ariana sexton-hughes


i am home for christmas break. my first stop is a real ballet class.

Steps is a zoo.

its not like SAB or BAE. or the JKO School at ABT. no. Steps on Broadway is old school. really old school. three flights above Fairway®, Manhattan’s busiest, supersdiscountsupermarket, it’s not a ballet academy, nor a company school, no. Steps is a dance studio. it’s like stepping into a time machine back to a late seventies movie, when NYC was shown as dark, dingy, seedy, and fabulous, all at once. it’s the living version of “A Chorus Line” or “Fame” or “Turning Point,” but more international with a dollop of 21st century tech.

it all makes sense because it was founded by dancers… for dancers in like 1979. and, now they have classes for everything from advanced ballet with brilliant, world class faculty like David Howard and Willy Burmann, to hip-hop, tap, floor-barre®, and gyrokinesis®.

no frills. cast iron columns and beat-to-f*ck hardwood floors—in the halls—not the studios.

funky smells. noisy. and. all these dancers. real dancers. professionals. semi-dancers. older dancers. wannadancers. superstars and neverweres. Misty Copeland. Wendy Whelan. Alessandra Ferri. kids. and college girls. foreign students.

high school girls from Texas, visiting NYC on winter break. teenagers from California, and Indiana, and Minnesota, New Jersey and Georgia, Italy and china here for YAGP

they’re all stretching in this long hall. stretching with elastibands and foam yoga blocks and on the benches and under the benches. full 180-degree splits with their noses in some chemistry textbook or Hemingway or Emily Dickinson. or texting with their iPhones.

they say “Steps is a community.” in a way, i suppose it is, at least for the professionals. maybe. but, the dance studio girls, the ones who are pre-professional teens, tweens, or college students, the antipathy is thicker than the sweaty air.

i’m not saying we “hate” each other, but, we hate each other. all of us.

i don’t care if they are laughing or jabbering or totally silent. WE HATE EACH OTHER. it doesn’t matter if we live five thousand miles apart. it doesn’t matter if we’re in a company or go to a hot ballet school or got into the summer program at SAB or ABT or Vaganova or Bolshoi or the Paris Opera, or just lowly college students on break—we are warriors.

it doesn’t matter if we once had those opportunities and killed them or let ana or mia or mental disorders or injuries steal those opportunities from us. WE ARE STILL COMPETING. competing to see who’s the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, the prettiest, the sexiest, the flexiest, the skinniest. we are competing for slots in the best schools and competing for roles in the best ballets.

most of all, we are competing for the attention of our teachers, the attention of our lovers, our others, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our pets, our audiences, our competitors. and, together, we are aching. our muscles, our bones, our joints, our hearts, our brains, every cell of our bodies, every scrap of our souls, aches with the remnants of our last class, our last dance, our last date, our last r*pe, our last self-mutilation, our last self-starvation.

we ache and ache and ache and ache and ache and ache until the next time we take flight. for when we take flight, it all seems to disappear. even if only, if only for a moment, our aches, our pains, our shames, seem to vanish in those moments of weightlessness flying above the floor.  

we yet, we crave a place. a place to be alone. we crave anonymity. a safe space, alone, even as we arch and stretch and primp and preen and smile and pretend (not to flirt, not to feel, not to scream).

alas, i am an outsider, now. i will never be a real ballerina, let alone a prima. but, i ache, just the same.

is the a poem? i wonder? do i write this as verse? or shall that tear this asunder? a blunder?

i rhyme to end the ache.

December 21, 2008 – 1:28 am

© 2008-2021 by ariana sexton-hughes

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