Many of us have stories about being forced to attend various extracurricular activities as children by our well-meaning parents. Personally, I have a lot of those stories. I realize it’s because my mom and dad wanted to give my siblings and me the broadest education possible — and I realize how that makes them phenomenal parents now — but as a kid, most of it just felt like torture. Music lessons were required in my family, and we were all encouraged to participate in as much community theater as possible. But of all the many after-school activities we were signed up for, none of them felt more like torture to me than dance class.
My lessons started when I was four, and they didn't stop for me until I was thirteen. My sister loved her dance lessons and had a natural talent for it. I, on the other hand, hated dance with the fire of a thousand suns. Plus, I was super self-conscious as a kid and nothing says “look at me, look at me!” quite like dressing up in a satin cat suit and pas de bourree-ing to Frank Loesser’s “Pet Me Poppa” for an auditorium of your friends and family.
Every Tuesday afternoon I’d sit on our front porch, slip on my ballet shoes, and beg my mother to let me quit. Of course, she didn't, and I now understand why: My parents had to seize any possible opportunities to expose us to whatever remnants of culture they could find in our tiny, Southern-Missouri town. Plus, since we were homeschooled, they wanted to give us as many chances to socialize with other kids as possible — and dance lessons were a great way to do that.
It’s been over ten years since my dance lessons ended, and I still find aspects of the fine art seeping into my everyday adult life. If you were ever begrudgingly a ballerina too, you know what I'm talking about. Here are seven weird things only former dancers will relate to.
1. You Frequently Catch Yourself Standing In One Of The Five Classical Positions
It doesn’t matter if I’m at work, buying groceries, or waiting in line at the movies. If I’m forced to stand still for very long at all, I will inevitably catch myself standing in first or third position (I’m not flexible enough for fifth anymore, and second and fourth look weird outside of a dance studio). I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I’ve been doing it for several minutes, and then when I do realize it, I can’t stop myself. There’s something weirdly comforting about the whole thing, and it makes standing in one spot for any length of time more interesting.
2. You Walk on Your Tip-Toes More Than Normal People Do
Again, I don’t even realize I’m doing it most of the time — and then when I do realize it, I don’t want to stop. Maybe it’s all those years of plie-ing and sashaying coming back to me, or maybe it’s just because it’s a weirdly fun way to walk around. I don’t know. But I do it all the time and it usually feels more natural to me than walking around flat-footed.
3. You're Still Kind of Obsessed With Posture
I can’t tell you how many times a day I mentally tell myself shoulders back, chin up, back straight! And I’m not complaining: Good posture is so important, especially for someone who spends hours at her computer every day. But it does seem crazy to me how this residual dance instruction just refuses to go away. It’s like the voice of every ballet instructor I've ever had lives in my subconscious just waiting for me to round my shoulders.
4. There Are Tons Of Embarrassing Photos Of You In Hilarious Costumes
You know that satin catsuit I mentioned? Yeah, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every one of my recitals was filled with multiple and mandatory, sequin-covered, Lycra miseries. Also, if I never see another feather boa in my entire life it will be too soon.
5. You Still Feel Guilty When You Don't Stretch Every Day
Even when I know I have to be up for work in less than six hours, I can't let myself go to bed until I've spent a minimum of fifteen minutes stretching. On the rare occasion that I do skip my daily stretches, the guilt and stiffness isn't worth those fifteen extra minutes of sleep. But, as far as annoying habits go, this is a pretty good one to have. It's an excellent way to de-stress, and I'm happy to say I've never not been able to touch my toes.
6. Most Dance Movies Are Ruined For You
I hate to be that girl, but dance-movies just aren't as enjoyable for former dancers. I'm not saying I don't enjoy dance movies at all. I loved Step Up when it came out — I mean, all those beautiful people moving around to such sick beats is pretty amazing — but no one just magically learns years worth of dance technique in a matter of weeks. I don't care how talented they are. And as much as I respect break dancing and break dancers, I can never keep the former ballerina in me from cringing over the purposeful bad form of that particular dance style. Sorry, guys. It's the training.
7. Even If You Hated It As A Kid, Sometimes You Kind Of Miss It
For all my complaints about the horrors of dance lessons, there are times when I think back on all the hours I spent in dance studios with fondness. I did make friends, and I did learn a lot from the whole thing. Dance taught me so much about taking care of my body; it taught me hand-eye coordination, and it taught me perseverance too.
And even though I loathed being on stage when I was little, all those recitals forced me to come out of my shell a bit. I shudder to think how insecure I would have stayed if my parents hadn't encouraged me to perform in public, and if it weren't for dance lessons, I probably never would have.