“When I was little I fell in love with the beauty that is ballet, and have loved it ever since. After being part of a few different trainee programs, I finally landed at a company I felt I could succeed in getting a company contract with. I was receiving featured roles and was well-liked by the artistic staff. Every time a free contract became available the artistic director promised it would be mine, and my hopes soared.
Only to crash back down when various reasons were given that I would not be given said contract. Every time I would pick myself back up, keep working hard, and think that eventually my time would come. In my last year with that company, I had performed soloist and even principal roles, and I was sure that I would receive what was promised and achieve my dream of being a professional dancer.
Only to be told that something was wrong with me, that it was my fault if I didn’t get a contract, and that I needed to prove that I deserved one. I didn’t know what more I could prove. Being told that “something was wrong with me” was very damaging, and my mental health went downhill. I believed what I was told, even though it wasn’t true. When I tried to stand up for myself I was told I was making excuses.
Feeling the need to prove myself led to anxiety, self-harm, and panic attacks that made it impossible for me to continue dancing in a healthy way. I felt that I had been used and manipulated, and I was tired of it. I stopped dancing, and though I’m happier, I still struggle with feeling like I failed. It hurts that I won’t feel the joy of performing anymore. My love for ballet is still there, and I miss it.
I miss how it used to make me feel beautiful. But I don’t miss the people who use their positions of power to manipulate those beneath them, who made me feel defeated and worthless and helped turn me into someone I don’t even recognize anymore. One thing I’m learning, and I hope it helps you too, remember your identity is in who you are, not in what you do.”