Most people believe that ballet dancers are naturally flexible, but this was not always the case for me. I started ballet when I was three, and I can still remember that I was the most inflexible girl in class. This problem did not bother me initially, but as time went by, I realized the importance of flexibility to a ballet dancer — many advanced dance moves are nearly impossible to perform without being extremely limber.
When I was ten, I was the only one who could not do a split, and my teacher told me if I couldn’t perform a split, I wouldn’t be able to join the Christmas performance as it was a required move. You cannot imagine how crucial the Christmas performance is to a little girl. When I first tried to do a front split, my hands did not even reach the floor. In order to improve, I grabbed every single moment to stretch. I stretched when I was watching TV and stretched while I was studying. I even fell asleep trying to do a split once and my mum had to help me “close” my legs afterwards. It took me three months to perfect the split, right in time for the Christmas performance. The intense process that was required for me to perform the split properly, even adding two pillows between my legs to hold the front split position, taught me a lesson in persistence. I soon realized that there were more challenges to conquer, particularly in the presentation of a ballet routine.
Whenever I danced, I was very shy and looked at the floor with no smile as I performed. My ballet teacher always told me to smile and look at the audience, but I never had the self-confidence to do so. I was very self-conscious and thought that people could easily see the deficiencies in my skills. Perhaps these were the reasons why, back then, I could only stand at the back on stage and never take up any of the leading positions. However, who doesn’t want to be Odette in Swan Lake or Aurora in Sleeping Beauty? I knew that I had to redouble my effort to stand out among all other girls. After every ordinary 2-hour lesson, I stayed in the ballet studio to practice for another 1 hour to perfect my moves. I asked for advice and comments from my teachers after every lesson. As time went by, I developed the confidence and charisma to perform on stage and was given a chance to take up a soloist role.
Dancers always make dancing on stage looks so effortless. However, behind the scenes, it actually takes years of painstaking practice to do a perfect pirouette and arabesque. Every girl wants to put on pointe shoes and pink tutus but not everyone can make it through the pain and hardships. My ballet experiences have shaped my personality and made me who I am, a determined, confident, and dedicated woman ready to tackle any challenge.