Flashback Friday: Sarah the Ballerina

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Welcome to Flashback Friday, where I delve deep into the piles of my childhood memorabilia so that we can reminisce, laugh at the bad perms, and finally prove that merely throwing away your NKOTB door hanging does not diminish your love for Jordan Knight.

My name is Sarah and I love to dance. For a while, I thought I wanted to be a dancer.

Growing up, my favorite book was Angelina Ballerina. I have vivid memories as a child of going with my mother to the public library so I could check it out one. more. time. I dreamed of being a Prima Ballerina just like Angelina. However, it wasn't long into my young life that I learned a fundamental truth of girl-dom. 

A love of dance doesn't make you a dancer.

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I don't remember how old I was when I took my first dance class but I took classes from an older lady in town who was a bit of an institution and I loved it.

I loved chatting with my friends. I loved our leotards and the little pink ballet shoes. I LOVED our fancy costumes for our big recitals. I remember tap-tap-tapping my toes through classic ballet and tap classes and feeling so special.

Plus, my grandmother took me to class every week and we would get ice cream sundaes on the way home. Life was good.

When several of my friends moved to a new JAZZ studio in town, I jumped ship. Jazz dance was cool and grownup and required belly-baring costumes if these photos are any reflection.

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The new instructor would march around the room banging a giant pole on the floor and yelling at us to keep up with the beat and sharpen our movement! Suddenly, there were dance troupes and out-of-town dance performances. Overnight the stakes had increased from a once-a-year recital to multiple shows, tryouts, and endless rehearsals.

Then, Linda Bernabei showed up. She was a REAL dancer. Y'all, she had been in DIRTY DANCING. She came to audition for the LADF - Los Angeles Dance Force. I don't think I need to tell you that THIS was a big deal in Paducah. My mother now tells me that she let me audition because she honestly didn't think I would make it. (Thanks, Mom!) I'd only been taking jazz for a few months and was one of the younger girls in the group.

I made the team.

Ms. Bernabei informed my mother that I would have to work hard but she couldn't ignore my stage presence. 

I had short red hair. I had glasses. I talked too much and wasn't that good of a dancer. When this woman said I had something - something else that mattered, it rocked my tiny little world.  At this point, my "stage presence" only got my name on the board and a bad grade in conduct. I had no idea that this personality - the talking, the arguing, the assertiveness - could get me anywhere but in trouble.

I have Linda Bernabei for making me see that perhaps there was more to being a girl than looking pretty and having the right moves. 

I wish I could say that the ensuing trip to St. Louis for LADF performance changed my life. I wish I could say I that her trust in me transformed me into a phenomenal dancer. 

Alas, my days as a dancer were numbered.

After a year, I realized I loved to dance but I did not love being a dancer. The classes and practices and trips required so much time - time I wanted to spend doing other things. I won't claim the other things were more important or even more beneficial. (I still remember having to leave a particularly hilarious episode of Mama's Family to go to rehearsal.) 

Eventually, I told my mom I wanted to quit. I think she was relieved. All the trips and dance forces cost money and since she worked full time, I'm sure organizing my dance schedule was a nightmare.  

My love of dance (and sequins and hot rollers) survived, even if my dreams of becoming Mademoiselle Prima Ballerina did not.  

 Did you attend dance classes as a child? Did you stick with it or are you a dance class dropout?

 


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