How to Become a Dancer: A Lesson In Irony

I wrote this for a contemporary literature class. The assignment was to use irony to describe something you loved or felt passionately about. 

Let’s start off with why you want to be a dancer. Do you think it’s pretty, graceful, elegant, and glamorous. Or are you more of the hip hop type, the urban feel, do whatever you want, your way or the high way attitude, just going in and killing it in a club or out on the street. If either of those choices are the reason why you want to be a dancer, why you think you can be a dancer, you should just stop now because you’re never going to make it.  Think that was harsh? Then I was right, you aren’t going to make it. In the industry, at least five people a day will tell you to your face you shouldn’t be dancing, hundreds more will comment on your youtube videos telling you how much you suck and how they’ll never get those five minutes of their lives back, and countless agents, producers, and directors won’t even take the time out of their day to call you back and tell you that you weren’t good enough. Still up for the challenge of this life style?

Every good dancer needs technique, the basics and foundation of the style they’re pursuing. You can either spend thousands of dollars taking classes where a seven year old will leap past you as gracefully as a gazelle, as if she’s been doing those types of leaps since she came out of the womb, while you flounder around in the back trying to master a simple arabesque, or you can spend hours upon hours watching how to videos on various styles and train yourself by watching others in clubs or on the street. Your only friend as a dancer is a mirror, a barre, and a wooden floor. Life as you know it has ended and everything suddenly revolves around dance. Every day you spend hours in class where teachers dote on the girl with better technique than you, more heart than you, higher jumps than you, stronger ankles than you, and every weekend you go to a competition where other dancers barely even see you while they roll their luggage over your foot, let alone see you as a real threat.

When you finally do get back stage, about to perform, it’s the worst feeling in the world. You can’t tell whether you’re going to throw up or crap your tights. All that lights, camera, action bull you heard as a child takes on a new meaning; the lights are so hot that the black marley stage burns your leg and your cornea and now you’re blinded, you don’t even get a chance to picture the audience in their underwear because you can’t see the audience at all. Once the music starts you begin to relax, just going through the motions, until you do a move you’ve done a thousand times, but today you end up on the floor screaming and not remembering how you go there or where that horrible sound is coming from. It’s coming from you, deep inside you; the sound is your soul crying in agony. You know before you look down that you’ll be out for months, you or your parents spent all your money on your costumes, hotel rooms, convention fees, and now you have nothing to spare for a surgery, let alone the months of physical therapy it would take to get back to the shape you were in two minutes ago, before you fell, before you lost everything, before you let your dream and your future fall away.

Every great dancer has a great injury, and you want to be great right? So what are you willing to give up? Are you willing to give up your right knee and live in pain every time you plie, or what about your back? I’m sure waking up every morning to a fractured vertebrae or slipped disk is well worth the price of being the pretty, graceful, elegant, and glamorous dancer.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of perks to being a dancer. You have a special skill of being able to look at a person’s feet and know everything about them. All the boys want to date you because they know you’re super flexible and they can brag about you to their buddies, but I’m getting ahead of myself here, there’s no time for boyfriends, or boys, or even really friends for that matter. Sure you make friends at conventions and in your studio, but you all know why you’re there, and you know that no superficial friendship will stop you from stomping all over the other girl and clawing your way to the top. So you smile at each other in class while simultaneously visualizing yourself tearing her apart with your teeth at nationals. But she gets you, this girl you want to tear apart, she understands your lifestyle and no one else will. She works towards the same goal you do, and that is something you can share only with her, your competitor, your superficial friend. The only person who can really understand how not glamorous, elegant, and graceful dancing is, is the pretty, elegant, glamorous and graceful girl dancing next to you.

2/11/12

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