I went and watched The Clytie Adams School of Ballet perform the Nutcracker on Saturday, and like always it brought me to tears.
It’s so hard to be there, it’s full of so many memories from the time I was 3 years old, on to when I stopped dancing a few months after my 18th birthday.
There are hundreds of girls who understand how it feels to be a Clytie Girl, and so here’s my note to those Clytie Girls who are still dancing there today.
To The Clytie Girls,
Don’t take a single second of your time as a ballerina for granted. You are given the tools to make magic happen. You fly through the air in a large leap, you travel across the stage in seconds in a sissone or pique turn.
You spend hours at the studio running through barre exercises, killing yourself over adagio, giggling from the corner, waiting your turn. Your feet hurt, your hips hurt, your back hurts.
You figure out exactly how your toes need to be protected for pointe shoes. You keep band-aids and gauze and extra toe pads ready just in case. You spend hours breaking in shoes and covering them in rosin so they are ready.
You learn how to catch your breath while making moves look effortless.
You spend years with other Clytie Girls, becoming friends and bonding over new leotards and good teachers. A lot of these girls you have known since age 3 or 4. You wake early on Saturday mornings for rehearsal, and know how to perfectly put on fake eyelashes.
You’ve spent so much time in the basement of the Val Browning Center, getting ready to perform in front of bright lights and hundreds of people. You know the sound of the dances going on upstairs as you run through the hall.
You’ve stood on stage for what seems like hours during dress rehearsals, making sure the lighting is just right. You’ve laced up the tightest costumes and pinned in large headpieces with ease.
You’ve failed. You’ve fallen. You’ve gotten back up. Ballet taught you how to get back up and always be proud of what you can do. It taught you to love yourself and trust yourself. It gave you so much confidence.
You remember how you looked up to the older girls who chaperoned you and how amazing it felt to get to be a chaperone for the first time. You remember walking into auditions and feeling so nervous as you pinned on your number and learned combinations quickly.
You’ll never forget your first Nutcracker and being unsure of what was happening, wearing curlers to school, late nights and the long hours of games with your friends while the show was going.
You bought so many new pairs of tights, shows, leotards, warm up outfits, bags, boutique items from Nutcracker and recital. You know the drive to the studio better than almost anything.
And one day you won’t pull into the alley for class every single week. And it will break your heart. You’ll go to the shows and realize you have forgotten what the name of that move is. And it will break your heart. You will watch The Nutcracker like I just did, and you’ll know so many of the dances from memory. And it will break your heart. You will see teachers and even Clytie herself, and you will want to weep. You will thank them for creating you, molding you, and giving their all to you.
There will be a time you walk out of the studio and won’t go back in to dance. There will be a time you stand on the stage to take a bow for the last time.
But you will always be a ballerina. You have the scars and the collection of costumes and toe shoes to prove it. You have years of memories. You have the friendships. You may keep dancing after you leave Clytie’s, or it may be pirouettes in your kitchen from now on. But it doesn’t matter which path you take after you’re done there.
Once you’re a Clytie Girl, you’re always a Clytie Girl.
A Clytie Girl