I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. The last time I could recall, it was 2003 and I was on a bus with 30 other show choir kids, all equally obsessed with musical theater. I stared up at the bright lights of Times Square, all of my 18 years of dance, theater, and music behind me, and I told myself, “I’m going to make it here.” I was naïve. I hailed from the booming metropolis of Webster, New York and I knew nothing about life in Manhattan.
But last night I remembered. The air was warm enough to leave my coat unbuttoned, revealing the faded pink straps of full body tights hanging over my khaki pants. I wanted everyone to see. I wanted anyone who wondered to know that I was going to ballet class. An eagerness hummed inside of me that hadn’t been there in five years.
“The class is in Studio 4, down the hall to your right.” I followed the girl’s directions and lost myself in the sound of tap shoes and “Hot Honey Rag,” the smell of stale sweat, the murmur of conversation highlighted with the occasional battement and echappe. I peeled off my office persona and slipped into ballet shoes crisp with years of use. My limbs ached as I stretched over, my bones cracked, and I winced at my inflexible hamstrings.
The class was ballet at its most basic, but I answered every question, raised my hand with questions of my own, and volunteered first in every exercise. I breathed through every movement, extending every gesture as if my famished body wanted to soak in every last morsel. It had been five years. I didn’t want to wait another five to feel this way again.
It’s hard to explain why I stopped dancing when I came to New York. It should’ve been the opposite. But last night, still damp with sweat from my hour and a half long return to ballet, I called my mother beneath the bright, blinking lights of Broadway. I remembered the passion and the drive and the beauty I felt before I ever lived here. “Will you send my leotards and tights?” I asked. “I’m going to need more than one.”