Some of my earliest memories involve rushing from Saturday morning ballet class on Long Island to Lincoln Center with my mom to catch a matinée of The Nutcracker.
The fantasy of becoming a professional ballerina stayed with me long past childhood. Even as old as sixteen I clung to the ambition, despite having an imperfect turnout and a curvy post-pubescent body. So, my feelings were often mixed whenever I found myself in LC's David H. Koch Theater after finally letting go of the dream.
David H. Koch Theater is imposing. Five stories of wrought iron balconies cast eyes upwards to a swirling ceiling adorned by a spherical, two-ton chandelier – all vivid reminders of my childhood. For awhile, I interpreted these icons as symbols of personal failure. I'd never be blinded by that chandelier while taking a bow from stage left. I'd never experience the rush of catching my breath in the wings before the final movement of The Waltz of the Flowers like I fantasized I would as a twelve year-old bun head.
At times, I resented the space, and the fact that my mom put me in such an intense ballet program as a kid despite knowing, I'm sure, that it wasn't going to lead to anything professional or longterm. I mean, even if I was "the best" in my class (I wasn't) the odds of truly succeeding in the field were slim to none.
It wasn't until about a year ago when my attitude towards ballet and Lincoln Center started to fully shift. It was OK to have spent so many hours of my youth agonizing over a fouette turn or perfecting my arabesque in vain. It wasn't my mom's goal to set me up for failure, but rather to give me a creative outlet, a way to learn about art by actually participating in it, and a chance to challenge my physical boundaries.
And as a single 20-something who's barely able to keep weeknight dinner plans, I realize that the decade-long commitment was a much greater one for my parents.
Now when I find myself at Lincoln Center, I'm reminded of my respect for the art form and of my parents' sacrifices. Tickets to Coppélia meant taking a second job as a limo driver for my dad. Two-hour long ballet classes at a school 30 minutes from home meant losing entire evenings and Saturdays for my mom. My parents didn't push me to make me feel inadequate; they pushed me out of love – and to make me a fuller person.
NYCB's Spring Season kicked off last week. Check out a Robbins or Balanchine suite and experience Lincoln Center's magic for yourself. You most definitely won't regret it.