Does every girl want to be a ballerina?

waiting for her entrance

The minute I hit the “play” button and Claude Debussy’s music fills the room, I am delivered to a magical place.

No longer am I a domestic engineer preparing the Son’s lunch but instead, I am a prima ballerina dancing with the New York City Ballet.

As the musical notes play softly in the background, visions of tiaras, ballet slippers, and pink tutus dance before my eyes.

I sigh deeply as I recognize that most women, at one point or another in their lives, want to be a ballerina.

At the age of five, we want to dress up in leotards and pink ballet flats.

At twelve, we dream of pointe ballet shoes, the kind that allow you to dance on the tips of your toes.

If by the time we’re mothers, we still haven’t achieved our dream, we enroll our daughters in ballet classes so we can live vicariously through them.

They can be the ballerinas we were meant to be but never were.

They can plié, relevé, and jeté.

They can dance in recitals, be the recipients of flower bouquets, and take bows after a performance.

The Daughter will attest to these notions being true.

I enrolled her in ballet classes at the age of seven.

She wasn’t reluctant to go but she wasn’t thrilled either.

Nevertheless, I took her indifference to mean, “If I must,” and quickly signed her up to take classes with Evelyn and Igor.

After only a few lessons, Evelyn told me my girl was a “natural” and graduated her to a higher level.

I excitedly purchased the different color tights and leotard that were used by her new group.

I took her to classes two and three times a week, sold ads to help pay for the exorbitant recital costs, and forced the Son to attend, in solidarity to his sister following my her creative muse.

I beamed with pride every time I saw a “transformation.”

A surly and rebellious child turned into a graceful and disciplined ballerina; the equivalent of an ugly duckling turned into a swan.

Every time she danced on stage, I was transported.

I twirled next to her.

I stood on pointes and stretched my arms above my head to delicately assume fifth position.

The track changes and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” fills the room.

Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed with sadness.

I remember the day the phone rang to inform us classes were suspended.

Igor, who had contracted a bacteria while visiting China, had passed away.
Gone, at the age of 43.

The Daughter and I cried for two days.

Who would dance with us now?
Who would support us while we did a poisson position?
Who would excitedly demand, “Dance like you have wings!”?

Fast forward two weeks and the ballerinas are back in the studio, determined to do justice to everything Igor has taught them.

The track changes again.

Notes from “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” assault me.

The poignant notes return me to a particular dance recital.

For months, the Daughter diligently practiced her dance steps.

Ballet shoes, worn out from so much twirling, had to be replaced.

Three different costumes filled our living room; their sequins and feathers personifying what “girly” girls are made of.

I remember stroking the tiara and placing it on my head.

It didn’t matter that it was too small, it still made me feel like a princess.

The end of the melody brings me out of my reverie.

Impulsively, I pick up the phone and dial the Daughter.

She answers. “Mom, is anything wrong?”

“No,” I say, “Listen to this tune and tell me what it reminds you of.”

Once again, Debussy’s magic reaches the four corners of the room.

“Um…I don’t know. What is that?”

“Honey, it’s Debussy!”

“Who’s that?”

“I’ll call you after work.”

In a state of disbelief, I quickly hang up.

I suddenly realize that perhaps not all girls want to be ballerinas.

Perhaps it’s just the ones who never had the chance.

Did you want to be a ballerina?

Note: Names have been changed.


70 thoughts on “Does every girl want to be a ballerina?

  1. “It’s just the ones who never had the chance.” Tears.
    I love Clair De Lune. Its funny how precious our children’s lives are to some of us, particularly if they are being raised a bit differently than how we were raised. This contrast can add a whole new level of poignancy to the enterprise.

  2. Patrice, so true, friend! As parents, we want to give our children whatever is in our means. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have had everything my heart desired except for ballet classes. It’s a long story. Perhaps I’ll do a blog post about it. Stay tuned! :)

    1. Jodi, just dropped by your blog. Thank you so much for the award! I am tickled pink at your thoughtfulness. And I loved learning new facts about you! :) Thank you, friend!

  3. –It doesn’t matter that it’s too small.

    It still makes me feel like a princess–

    My dear, Bella, you continually find a way to tug at the heart strings…

    btw, I’ve read everything about Fontein, Kirklund, Baryishinkov, Isadora D, & the Great Pavlova. Yes. I wanted to be a Ballet dancer, too Xxx Kiss.

    1. Kim, I’m so pleased you feel this way. Your comments always offer the kind of support every writer needs and covets. Thank you for always being so kind, sister. And did I mention your comments always make my day? :)

  4. Bella, I love your new look! It’s so beautiful!
    Yes, I wanted to be a ballerina but never attended class. And yes, I enrolled my daughter and she did it for a two years, hated it and dropped out, which made me sad. Yet another dream dies. Sigh.

    1. Monica, I’m so happy you like the new look! I’d been wanting to change things up a bit and I’m quite happy with this theme. I’m glad you approve. Ah yes, your story and my story sound quite similar. Your daughter lasted two years before dropping out? My goodness, that’s quite a long time! The Daughter took classes for ten years. Imagine that! Sadly, it’s been eight years since she last danced and now doesn’t remember Debussy! I’m still in shock! Indeed, how dreams die, friend. How dreams die. :)

  5. I did want to be a ballerina! As a (very) young person learning to walk I walked on the balls of my feet. This led my entire extended family to predict that I would be a famous ballerina. Sadly, funds did not stretch that far in the Kelson household and I was never in ballet

    1. Oh Rachel, I’m sorry. But you know what? In our hearts, we’ll always be ballerinas. No one can take that from us. I think I”ve wanted to be one since I was five and will die still wishing I had worn pointe shoes! Maybe in the next life you and I can take lessons and dance in the same troupe! Wouldn’t that be something! :)

  6. Oh Bella! This post made me sigh. Sigh. It’s not Debussy for me, it’s Tchaikovsky! I took ballet for 13 years and finally – reluctantly – gave it up at 16. I still have my pointes somewhere … tiny … so old… moleskin on the toes… faded from pink to grey – just like my ballerina memories. I still do my ‘positions’ sometimes when I’m cooking ;-) I dragged my daughter kicking and screaming to ballet lessons at age 3! While i do have one photo of her in her pink tights and black leotard she was already well on her way to picking out hockey gear by then. When she was 5, I took her on the train to see Les Grands Ballet Canadiens in Montreal – to see the Nutcracker with her grandmother. “Do it for Bubby!”, I begged her. She did, dressed in burgundy taffeta to boot. But we both knew she was doing it for me. And just last week I asked her if we could go see it again here in Ottawa. No go. Sigh. I shall go on my own…. and that’s ok. Because dreams DON’T die – they just lay resting….

    1. Astra, how I loved your comment! You remind me of me! The Daughter took ballet for ten years and now, nothing about it seems to matter to her anymore. Or lets just say, she doesn’t let on if she remembers or not. And to forget Debussy and his music! Well, that’s just heinous! :) I love that you still have your pointes and that you do your dance positions! Good for you! Thank you for reminding us that “dreams don’t die, and instead just lay resting.” So true, Astra. So true. :)

    1. Mamawolfe, hello and welcome! I think it’s wonderful that one thing led to her calling! And gymnasts are so talented! Would you believe I almost failed PE class when I was in ninth grade for not being able to master the balance beam? I think this may have given my mother insight regarding how a lack of balance was sure to prevent me from being a ballerina! :)

  7. I still have my pointe shoes tucked away in a box in the bottom of my closet. I’ve always loved to dance, but it wasn’t until I found modern dance that I truly felt like a dancer. Modern fits my body so much better than ballet. I haven’t performed in almost twenty years, but I still take a class every week just because I love the way it feels. One of my classmates is in her seventies and I want to be her when I grow up.

    1. Shary, don’t you love it when we meet these fantastic women we just want to emulate when “we grow up”? I knew you would still have your pointe shoes! I love your discipline and dedication to still practice your favorite style of dance. Sadly, the Daughter was never interested in doing that. Now, she just takes zumba. Sigh. :)

  8. Oh my goodness, yes! I STILL want to be a ballerina!

    Both my girls are in ballet class now (and they both seem to like it) and my youngest has her first recital tomorrow. I doubt either of them will turn out to be prima ballerinas, but it’s such a beautiful art. It’s fantasy. It’s dress-up. It’s discipline. And it’s just so, so lovely —

    — like this post! Lovely!

    1. Emily, your words make my heart sing! I think you’ve perfectly summarized what ballet is all about! I’m delighted you enjoyed the post! I enjoyed reading your comment just as much! How exciting for your littlest to be in a recital tomorrow. Oh my goodness, I remember those days. And I miss them like crazy. The Daughter always looked so beautiful in her little tutus. :)

  9. I didn’t want to be a ballerina. I wanted to be a swordsman. A gunslinger wouldn’t be so bad, either. I convinced my dad to buy me a toy revolver; he also made me a wooden sword, a small one, more like a long dagger than a sword. Also, I remember making a bow (a stick and a string, what else it takes?), and dad made me an arrow out of reed (it was so light it was impossible to hit anything with it). These days, being a gunslinger doesn’t seem so interesting, I’m not into firearms, and with my aim, attempting to be an archer would just be embarrassing. But I still think about learning how to use a sword.

    Sorry, were you talking about ballerinas? :)

    1. Ivana, I love how you march to the sound of your own drum, friend! The Son was the sword lover in the family. And while I refused to buy any plastic guns or weapons, one Halloween I did relent and bought him two mini daggers to go with his Ninja costume. Half way through trick or treating, he lost one and we spent an hour looking for it. We never found it. And no worries, swords and archery are just as fun to talk about! :)

  10. This is so interesting! Yes, I wanted to be a ballerina…or at least take lessons. But with five children my parents were raising, I knew that would not be realistic of me to ask. I loved their gentle and smooth movements.

    I did actually take a lesson one summer, with a friend, and loved it. However, we decided to stop after the instructor “scolded” us for quiet giggles and not taking is too seriously. I guess I could say I was a ballerina for about 6 weeks….

    1. Ginny, as far as I’m concerned, a six-week ballerina is better than none at all! hee hee! I can see the instructor scolding you. Ballet teachers are quite strict and they demand discipline. Hmm…I too would have a hard time not giggling! :)

  11. Bella, this is truly poignant! No, I didn’t want to be a ballerina, though I was “forced” to take classes for a year or so. I felt awkward and cold in my leotards, and I found I wanted to be making the music, not moving to it. Thus, I switched to piano — more recitals, yes, but at least I could cover up and not have everybody staring at my too-white limbs, ha! I don’t have daughters, so I can’t say whether I’d continue the tradition and make them attend ballet classes — no way was son going to do that!

    1. Debbie, it’s funny you mention the part about your son because when the Son was about eight years old, he said, “I’m glad I have a sister cause I would never be a ballerino!” I laughed till I had tears streaming down my face. A ballerino! ha! I think the Daughter might also share your sentiment of having been “forced” more or less to take class. But I think in the end, she came to appreciate it. And playing the piano must have been a lovely endeavor as well! You lucky girl! I’m so happy you liked the post, lady! :)

  12. I did ballet when I was 5-6 then stopped. I don’t remember why, but I regret it a little. I wish I stayed so I could be graceful and long. Perhaps I was just too much of a tomboy at that time, and preferred to just dig stuff up in the mud. My parents made me take those classes, and I remember having fun, but not as much fun as playing piano. Now, I wish I knew better, and GAH stayed dancing.

    1. Laura, something tells me you would have made a lovely ballerina! Heck, we can still be ballerinas! I say we sign up for adult ballet classes. What a pair, you and I! It’s never late too late to follow your dreams! Playing piano is something I also wanted to do. As a matter of fact, it’s on my bucket list! :)

  13. I didn’t want to be a ballerina… I wanted to be Miss America, and Cinderella, and Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, and one of Maria Von Trapp’s children, so I could sing with other people every day; not just in chorus, or choir, or on stage. Then I wanted to be Lois Lane, Princess Leia, and Christine Daae… Christine Daae seemed to sum it all up: the romantic heroine, princess-like in her own right, a superlative singer (and dancer), loved by two men (one safe; one dangerous) and adored by the throngs of Paris opera patrons. :-)

    1. Hot Coco, you personify the saying, “If you’re going to dream, dream big!” I love, love your dreams! And I smile at the thought that I too wanted to be one of the Von Trapp children, sans the ugly costumes, so I could sing and skip in those lovely hills! Methinks you can still be adored by the throngs of Paris! All we need to do is buy a ticket! When do we leave? :)

  14. Great story, Bella! So sad about Igor, too. Being a ballerina held no interest for me because I could never ever stand on my toes like that–ouch!!!!!! the very thought of it makes me writhe in pain–but I do love to be in the audience.

  15. No, but I did want to be Fly Girl :-)

    Seriously though, this was beautiful and put a lump in my throat. You know me, so emotional! The end…when your daughter didn’t even recognize the song….gosh, that hit me. What was so important at the time, becomes a distant memory or lost altogether. And so it is with our children. At least YOU remember.

    1. Michael Ann, like you, I am quite emotive. I love to remember good times by tapping into happy past memories. I couldn’t believe the Daughter didn’t remember Debussy’s song, especially since she practiced to it for a good three months! Sadly, and like you mention, memories become lost as time wears on. It’s devastating. But, and again like you mention, the important thing is WE remember! Yay! I’m thrilled you liked the post! Fly Girl! ha! :)

  16. I love the imagery in this post, Bella! I must say, I dreamed of twirling and spinning on ice, the skater version of being a ballerina. My room was decorated in every magazine and newspaper clipping I could find about figure skaters and I took lessons for years. Teenaged “uncool factor” and a broken ankle finished it, but I still love to skate, pretending to hear the roar of the crowd. Or was that just the nacho-cheese machine making that noise?

    1. Lori, you’re always a hoot! I love ice skating too! I remember watching the Winter Olympics just so I could see the figure skaters with their gorgeous costumes and their graceful skating! Nevertheless, I never learned to skate and I’m afraid at the point, I’d end up with a dislocated hip! No fun! However, we can be figure skaters in our alternate realities, don’t forget! :)

    1. Louciao, I had hips too! Or I should say, still have hips, only bigger! Maybe that’s the reason my mother didn’t see it fit to enroll me in ballet classes. hee hee! I’m delighted this post tickled you pink! :)

  17. I didn’t want to be a ballerina but I did do dance classes from 3-12. I did ballet, tap and jazz. I do admire ballerinas for being graceful but I’m anything but :p

    1. Kimberlee, hello and welcome! Wow! Nine years of ballet class is a long time! I’m sure you’re plenty graceful and if not, then lets get a club started. I’m the antithesis of graceful. Sigh. Perhaps that’s the reason my mum never signed me up! :)

  18. Lovely post! I didn’t have a continual yearning to be a ballerina, but it always awakened with a bold start every Christmas when I saw the Nutcracker. It seems like watching dance or musical movies and shows makes me yearn for talents I do not possess!

    1. Oh Vanessa, you and I both! The Nutcracker! Is there anything more lovely to see during this time of year? The last time I saw a performance was 12 years ago. My, that’s a long time. I’m ready to see it again, and like you mention, start coveting grace and talents that I’ve yet to acquire! hee hee! But hey, don’t give up on us yet, we still have much time to acquire these, friend! :)

  19. Hi Bella,

    Happy Saturday! I enjoyed this post but have to say I was not one of those girls. Probably because I was 5’10 at 12 and never very comfortable with my body image. Being tall, I always wanted to hide. Sad, but true. I ran like hell from most physical activities and was tagged as “The Lump” by my 7th grade teachers. Hmmph lol. I was shy, what can I say.

    Not until I discovered Alvin Ailey in my 20’s did I fall irredeemably in love with dance. I found it utterly amazing that 20 people could jump on the stage and float around with the lightness of a feather. The human body is AMAZING. I was soulfully titillated and dare I say erotically charge in the presence of so much beauty. Yet, it was not for me. Modeling was my aspiration LOL.

    My favorite classical piece? The Rite Of Spring by Stravinsky. Isn’t this cool?

    1. Coco, I know the Rite of Spring well! One of my favorites as well! Tagged the lump? Are you kidding me? What horrible teachers you had, friend. Hey, as far as I’m concerned, you are more than ready to walk on the catwalk! Phenomenal woman, that is you!:)

  20. So touching and so true! How many of us try to live vicariously through our children! And it never works. :) I encouraged my daughter to run for student council president. She won, but didn’t have a great time doing it! I felt badly forever afterwards! But it didn’t stop me. Now I’m moving on to the next generation. Some people just take forever to learn!

    1. Diane, that’s the spirit! If we can’t live vicariously through our kids, then by all means, let’s do it through our grandkids! hee hee! You know, what’s ironic is that we want the best for our children. That’s why we enroll them in art classes, dance, aikido, music. We simply want them to be the best they can be. Sadly, at times, none of this works. In the end, they’ll say they never wanted it and it will break our hearts. I don’t know you, but this old ticker of mine can withstand some more breaking. Because you never know, one of the grandkids might prove it all worthwhile! :)

  21. Lovely post. I would encourage every little girl and women to tap into the ballerina within. My 2 nieces are ballerinas (currently in the Nutcracker) and the mental focus and physical strength required to get to “the pretty” on stage is an amazing life lesson.

    1. I’m so glad to read your words! I always knew there was a reason I wanted to tap into my inner ballerina! Thank you for telling me how it helps to do this. :)

  22. oh I still remember the ballet lessons my sister and I had when we were in grade school. We didn’t stay long though. But yes, I once dreamed of becoming a ballerina just so I could wear that lovely pink tutu!

  23. I don’t think it was until I was an adult that I wanted to be a ballerina. In fact, I dropped out of the whole gig when I was a small child, telling my mother I just wasn’t that into it. Then, as a grown woman, I saw the tones muscles and fit physique of dancers, and I rued the day I ever gave the whole thing up. I have somewhat fond memories of it now. I think I just wanted more time to play.

    1. Laura, seriously I’d give anything to have a dancer’s body! And the grace with which they move! I come no where close in body and grace? Lets just say I only possess God’s grace. hee hee! I’m a klutz who stumbles and trips into everything! :)

  24. NOPE! Although that didn’t stop my mother from sending me to dance class, HOWEVER I love going to the ballet. It’s beautiful to watch, breath catching and heart pounding is more accurate. I am the only Latin on history born without the rhythm gene. (Nice new look, btw).

    1. Brenda, I’m having a hard time accepting you have no rhythm gene! Impossible, amiga! You’re being way too hard on yourself, methinks! I agree with you, lady–the ballet is breathtaking. It’s been more than ten years since I last saw a performance. My heart weeps at the thought. Grief. Do you like the new theme? I’m so glad! :)

  25. This was a beautiful story. ‘Perhaps it’s just the ones who never had the chance.’ That made me choke up. I always wanted to be the beautiful ballerina too, but sadly never had the chance.

  26. I’m catching up on your posts. That is what Saturday is for, right?

    I never wanted to be a ballerina or a dancer. But I was never princess-y either. Might have something to do with inheriting the hand-me-downs from two older brothers.

    I did want to learn to fence – which has a elegant dancing quality to it. And I did love (and still do) beautiful ballets, but more for the music that the dancing. I was more inclined to close my eyes and imagine my own story unfolding to the music.

    Lovely post, as always :)

    1. Amber, you’re back! I’m so happy to see you round my blog again! I’ve missed you. Hey, I wanted to fence too! In high school, I thought fencing was the coolest thing in the world. I never had the nerve to try out for it though. Hand me down from two older brothers would’ve worked for me! I grew up wanting an older brother but instead got two younger sisters. Sigh. :)

  27. Yes yes yes, I just want to dance on the stage and be transported to a magical land….i curse the books I read as a child for putting this fantasy in my mind

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