I believe in sacrifice for love. I don’t mean the type of love between people-at the age of sixteen I’ve years to figure the mystery of that out. But I believe, no, I know that when you have found something you love, you will sacrifice anything.
Last year, a dancer in my studio leaned casually on the barre, and told us she had been in to see her doctor. She needed an operation to end the pain she felt every time she walked. If she had the operation, it would be impossible for her to continue dancing. As though it was the most commonplace thing, she turned back to the barre and continued her exercises, up, down, plié, releve. A novice looked up “Well, what did you tell them?” There was a look of confusion on her round face. “I’m not going to stop dancing,” came the flat answer.
When I started ballet at six, it was just for fun-what little girls did after they saw Ballerina Barbie and because I liked the color pink. Somehow it got to be a habit, like biting your nails or clicking a pen. I never really gave much thought to it, until, at twelve, crouching and squatting suddenly became intensely painful. I would stoop to pick up something, and find myself unable to straighten my left knee. This went on for three months before I found the courage to admit it. When ballet had become something I could lose, something, I had in fact, not payed particular attention to for six years, when handed the chance to give it up, I found I didn’t want to.
Four years, and too many trips to the chiropractor later, the pain is gone, with an interesting twist-my left knee does the Rice Krispies any time I bend or straighten it-snap, crackle, pop as loose ligaments shift. It’s pretty repulsive to feel it bubble under the skin, so diametrically opposite from the silk ribbons and pink pointe shoes that caused it.
As far as I can tell, my knee will remain like that for the rest of my life. Somehow, I don’t mind that. Every time I go up the stairs, every time I plié, I hear my knee, and I’m reminded, not of what I gave in sweat and bloody toes, but that I had something I believed-believe-in so much that I was willing-am willing-to give up what it takes just to dance a little longer. At sixteen, I know something most teenagers don’t-I’m not going to stop dancing.
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