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

is a zoo.

its not like SAB or BAE. or the JKO School at ABT. steps is old school. really old school.

cast iron columns and beat-to-f*ck hardwood floors (in the halls, not the studios).

three flights above fairway, manhattan’s busiest, supersdiscountsupermarket, it’s not a ballet academy or a company school. steps is a dance studio. its like “by dancers… for dancers.”

no frills. funky smells. noisy. and. all these dancers. real dancers. professionals. semi-dancers. older dancers. wannadancers. superstars and neverweres. kids. and college girls. foreign students. high school girls from texas, who are visiting nyc on winter break. teenagers from california, and indiana, and minnesota, new jersey and georgia and china.

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 i-phones.

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 miami or moscow.

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. 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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