Keep dancing your dance (& other things I wish I could have told a stranger 13 yrs ago)


Ballet Shoes © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012

A painting of my old ballet shoes - the first painting I ever sold. © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012

When I was 10, I auditioned for the National Ballet School. There were 4 of us in this particular audition – myself, a girl I barely remember with fuzzy brown hair, a boy, and then The Girl.

The Girl who danced like she had angel wings.

I’d been dancing for 5 years and my teachers had high hopes for me – with perfect technique and the right body, I was practically a shoo-in. My school had a reputation for sending students to the National Ballet School.

I was the one you expected to see at these things. The Girl wasn’t.

She was my age, of Asian descent, with silky black hair. When she stepped on the dance floor, you couldn’t take your eyes off her. I still remember the beauty with which she moved, even 13 years later. That beauty still makes my heart ache.

She moved like water, like fire. There was such rhythm that moved through her limbs, like she was made of quicksilver and mercury. Her technique was good, but her heart was divine. You just wanted to watch her all day.

Ten year old me hated her a little bit. I received the praise of perfect technique, but I’d never heard my mother whisper about how she couldn’t take her eyes off me when I danced. I was never fascinating – I was just perfect. I wanted to be fascinating, dammit!

But at the end of the day, it was perfection that took the day, not fascination.

The boy was obviously accepted. (You’re a male and you dance? OMG WE WANT YOU.) The fuzzy brown haired girl was not. I was about to be offered a place and then I opened my big mouth and told them that I didn’t want to be a dancer when I grew up, I wanted to be a brain surgeon. (I’m positive my teachers could have strangled me at that point.)

The Girl did not get in. The Girl was stocky, solid. She wasn’t what they were looking for.

Now I don’t want to get into a debate about how judgmental ballet schools are, and how they just want stick thin girls and perfection. That’s not really my point here, and that’s a discussion for a different kind of blog.

There are so many things that I wish I could say to The Girl.

I wish I could tell her that context matters – just because you dance beautifully doesn’t mean you should be in the National Ballet Company. That maybe she would have suffocated there, and never danced the way she was truly meant to dance.

I wish I could tell her that just because one door has closed doesn’t mean that other doors won’t open; it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a gift, that she isn’t meant to dance.

I wish I could tell her that the way she moved touched my 10 year old heart, even if at the time, I was filled with envy.

In fact, I wish I could tell her that I was envious, that I may have won the prize but it wasn’t my dancing that moved the room. It wasn’t my dancing that caused the whispers, the admiration. That she already had the greater prize, in her heart, and that there was a place for it.

I wish I could tell her that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time but that doesn’t mean that she was wrong, that her gift was wrong. Context.

I wish I could tell her that one school’s opinion is bullshit and she shouldn’t stop dancing, ever.

I hope to the gods that she never stopped dancing.

In my memory and my heart, she never did.

This is why you should share your gifts.

Because 13 years from now, something you said, or did, or created could still be touching someone’s heart, giving them hope and inspiration and a feeling that one time, they saw the divine, connected with that crazy magic through someone else’s work.

Creatives are like shamans. We’re calling down the spirit of the divine and we are spreading it through the world. We’re making connections, sharing gifts, helping people get in touch with themselves and the world.

We are the anti-disconnect, the anti-apathy. Some of us like to pretend that we’re hip and apathetic, bored by the world around us, but I call bullshit. You can’t create anything unless you give a shit about something.

And whatever it is that we gave a shit about (doesn’t matter really), someone else is going to see it or experience it and connect with it, and then it moves to a different level, one that we have nothing to do with. It becomes a part of someone else’s experience, someone else’s story, and moves them in ways we could never understand or predict.

We just have to keep showing up, to keep making the work.

We have to keep dancing our dance, even if sometimes it ends up in front of the wrong audience.

The point is to dance.

I can’t tell that little girl any of the things that I want to. But I can tell you those things instead. And you can go out into the world and dance your dance and spread your message and ever onwards it will go, like ripples in the pond of humanity.

Because it matters. Because it’s Important.