My mom signed me up for my first dance class – the Littlest Ballerinas – when I was six. According to my Nonna, Mom wanted to take ballet classes and it was too expensive, so she didn’t get to. Which meant my dancing career started so she could live vicariously through me. My older brother, charmer that he is, tells me that the reason Mom signed me up was because I was the chubbiest six-year-old in the history of the neighborhood. According to my Nonna, that might not be an exaggeration. Judging by my baby pictures, I have no reason not to believe this. What can I say, I had a thing for black and white cookies and cannoli.
From the minute I walked waddled through the doors of the studio and saw the mirror and the barre and the poofy pink skirts, I was in heaven. Suddenly I wasn’t the roundest kid in the neighborhood anymore. Instead I was graceful and lean. I kept dancing and I stuck with it for a long time. I remember the day Mom got me my first pointe shoes. She had tears in her eyes. I did it for a couple more years but by the time I got halfway through high school, I decided I wanted to do more “cool” dancing and switched to hip hop. My mom is too classy to show disappointment, and she let me make the change without much fuss at all.
The studio I took lessons at was so fun. Eventually I graduated high school but I kept going to dance. One of the instructors went on maternity leave and they asked me to fill in on her classes. Seemed like easy money and as a broke college student, easy money was not something I could turn down. It turned out that college wasn’t really my thing but teaching dance was. I quit school, much to my parents’ disappointment, and started teaching full-time. I do take classes now and then when I can. My goal is to graduate with a performing arts degree (instead of the business degree my dad was pulling – and partially paying – for) at some point.
I’ve been teaching for a few years now and I actually don’t mind getting up in the morning and going to work. I open the studio four days a week, much to the delight of my colleagues. I like to get there before everyone and warm up while it is quiet and dark. Then students start arriving, the volume increases dramatically, and the day flies by. At the end of the day, I am exhausted but I am also pinching myself because I cannot believe my luck. I get to teach something I love to do, and someone pays me to do it. You can’t ask for much more than that out of life.