The Death of a Dancer

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I hold dance near and dear to my heart. Ever since I put on my first pair of ballet slippers at the age of two, my mother said I was invincible. And I believed her.

Classical ballet jetés to the top of my list of favorite genres of dancing. The awe of wearing a glittery tutu and satin pink pointe shoes resembles everything I wanted to be when I grew up. While many dancers today set their sights on the choreography of commercial dancers like Willdabeast Adams, I keep mine on the fouettes that signify the strength and beauty of the Sugar Plum.

The barre gives me a safe haven. Rather than sitting at home like a couch potato, the barre serves as my go-to stress reliever because there’s nothing better than slipping on tights and leotard and feeling the marley beneath my feet. I lose all sense of what’s happening in the “real world” at the barre. Not to mention I get my daily workout in. So long smelly gym.

But there came a time when I decided to get serious about my training. I went to a performing arts high school where I majored in dance. My ballet teacher told me that I mustn’t waste my God-given talents and that I needed to work harder. I put all my effort into dancing as much as I could—senior choreography, 14-plus hours in the studio and weight training to balance my body out.

I made sure to become the well-rounded dancer that colleges look for. But by senior year, I knew that I wanted to concentrate on my ballet repertoire. I added on another 10 hours of training to my rehearsal schedule on top of more choreography at a ballet conservatory near my house. The feeling of invincibility kept me chasé-ing through life. I felt like the world was at my feet, until I landed on the ground with an injury that cost me my dreams of tulle and pink ribbons.

I tore my meniscus and Posterior Cruciate Ligament in a dance competition. After being taken off the floor by a paramedic, I sobbed as much as I did when Angel died in RENT. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I placed my identity in dance. If I wasn’t a dancer, who was I? After months of rehabilitation, a rejection letter and a bout of depression, I knew my odds of becoming a professional dancer had exited stage right.

Today, I still have dark moments where I regret the decision to discontinue my career as a dancer. But I’m thankful to have been able to transform my artistry into writing. My new form of expression. I also dance for my university’s dance team and feel grateful enough to have spent time dancing for a NBA-D League team where I traveled overseas to China for a month. They say not to give up your dreams and while that’s true, you can still transform your dreams into something better. Although dance feels like an emotional roller coaster, it’s a ride I don’t think I’ll ever get off.

Noël Blackhall is a senior at Mercyhurst University studying Broadcast Journalism in Erie, PA. When it's not covered in five feet of snow, you can find her playing with dogs at local shelters or out on the court dancing for the Mercyhurst Dance Team.

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