In celebration of World Ballet Day, I thought I’d share a more personal blog post. I was three years old when Lionel Richie’s Ballerina Girl video appeared on TV. My mom and Godmother watched me attempt grand jetés down the hall for hours. My mom then asked if I wanted to try dance lessons. I did not. I was very shy. She persuaded me to try dance at age 5, but I didn’t attend my first class because I was afraid of the unknown. My mom persisted and I only recall wanting to quit dance one time in my 28 year career. I had been very sick and had missed 2 classes and I was discouraged when I returned to class to realize I was far behind. Instead of letting me quit, my mom arranged an extra lesson with my teacher and I never looked back.
Had it not been for ballet early on in life, I might not have internalized these important life lessons about persistence and triumph. Like a great parent, my mom used dance to show me that quitting was never an option and that working hard was always the best option to achieving. And so I started working harder in dance. The dance studio was one place where I excelled and stood out for positive reasons. At school, I stood out because I was drastically smaller than my peers. Picked last for teams and never kicking homeruns in soccer baseball can eat away at an 8-year-old’s self-esteem! When I overheard my dance teacher tell my mom that I had a perfect body for dance, it somehow sparked a motivation in me to work harder. I wanted to learn more styles, complete ballet exams, and try competition. And what did I learn? There was a place for petite girls with long toes and high arches – it was in pointe shoes! At my studio there was a place for tall girls with flat feet, too. I loved my studio because all of us dancers were so different. Our differences were celebrated, they kept us out of competition with each other, and they led us to becoming life long friends.
When I was 5 I wanted to be a ballerina. When it was time to choose a university programme my body was too overworked and injured. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my education but was very interested in the body and healing. I chose kinesiology at Acadia University in rural Nova Scotia. I thought I had left dancing in Ontario but another kin student drew me to the student run dance collective and within a few weeks I was dancing, teaching, and loving it! Together, a small group of us grew the collective into a performance team and then a community programme that I ran for over a decade. I was increasingly interested in the body, movement, and the therapy aspect of dance rather than the theatrical performance side per se. Health and wellness was far more interesting to me – connecting the mind, body, and soul to achieve balance. I have had a fulfilling career as a dance teacher and have taught at some of the best studios in Nova Scotia. Most importantly, I have been able to share the most important lessons in dance: how to achieve balance to become the best dancer you can be.
Since moving back to Ontario, my career has evolved into Soul To Sole Dance Inc – a company dedicated to sharing this balance of mind, body, soul with our community through our workshops and S2SD Kits. I never would have come to this exciting and fulfilling career had it not been for ballet. Ballet taught me to persist and that quitting was never an option. Ballet also brought me out of my shell and forced me to allow people to see me – it taught me that how I am is absolutely fine and so is everyone else. Finally, ballet taught me that there is something for everyBODY. I got my dream of becoming a ballerina, it just manifest in a different way than expected and for that, I am humble and grateful.
Steve Richard Photography. To learn more about the photographer and his Dark Ballet series check out his website: SteveRichard.com