Friday, December 13, 2013

Adventures of the Gray Goth: Memoirs of a Fat Dancer

Good morning, my minions!  Enjoy your Thanksgiving?  Mine was a little chaotic - I hosted two dinners, because I'm crazy and I have weird, obsessive hostess tendencies.  I was going to post the menu for the second dinner - it was all Polynesian and, if I must say, fairly impressive - but time wasn't with me.  Trust me when I say it was lovely, and aside from learning the hard way that Okinawan sweet potatoes are dryer than regular varieties, a good time was had by all.

However, this is not why we're here today!  We're here because I came across the following picture in my Pinterest feed recently:

I tried to find the original image, and was taken through several Tumblr accounts and a British porn blog, but no luck.  So I cannot credit the original photographer - my apologies.  The image search is not what I wished to discuss.  I wanted to talk about why and how this piece spoke to me.  In order to do that effectively, however, I should give you some background.

I was in my first dance recital when I was four years old.  I have the picture floating around here somewhere - a very small me in a pink leotard with a silver sequin bandoleer sporting fluttering chiffon scarves in a variety of pastel colors.  Since then I was in and out of dance classes for a hefty chunk of my childhood.  My favorite was ballet - I thought ballerinas were so pretty, and so graceful, and I wanted to be on stage in a beautiful, sparkly tutu and do all the things they did.  I took ballet, and later jazz, and while I would often stop for a while (in part because we moved a lot) I would always go back.  It continued like this until my freshman year of high school.

We had recently moved to Stow, OH and as part of the on coming holiday festivities we went and saw "The Nutcracker" at The Ballet Theatre of Ohio.  I adore "The Nutcracker" (as I believe I've said before, but it bears repeating), and fell in love with it again at that performance.  I was electrified to learn that the studio which performed the ballet was nearby, and there was much cajoling for classes.  My mother, being a good mom who wanted her children to follow their interests, signed me up.

All went well, until it came time to audition for the next production of "The Nutcracker".  When I went to secure an audition slot, I was taken aside by Madame Kristen and informed that there wasn't much point in auditioning.  Confused, I asked her why, and she told me that I wouldn't fit the costumes.  They used the same ones every year, you see, and little size 12/14 (at the time) me wouldn't be able to squeeze in.  Madame Kristen proceeded to tell me that most of the girls had a 19 inch waist, and the only outfit she thought I might have a chance of fitting was the maid from the opening scenes.  Yet even that was doubtful.

Having moved from confused to more than a little hurt, I went home.  I think I went to class once or twice after that, and then never went back.  I have given a lot of bullshit excuses for why I left ballet over the years, my favorite one being that I wasn't enough of a masochist to do that to my feet, but the truth is I left ballet because at 14 I was told I was too fat to be in "The Nutcracker".

I didn't dance for years.  Then, at age 24, after two children and a lot of life, I went back into the studio.  Pikes Peak Community College had a dance program, and the teacher Danika was smiling, encouraging, and never once said I shouldn't be there.  I did modern, and very much enjoyed my return to that fluidity of movement.  I thought about ballet, but didn't do it.  Even still, dance did wonders for me - I felt better, I started losing the weight I'd gained from having kids without even really trying, and my confidence (which had been shattered by a broken marriage and a number of life mistakes) began to inch its way back up.  I also took belly dance, which was fun and felt very natural to me on a number of levels, though it wasn't as satisfying as modern.

Two years after my return to dance, I dislocated my left knee.  I spent a year or more needing a cane to walk anywhere.  Trips to the mall or grocery store required a wheel chair or one of those scooters.  I did not have insurance.  An X-ray was taken, but never an MRI, and there was no physical therapy.  There was certainly no more dancing.  Almost ten years later, the knee still gives me trouble, but I do what I can.  I can't run, and I certainly am not capable of the movements required to get back into modern or ballet, but I have taken a couple belly dance classes, and that at least is something.  It also doesn't help that I've regained the weight I lost (plus a little extra, ain't that always the way?), which is hard on my knee.  Yet I also can't manage the sustained movement for aerobic exercise to lose said weight.  It's cyclic and frustrating.

So, background out of the way, let's go back to the picture.  I was just stopped by that image, of a heavier woman en pointe, all done up in an artistic shot.  If you really look at the image you can see she's got some cellulite, she's not at all what a ballet academy would consider ideal, but I bet she doesn't care.  She's up there anyway, going "Damn right, I'm sexy", and I know from experience that holding your leg like that long enough for a photographer to get a good shot takes strength and determination.  She is what 14-year-old me needed to see, but sadly didn't.  But maybe 34-year-old me can take something from this anyway.

I don't know if I'll ever dance again.  I can almost guarantee I would need surgery to repair my knee, and I would certainly need to lose a fair bit of weight so as to not hamper the healing process.  I have medical insurance now, but it's not very good, and certainly won't cover something like knee surgery without meeting the rather high deductible.  I imagine I'll continue to look for a belly dance class that I like (not that I don't like the one I took, it's just a bit of a drive), and that will be a good way to get some exercise, but the way ballet and modern feel cannot be matched by ATS.  And it certainly doesn't build muscle the way other dance styles do.

So I don't know if I"ll ever be the girl in the picture above.  But I could be.  And for some reason, that makes me smile a little.  It reassures me in a manner I hadn't realized I needed.

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