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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Loving something that hurts

My pointe shoes rest upon the bookcase of my childhood bedroom. In the blueness of the daylight streaming through the window, their pink satin shines nearly white. Their pink is not quite pink, but a fleshy, blushlike tone. The pair of them are wrapped up together by their ribbons, frayed at the end. Their soles are of leather, and the tips are feathered, satin grayed and worn. To the touch, the satin of them nearly escapes the fingertips, the very minutiae of ridged fingerprints can hardly grasp onto the sensation of their softness, as petals of the wild pink roses in my backyard.

And yet, and yet through this softness, a grime is felt. Of old sweat and dead skin and the dirt of gray marley floors. It is then that these shoes, at once in their beauty, appear to me in all of the pain they have caused me. The blisters that have been ripped open bloody in these shoes. Beneath the silky pink are coffins that pinch and form bunions and calluses and render the feet inside them ugly and sometimes painful years after. These pink shoes whose flesh-tone was matched to someone else’s, not my own. In these shoes I stood before the mirror, scrutinizing my mostly bare body, my body and skill not perfect enough to wear such perfection.

And yet in these shoes are classical music and years of practiced technique and pride. While I surely wasn’t the best dancer, I loved it enough to be my competition studio’s ballet girl.

At the end of so many painfully long school nights I would get home and want to cry and stew in self-hatred.  While dance was a turning point of growth, the hard days were exceptionally so. I wasn’t a turner, nor a trick-girl, nor naturally flexible, nor very expressive. My skills by the time I graduated were the product of more than a decade of trying. I think my own anxiety held me back more than anything.

What I did have was my technique. I don’t know exactly when it started, but among every style I’ve done, ballet has always been close to my heart. I think that at least in technique classes, I didn’t have to be the most flexible or expressive, and so the hours I spent at the barre was where I really tried without thinking too much about what others thought. There, I think I flourished the most and found the stepping stone to the rest of my love of dance.

Comparatively, no, I wasn’t anywhere near being the best ballet dancer. But I was good enough that I was proud of being the “bunhead” of our tiny studio. From then I grew — I think around ninth grade. And then I became more expressive, and oh God, does it feel good to perform when you dance. The hard days were so hard, but those good days? I don’t know if anything compares.

Sometimes I think of those competitions, stripping nearly naked in a gymnasium full of other girls, throwing on my next costume, and running to the backstage doors, and I love it. Other times I hate it. The fights with my mom at five in the morning, the dangerous slip of a linoleum floor beneath my feet reminding me of an old injury, the 12-hour days, peeling back spider-leg fake eyelashes while listening to a corny MC list off “high gold” after “platinum” after “high gold.” I don’t know that I would ever do it again. But God, I miss it more than most things.

Those girls I danced with, those girls I got to be a girl with, I miss them so much. Happy practices with teachers who I follow on Instagram and catch up with at my little sisters’ competitions. Cheering on the younger girls who are now the high schoolers I was. Costume day. Summer workshops, dancing with the lights off, the group chats with so many inside jokes that a book could be written about the context preceding them.

The dance here at Carleton allures me. I want to join in so badly, but everytime I come close, something holds me back — a legitimate excuse like scheduling or something stupid like fear. I don’t know why. I took Ballet II last spring and had the time of my life. But even in bunhead heaven, I had painfully familiar moments. I would look a little too closely in the mirror and walk through the rest of the day in a dissociative haze. Panic would climb my throat if I forgot a combination. I’d take harmless glances for the worst. In those moments I wanted to freeze and shrivel up and disappear. What does it say that something I love so much triggers so much pain? Sitting here now, it seems so incredibly stupid. Dancing is probably one of the most human impulses I can think of, in the same way that laughing and loving and singing are.

The closest I have come to experiencing dancing-joy is through swing. Lindy-hop and west coast swing. Bouncy and light-footed and sexy and jazzy and smooth and flowy. It’s so wonderful. But, yes, scheduling has gotten in the way. Again. Though, on my birthday a few weeks ago, I skipped a pitch meeting (sorry not sorry guys) to go to Monday Night Swing. There weren’t many there, but it got to be maybe eleven and it had dwindled down to just four of us. We had been dancing all night, and we decided that the song that just came on would be the last. My friend and I were too tired for Lindy-hopping, so I danced for her as it came into my body in my blue dress. I found my limbs remembering jazz combinations and dances from my days as a competition dancer, and it was so lovely just dancing what felt right. The other two saw me and started to dance with me. By the end of the song we were just dancing and laughing.

That night I felt so human.

I want more of that feeling.

This week I found out that my little studio is closing. It’s being bought and reopened by three of my dance teachers under a new name. I’m excited for what the future holds for it, and I know that it’s in the best of hands. I am so desperately going to miss Escalate Dance and Theatre Studio, the place where I grew into the person I am now who loves dancing.

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About the Contributor
Cecilia Samadani
Cecilia Samadani, Features Editor
I'm an English major with interests in Creative Writing and Middle East Studies minors. I love all things related to art whether that be writing, drawing, music or dance, and am an avid cat person. Cecilia '26 (she/her) was previously a Staff Writer.

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