By Haley King, 16, Marshall Fundamental HS (Pasadena)
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Haley says school is way harder junior year, but ballet relieves her stress.

I love ballet but when I’m tired after school or I can’t hang out with friends or I have to stay up late doing schoolwork because of practice, I think my life would be easier without it. 

I started taking ballet when I was 3 years old. Every year my ballet studio put on a performance of The Nutcracker during Christmas time. The choreography was so much fun because we were characters. When I was a soldier we marched with candy cane “guns.” After every performance my grandma would give me roses from her garden that filled our house with the smell of flowers.

Eighth grade was a good ballet year. Although classes were four times a week, they were only an hour long. That year I began going on pointe. Pointe is when you go all the way up on your toes wearing pointe shoes. It was strange standing  on my toes for the first time. We all had fun looking in the mirror and seeing how pretty being in the shoes made us look. It didn’t hurt that day because we did simple exercises like lifting up and down. Going on pointe made me feel like I had grown as a dancer. Dancing was now a bigger part of my life. I began to take it more seriously and I was able to do more moves, like turning on pointe.

In high school I had more homework and ballet classes got harder because we were on pointe for the whole class. But I never seriously thought about quitting ballet. How could I leave my friends? How would I get exercise? What would I do every day after school? 

So many times I wished I could skip class

In 10th grade classes were an hour and a half long. Monday and Wednesday pointe class started at 5:15 p.m. I came home from school around 3:30 p.m. and would get myself a snack. After that I would lie down, maybe watch TV, and just relax until I had to start getting ready. I’d lie on my couch and look at the time on my phone, thinking, “OK, I have four minutes left. If I get up in four minutes I’ll be good.” Sometimes I’d think, “Why am I still doing this? I wish I could just stay home.” When it’s hot I hate the thought of putting on tights. But when those minutes were up I dragged myself off the couch and slowly began the routine I knew so well. I was usually in a rush to get out the door, running around grabbing everything I needed, making sure my mom knew it was time for me to go. 

I’d get back home at 7 p.m. and have dinner right away. Then I started my homework and I went to sleep around midnight. I had history tests every week and would sometimes stay up until 1:30 a.m. studying for them. I would think, “Oh man if I didn’t go to ballet I could have started studying right when I got home and could have gone to bed by 11:30 p.m.” Sometimes if I had too much homework, I’d tell my mom and she would let me skip class. 

My friends think it’s cool that I do ballet and love to watch me perform. But it’s annoying when we have to schedule our plans around ballet. I have class Friday nights so I always say, “I can’t do Friday but Saturday is good.” It’s the worst when I’m not in charge of the plans so I have to miss out but there is nothing I can do. Once I had to miss the first two hours of my best friend’s birthday party because I had Nutcracker rehearsal.

However, any negative thoughts about ballet drift away when I get to class. A typical ballet class begins with about 30 minutes of warming up on the barre (the ballet term for the bar). Then we come to the center. We do combinations from the corner going across the room, from the back of the room coming forward, and in lines. We usually end with big leaps across the floor. 

Ballet soothes me. One time I was really mad at my mom before class and in a bad mood. I didn’t want to go to class but I forced myself to go because I knew I would feel guilty if I didn’t. My mom and I were arguing in the car the whole way over. After I slammed the car door shut I walked into class and found a spot at the barre. The second our pianist started playing slow classical music and we began pliets, an exercise where you bend your knees while keeping your back straight, I felt calm. No one in the class knew how upset I was. I thought, “I’m going to leave that all behind and have a good class.” Afterward I felt so much better and I wasn’t even mad at my mom anymore.

Performances are still amazing too. I love being backstage. The energy is so high and fast paced. As soon as I hear the music for my dance I know to get ready to run on. When I’m on stage with the lights shining on me, I become a whole new person. All of my hard work seems worth it when I’m up there dancing. I have to remember the choreography and watch the other girls so that we are all together with the music. When we are done with our part we run off stage and wait in the wings for the curtain call. 

This year I’m dancing five days a week. It’s intense but I don’t see myself stopping. When I get something right or do something I couldn’t do the day before it feels incredible. Ballet makes me feel refreshed and calm and like I can do anything. I need dance in my life.