The sheet music looked interesting, so I picked it up and started playing. Something about the title … the word “ballet” … the picture of the dancer … it drew me in. I knew I recognized the tune. It was from Swan Lake.
A story came flooding back.
A story about a girl who listened to Swan Lake seemingly every day of her six-year-old life, who spread the living room with sequined costumes and glittery tiaras and angel halos and twirled in her cousin’s castoff leotards and slippers. Who once received a tulle tutu as a present upon turning four or five and treasured it. Who fancied herself one day a swan, the next day a sugarplum fairy, and the next day a doll come to life. Who knew the name “Tchaikovsky” and knew it meant shimmering melodies and elegant waltzes. Who sat transfixed watching “The Nutcracker” onstage every Christmas, disbelieving of the beautiful dancers and costumes. Who lived for the color pink.
She wanted to be a ballerina, but never became one, and gradually forgot about that idea to become a pianist . Every once in a while, someone would comment that she walked like a dancer, looked like a dancer, or seemed inclined towards being a dancer. And something inside her sparkled a bit whenever she heard something like that, because deep down, she knew she would be, eventually.
Someday, she will. Not ballet — now she admires tango, waltz, and swing. She will always be transfixed by rhythm and movement, enchanted by the passion that flows in dancers’ veins.
But as she played the music from Swan Lake, she remembered the girl in the glitter-strewn living room. What did she see then?
In the beautiful ballerinas leaping across pages in storybooks, she saw sparkling loveliness. Beauty with wings. Ethereal grace. People who radiated light, if only because of the sequins. Perfection. She might have never had the patience to spend years learning to pirouette en pointe. She probably would never have danced the part of the White Swan. But that was never what a ballerina meant to her.
A ballerina was ineffable grace. That was what she looked for in every plastic tiara, stitch of satin, faded slipper, and scratched CD. Of course, she did not find it there. But for all she knew, grace was a ballerina, and that was all she wanted to be.
Years have passed and she is no longer a little girl.
But still she searches in the mirror for the ballerina just out of reach.