trajectory– and acknowledging the challenge of performing and progressing with a chronic injury, was a constant tug-of-war post-injury. Eventually, I decided to not return to ballet with the hope of another interest developing. This interest did develop and the pain from the injury and loss hibernated. During highschool, I did not think about ballet unless another person mentioned it. Eventually, a deep sadness and nostalgia commenced. Through college, I rarely thought about it until I took a ballet class for art credits. I remembered how much I loved ballet; it felt so good to be back in the classroom. There was a mild anxiety about a potential injury, however one never ensued. By senior year of undergrad, I noticed I needed to focus my attention on healing my trauma from ballet, while also having a clearer vision of what I wanted to do for a career. Post-undergrad, the healing began. Through yoga, writing, and meditation, I began to heal my fragmented parts. With continued practice, I gained a better understanding of my trauma and I have healed to the point where I am able to talk about the event without feeling sadness.
Who am I now?
Now, I am a graduate student focused on mental health and fitness. I identify as a former ballerina and current yogi. The athlete identity and mindset has stayed with me as I pursue career aspirations. (And, I am totally okay with that!)
How has ballet made me the person I am today?
Ballet has made me the person I am today because the training and experiences I gleaned helped to shape who I currently am. Self-discipline, needing an outlet for creativity, and healing from the trauma, has help redirect my life and write my story. Having a background of ballet may not be as unique compared to others, however the role this art has and the impact I still feel is what truly helps to define how I present, explain, and see myself. I am who I am because I am!
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