"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."
She was tired of the endless disappointments she felt in herself – disappointments aroused by her obsession with perfection. As she relevé-ed onto the vast stage at the Detroit Opera House the summer of 2009, she vowed to say her final adieus: to the familiar smell of hairspray and rosin, the rhythmic clacking of pointe shoes, the intricate costumes, the swooshing curtains, the radiant stage lights that revealed to her an indiscernible crowd, and, in particular, the soft notes of music that gently tugged at her arms and legs.
Detroit was her stepping-stone en route to the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School where she would pursue her lifelong dream of becoming the coveted première danseuse, the principal dancer. Auditioning for the summer intensive program hosted by the American Ballet Theatre, she smiled through the churning of her stomach, cold sweat, and aching pain in her muscles and feet as she stood in an all-too-foreign dance studio with a slip of paper labeled “14” pinned to her leotard, trying her utmost to fully exhibit all that she had accomplished as a dancer the past four years. Within a month, she received an email congratulating her on her acceptance into the Detroit program. Four months later, she traveled to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, to spend the following four weeks taking a variety of dance-related classes such as ballet technique, pas de deux, modern, music theory, and dance history taught by top dance instructors from around the world. She was immersed in the world of dance, but she felt herself becoming more distant from her previous passion for this demanding, strenuous sport. As she scrutinized the wall of mirrors that surrounded each studio, she caught a glimpse of her lanky, bony figure harshly outlined by her defined, lean muscles and her tired eyes; in the background, the echoes of her brain commanded her to stretch more, practice more, turn more, more, more…. It confused her; why had she even begun this painful, arduous profession? The certainty in her enthusiasm for ballet that she had once possessed began to falter, and she began to question the sweat and dedication that she had invested during the past four years. Throughout the four weeks, she convinced herself little by little that she would let go of what felt hazy and distant from her.
On the final day, as she entered the Detroit Opera House stage for her variation, her one minute on stage felt longer than the four weeks she had spent in the summer intensive. This one minute allowed her to see clearly why. Why ballet. As she unraveled the frayed ribbons and slipped off her pointe shoes at the end of the final performance repertoire, she understood even more. The sheer, worn out spots of her tights exposed the rough edges and leathery layers of her knobby, calloused, and grotesque toes, which reflected not only the burdens of her physical weight but also the emotional strains and toils of her dancing. They exemplified all that she had worked for and was working towards. Between the chaos of her mind and the crazy world, dance, for her, had remained a pure form of expression and joy through which she was able to discover her limits and test those boundaries with time.
Although she has now given up her plastic tubs of leotards, tights, and endless ballet shoes, she is always reminded: “Tempus edax rerum.” Time, gluttonous of things. Time built the young, naïve dancer she was in 2009. Time has also worn away the muscular build of her physique, her abilities as a dancer, and her knowledge of ballet. However, time has taught her the importance of pursuing a dream and the power of the everlasting effects of experiences and memories she gains by stepping beyond her boundaries.