Let me tell you a little bit about my life. I was born in New York City, but moved to Argentina at the age of three. There, at just four years old, I started ballet. As I got older, it slowly became a bigger part of my life. I joined the national ballet school of Argentina, where ballet classes went from 7:30am until noon and we had rehearsals each night for our end-of-year performance.
About a year ago, I moved back to America and my family and found a home in Ridgewood. A big reason for the move was because I had been accepted into a dance school in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, called Ballet Academy East (BAE). The curriculum at BAE includes classes from Monday through Saturday which add up to around 20 hours of ballet per week. On top of that, if you’re asked to assist class, you could be spending an additional hour or two in a studio working with kids and teaching them the basic ballet positions. I assist Sunday mornings, adding another day of ballet to my week.
Every morning, I wake up and have my normal classes at RHS. But, because I have to commute to the city every day, I am excused from afternoon classes. This basically means that I am only enrolled in four classes (even though I’ll sometimes sit in on a couple of courses from the afternoon that I enjoy). So, I spend unit lunch with my friends in the Campus Center, but then go home and prepare my ballet bag with items for the day ahead of me (pointe shoes, leotards, tights, hairpins, etc.).
I’m fortunate enough that my dad is willing to drive me into the city every day, but there are instances where I have to take the bus. The duration of the commute mostly depends on traffic, but on average, it takes about an hour to get to my studio, leaving 30 minutes for me to do my hair and change. I then take class for an hour and a half followed by rehearsal. For example, these past couple of months, my peers and I have been preparing for our Winter Showcase. My level was performing original pieces by Lia Cirio, a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, and Silas Farley, a dancer with New York City Ballet. Hours of intense rehearsals are required to make the pieces as perfect as the choreographers envision them to be, and our teachers do a great job of bringing out the best in us and going over all the details.
Despite the beauty that is showcased on stage, ballet isn’t always as pretty and perfect as it seems. It requires a strong mentality and the ability to handle lots of emotions. As you can assume, ballet studios can be a toxic environment and there’s often favoritism involved. Dancers worry about casting, time spent on stage dancing, and if our teachers look at us in class or not. And let me tell you, spending 20 hours a week in front of a mirror doesn’t help your self-esteem, especially when being skinny is always “in” and preferred. But at the end of the day, for me, nothing compares or comes close to the feeling of being on stage dancing with my classmates in front of an audience. The thrill of it all makes these past fourteen years all worth it.
Graphic: Nicole Kye