Fallout Girl's Blog



Ballerina or Waitress?

Radiation Level:  Can Feel It In My Toes

Listening To:  Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky

Black Swan is my favorite narrative film of 2010 so far.  I’m an O.G. Darren Aronofsky fan.  To the point that I actually chased him down a hall after a panel at Sundance.

FalloutGirl:  Darren, wait!

Darren Aronofsky:  Yes?

(awkward pause – what can I say that’s interesting and original and distinguishes me from all his other fans)

FalloutGirl:  Uh…I loved Requiem for a Dream.

(awkward look from D.A.)

FalloutGirl:  Keep up the good work.

FalloutGirl, I'd never leave Rachel Weisz for you!

**

My next run-in with Darren would be with my script Enchantress of Numbers.  It was twice a finalist in a screenwriting competition.  And, twice, it didn’t win.  The judge?  Darren Aronofsky.  Both times.

Ok, I'm leaving Rachel Weisz, but definitely not for you!

(Sigh)

Despite our difficult relationship, I love D.A.’s films.  And Black Swan is no exception.  I won’t say too much other than go see it.  But it did bring back some memories…

When I was a little girl, I took ballet, jazz and tap dance lessons for about 8 years.  I loved tap because the songs were catchy (Singing in the Rain was my number) and I was probably pretty good, though I remember going to an audition for an actual TV show (I must have been around 10) and getting cut pretty early.

The ballet classes were more for fun since I was only going once or twice a week.  When I was very young, 5 or 6, I would tell people, “When I grow up, I want to be either a ballerina or a waitress.”

Let’s just say at least one of these dreams came true.

I think I was attracted to ballet because of the tutus.  Not joking.   What little girl doesn’t like those damn things?  The dancing was okay, but very serious and hard.  Tap was fun and I could be sassy and show my personality.   Not ballet.  The music was classical and boring and my toes were more important than my face.  I didn’t have a ballerina’s body, though I was too young to understand that then.

When I started taking a new ballet class, a young student in the class asked the ballet teacher if she could bring her toe shoes.  The teacher said, “of course.”

For those of you who’ve never studied ballet, let’s just say that going “en pointe” is the pinnacle of ballet training.  It is the thing you take years for which to prepare.  Despite my ambivalence about ballet as a dance form, I wanted to go en pointe just like every other girl in the class did.  Boy, did I ever!  Those fancy pink shoes with all the straps!  Yippee!  So when the teacher said “yes” to the other girl, I assumed that meant I could bring my toe shoes, too.

One little problem:  I didn’t have any.

FalloutGirl:  Mommy, my new ballet teacher says I can go en pointe.

Mother:  Really?  Are you sure?

FalloutGirl:  Yes!  I just need to get toe shoes.

Mother:  Don’t you know they’re really expensive?

(pause – I’m thinking how to get around this)

FalloutGirl:  Can’t you ask Uncle Moneybags?

Mother:  I don’t know.  We’ll see.

Uncle Moneybags was my father’s mother’s uncle.  He was born in 1888 and was, needless-to-say, very old.  But he had a lot of money and liked (or at least occasionally agreed) to help out the family.

After more urgings by me, we ended up at the dance store to purchase my toe shoes.  I was in seventh-little-girl-unicorn-heaven!  God, were they GORGEOUS!  Pink silk, long ribbons.  WOW!  And they were mine and I was going to be a ballerina not a waitress!!!

Hey, little girl, wanna put your toes in me?

I think the shoes cost around $30, which now sounds like a mere half a tank of gas.  But we were poor and I was terribly lucky to get them.  And I knew it.

I remember the first day I wore them.  My mother drove me and another little girl to ballet class in our VW Bus.  They were already strapped to my feet as I got into the car. We pulled over momentarily to look at a garage sale and I ran out of the car in the toe shoes.  A sin for which I was yelled at and banished back to the car.  I didn’t care.  These shoes were worth getting yelled at.  I was going to be a ballerina not a waitress.  The fact that my mother couldn’t understand this grand twist of fate was her fault, not mine.

In ballet class, I tried to warm up at the barre with these tight, clunky, wooden-toed shoes.  I releved on full pointe.  That’s when I had a serous disconnect.  The amount of PAIN I felt was surely a mistake, right?  I’m not supposed to be standing ON THE ACTUAL TIPS OF MY TOES, am I?

Okay, let’s back up.  I know they are called toe shoes.  But I always assumed this was an illusion.  That one’s toes would actually be bent to support one’s weight, as if one were walking on tippee-toe.  Reality check:  The reason it takes years to go en pointe is because you are standing on the tips of your frigging toes.  And it frigging hurts.  A lot.

As a nine or ten year old, I hadn’t been introduced to high-heeled shoes yet, so I’d never considered that dancing (or walking) in pain was even a remote possibility – let alone – necessary.

Of course ballet dancers (and high-heeled shoe wearers) develop calluses and blisters, add padding, etc. if not to ease the pain, at least to tolerate it.  But I didn’t know this.  I panicked, not knowing how to handle the situation.  I was too embarrassed to admit to the teacher that my feet hurt, didn’t know what I was doing or – eek- wasn’t ready to go en pointe.

Maybe I wasn’t ready?  Oh, God, but I want to be sooooo bad!  But what I didn’t comprehend (and clearly neither did my mother) was that there’s a BIG difference between taking ballet classes and becoming a ballerina.  To become the latter, I’d need classes from a top school four or five times a week, a teacher/parent planning my ascension into the serious ballet world.  Discipline.  Private coaching.  Ballet camps, etc.  The only thing I had was hope.  And a pair of shoes I didn’t know how to stand in, let alone dance in.

Some months later, when I had stopped bringing the toe shoes to class, wearing them around the house or even speaking about ballet, my mother confronted me.

Mother:  I think you lied to me about getting those toe shoes!

FalloutGirl:  No, I didn’t.

Mother:  Then how come you’re not still using them?

FalloutGirl:  I am.

Mother:  Whatever.  Why do I bother to sacrifice for you when you just lie to me?

And we never spoke about the shoes again.  Maybe Uncle Moneybags didn’t pay for them, maybe my mother did sacrifice for them.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that eight years later, I became a waitress.


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Comments

  1. * Tiffany says:

    This story is heartbreaking and priceless… And I can’t wait for pokey old Prescott to get the flick so I can hurry up and see it!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 11 months ago
  2. * katie says:

    lol I’m a pointe dancer, and I must say, I love this page, it’s witty, charming and definatly tells the truth. You’re right pointe frigging hurts ;D and I’m not sure at all if the pain is truly even necessary (talk about suffering for art right :p) lol great page!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
    • Thanks for commenting, Katie. I admire your dedication to your art! Something I’ve been wondering – Couldn’t they make pointe shoes with padding and support the way they make athletic shoes? I know it’s not “traditional”, but it seems like we have better technology now, why not use it? I think that if male dancers were the ones en pointe, it would be a different story. Do you agree?

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
      • * Sean says:

        Different in what way? Are women not capable of inventing there own protective gear? Sports companies would be quicker to protect their athletes, if ballerina’s garnered the same financial gain that BB players do. I’m sure being a ballerina is every bit as tough, but I’ve never seen one on a Wheaties box. Perhaps you could be the one to make the change! The title ‘Inventor’ beats ‘waitress.’ Best of luck.

        Posted 6 years ago
      • Sean, you make an excellent point – certainly female ballet dancers could demand new technology for their point shoes. I made the comment because there seems to be an historical acceptance of women experiencing pain – such as Chinese foot binding, whale-bone corsets, sewing young girl’s vaginas shut. In today’s culture there’s high heels, body hair waxing, breast implants, etc. Of course, modern women choose these options, but I can’t help but think that the Biblical notion that Eve’s punishment being painful child birth has permeated other parts of society and culture. That both men and women have accepted that pain is just part of being a woman. Please feel free to comment.

        Posted 6 years ago
      • * Jeanne says:

        I got to your site (and several others) through an image search.
        I also found this article about ballet shoes made with a material called d3o that’s flexible “under slow static movements but stiffens on impact.” http://www.popsci.com/score/article/2008-05/modern-twist-ancient-shoe It’s an old article and I’m not sure how comfortable the shoes actually are but I found the concept interesting. Anyway, I thought I would share. 🙂

        Posted 5 years, 11 months ago
      • * Kathy says:

        New technologies developed by pointe shoes companies like Gaynor Minden, Russian Pointe, and Grishko help alleviate the pain experienced by pointe shoes. However, this doesn’t change the fact that pointe dancers balance their entire weight on the inch and a half platform that houses their extremely small, delicate, and sensitive metatarsus. I’ve been doing pointe for about six years (I’m seventeen) and understand the grueling work that goes into a large production. Extra padding within pointe shoes actually makes toes hurt worse over time. Also, professionals use their technical training to reduce the feeling that all of their weight is in their toes.

        Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  3. * Poe says:

    Wow… this story almost made me cry. . . You see. . . I am 20 years old and I introduced myself to modern dance like 2 years ago. I am a musician but I am getting quite interested on ballet and I am fearing it to be only an youth illusion. . . I know I am young and I have met many people who started very late (29 years old. . .) and now they are great dancers! But, I don’t know. . . I might not become both a professional musician and a professional ballerina but. . . I think I would fight until I prove if it is possible or not. . . Thanks for your post, it is heartbreaking but, for me, it was also inspiring. Regards.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 6 months ago
    • Thanks for your comment, Poe. I’m a firm believer in pursuing your dreams, no matter how many people say “no, you can’t do that!”. You never know where the music/dance road may lead…I support you in your fight and know you have an amazing future in front of you. GO ARTS!!!

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 6 months ago
      • * libby says:

        i’ve dreamed of going on pointe since i was 3. The best thing about ur story is that u tried pointe! 😀

        Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  4. Jeanne – thanks so much for linking to this article! Finally, someone is making sense!

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 11 months ago
  5. * libby says:

    So glad I’m not the only dancer (?) in agony. All the other girls in my class are pretty much fine- but that’s because their toes are practically all the same length! My big toes are about 1cm longer than the others= pain instantly.
    How much training before hand did you do to get onto pointe? i had to do like, 6 months of barre work before we could even go get measured for blocks.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  6. Libby, my training was once a week for several yeas, but not terribly intense. As I look at my own feet I realize my own big toe is about 1 cm longer than the others too! Clearly this was part of the problem. I wish you the best with your dance career and hope you will keep in touch with your progress.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
    • * Kathy says:

      Your big toe being longer is not the problem (trust me, its a gift!). Think about getting a spacer or a jelly toe to fill in that space. One of the girl at my studio uses makeup sponges to fill in the space. I have the same anatomy and having a longer big toe allows me to wear slender and tapered shoes, which is more flattering on stage. Just make sure you don’t sickle in your shoe!

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
      • Thanks for this info, Kathy! I don’t dance anymore, but I’m so thrilled that so many dancers have shared their experiences with me. Best of luck my dear!

        Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  7. * Mara says:

    Haha. I just got my pointe shoes yesterday. And (sorry, I don’t know if somebody already commented this or not) Gaynor Mindens are made out of a special material that helps to ummm what’s that word (sorry brain fart?????) Oh aleviate the pain. I was trying to decide to between Gaynors and Russian Pointes, but I didn’t like the feel of the Gaynors. They are like you are standing on a trampolines and are harder to walk in than normal pointe shoes. So I got Russian Pointe Dulces. Hope I helped! P.S. they also make really comfortable toe pads by Leos (they filed for, I think, a chapter 11 bancrupcy so you shouldn’t buy a lot of their stuff) that are made out of gel, I got these.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
    • Mara, thanks for the info! I’m so glad there are choices. Best of luck with your Russian Pointe Dulces.
      FalloutGirl

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 9 months ago
  8. * bcr8tive says:

    What a cute article … I laughed at the end, then I paused and felt sorry for myself ツ …

    I too had a dream of being a ballerina once upon a time … I danced for 16 years… I grew tall… then too tall (for a Ballerina) …

    I remember praying to God to make me stop growing (lol)
    Anyway, he didn’t and I moved on to other things. I’ve always admired them though, their dedication, hard work and making the most grueling & constant training & work outs look effortless when they’re on a dance floor.

    No, they’ve never been on a Wheaties box, but certainly should be.

    bcr8tive ♥

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 8 months ago
  9. bcr8tive,
    Being tall is AWESOME! You can wear any clothing and look great. Glad to see you decided to follow your creative instincts…

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 8 months ago
    • * bcr8tive says:

      Hi FallOut Girl,

      I suppose everyone wants what they can’t have… As a kid being tall was not fun… but yes being a clothes hanger didn’t hurt when i finally grew into my frame 😉

      I did follow my instincts… though Artists sometimes get the short end of the stick – ultimately, I like who I am ~

      bcr8tive ♥

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 8 months ago
  10. * alt9108 says:

    I’m a dancer (not, however, a ballerina) and I went through a very similar thing as a young girl. I quit ballet at age eight because the teacher told me I would never have a ballerina’s body because I was too short. It took me years to go back to dance, but once I did, it turned out that I was a pretty good contemporary dancer. I completely related to your story, and I adore your blog 🙂

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 7 months ago
    • alt9108,
      Thanks for sharing, it’s easy for little girls to fall in love with the idea of being a ballerina, but the world of dance is so much bigger! I’m glad you went back to dance and found your niche.
      Best,
      FalloutGirl

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 7 months ago
  11. * Bernd says:

    This piece of writing is genuinely a fastidious one it assists
    new internet viewers, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 6 months ago
  12. * mariachristi says:

    I absolutely love this post! as pointe dancer, I find this so funny and completely true !

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 4 months ago


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