Dance classes began when I was four years old.
My sister and I both took lessons.
We continued the lessons right into high school.
The classes evolved into so much more.
From the basement of a home
(It was the teacher’s mother’s home.)
A fully fledged dance studio was born.
One class turned into several classes a week.
Tap, jazz, ballet, demi-character and baton.
Several competitions a year.
Many costumes for each of our ‘numbers.’
Mom started working for the studio.
Although we didn’t know this then,
She needed to offset the costs of our classes.
We spent every weekend at the studio.
Including Thursday and Friday evenings.
Our dance teacher and husband became friends with our parents.
Their children became our friends.
We were together constantly.
These were great years.
I loved dance.
I loved performing.
My room was full of medals and certificates.
Dance was my whole life.
As I grew older, my dance teacher’s daughter began to teach too.
I. LOVED. HER.
She was so beautiful.
And when she danced…
She was a vision.
I wanted to be her.
I could watch her dance all day.
It was an adjustment,
Addressing her as a teacher.
I was thrilled just to get to be with her more often.
I worked very hard in her class.
Her expectations were high.
I worked harder.
I was always the lead.
A position I had to earn.
I watched her be lead for years.
On the top of my game,
Life couldn’t have been better.
Each summer break left me missing dance.
The days were just counted down for return to class.
September could never come fast enough for me.
The fall of my sixteenth birthday,
I happily returned to dance for yet another year.
Something had changed.
Miss Dawn was…different.
Something was amiss.
I was nervous.
In class, one day,
I messed up on a dance sequence.
We were all struggling.
Miss Dawn was angry.
She gave the lead to someone else.
I was shattered.
My classmates were stunned.
They didn’t know what to do.
They knew I was embarrassed.
A competition was fast approaching.
We were in rehearsals for hours each day.
One number, “Hurricane”,
Was a particularly difficult number.
We were each to wear a different colour costume.
Blues, greens, reds, orange…
I was in yellow.
I was the lead.
Miss Dawn had us stand in our costumes in line.
She looked us over like a general to his troops.
She walked up and down the row of us.
She stopped at me and looked me up and down.
It was unnerving.
None of us understood what was happening.
Miss Dawn was not happy.
Someone would pay.
She went back to her spot in front of the class.
She told me to step forward.
She demanded I tell her how much I weighed.
‘Do it!’ she yelled.
I did not know the answer.
Miss Dawn did not like that.
She left the room and returned with a set of scales.
I was directed to use them.
The tears of humiliation burned in the back of my eyes.
I could barely contain them.
I knew not to let those tears fall.
Miss Dawn told me to tell the class what the scales read.
‘Louder,’ she yelled.
There wasn’t a sound in the room.
These were my friends.
They admired me and my ability to be lead.
They had never seen me in trouble from Miss Dawn.
Sadly, I had seen some of them be the brunt of Miss Dawn’s anger.
Miss Dawn let the silence live for what seemed like eternity.
Then she said, calmly, quietly and to me directly,
“If you do not lose ten pounds immediately, you are out of this number.”
We were dismissed.
My childhood idol died that day.
She literally broke my heart.
She violated my trust by scaring me.
She violated my crush by being cruel.
She violated my dream of being her…
That was my last year of dance.
I did not return the following year.
I went from being the top of my class,
The best of my peers,
To feeling fat and rejected.
A child should never be made to feel this way,
Especially, their idol