Written by Maddy
Dear Mrs. H, I stepped foot into the halls of your dance academy for the first time with doe like eyes, strawberry blond curls and a very impressionable mind thirteen years ago.
The last time I left was with bruised knees, tear filled eyes and self-hatred cursing through my veins, with your signature tattooed on my mind and your screams ringing in my ears. It wasn’t always like this, I remember running around the classroom with my tutu and ballet slippers as we played games. Those were the days that I had begun to admire you, and your beautiful ballet past and the future you had in store for me.
The first day you told me that I should consider changing my level I felt as though my world was crumbling. “Go to the back of the classroom” was the most vulgar words my young ears could have heard and I went home crying that day. The constant comparison between my skills and my body, the competition that I felt between the girls that I called my “best friends”.
I remember the day you told our class that we would be getting our measurements taken with the older girls. I was so excited to see them walk into our small classroom full of poise and dignity, but as they scurried into the room you screamed, “sit down quicker”, “get into your places”. You would line them up and display their measurements to everyone in the room.
I heard snickers from the other students as you yelled out their peers measurements. “36, 32 and a quarter, 40” you would say as the girls would stare at themselves in the mirror with disgust trying to ignore the numbers they were hearing. Years later I became one of those girls, you would yell my measurements “32, 26, 34” and I would drag myself to sit next to my classmates they would look at me apologetically as if to say “don’t worry one day you will be skinnier”.
As another girl would get measured I would listen to her measurements carefully, smirking to myself as I realized I had a smaller frame, a rush of confidence cursing through my body. I began to eat a little bit less every day, exercise even more and find myself ogling at the bodies of models online as I researched ways I could look like that one day. I was a circus freak and you were the ringmaster, giving me commands that I would obey. If you said that I needed to focus more on dance, I would stay up late, running my dances until I was sick. If you told me that I needed to suck in, I would lose weight, just to make you even more proud.
I wouldn’t bring a water bottle to class, in order to maximize my learning with you, and to ensure I wouldn’t bloat. I remember throwing up as I walked through the door of my home after dancing for five hours straight in a small classroom filled with seventy other girls trying to impress you. At fourteen you called me to tell me you wanted me to teach alongside you. That day was among the most amazing days of my life, and it shouldn’t have. I deserved that job, but you made me feel as though you had given me a gift. You tortured those girls in front of me, making me push them and move them and yell at them.
The following year I asked you if I could leave dance, my friends all asked me why I had to ask your permission and I told them “if I don’t ask her, she’ll put me in the back when I return” as though the girls that could be found in the back row were any worse than those I had 0n either side of me up front. You denied my request although I explained that I had been failing my classes you told me that I “wasn’t even that good” and “needed as much practice as I could get”. That day I cried for five hours. I resented you. You consumed me with the idea that I was only here to impress you and those that were coming to the shows. You made me hate every inch of my body, just to tear me down and construct me as you wanted. I admired you, defended you to those who said you were unfair and horrendous.
I cried for months after our farewell, and even received hushed comments from my past classmates and students as I walked down the streets of my town. You hurt me. It took me a year and I am finally learning to become in love with my body. I want to thank you though Mrs. H, for making me who I am today. Maybe, I cannot stand the way my hips are uneven in the slightest bit or the fact that there is no space found between my thighs. I cringe at the thought of my hip bones not being evident or not being called “skinny”.
But Mrs. H, you taught me how to stand in front of a crowd of hundreds of people and not run away with fear. You taught me how to be outgoing and how to enjoy my time in the spotlight to the fullest. You gave me passion. So thank you, I hope one day I can look back on our time together and know that you were proud of me the whole time. With love and respect, Madison