You started dance lessons when you were small, attending class with Miss Julia or Miss Tina or Miss Diane. You danced after school. You danced on weekends. You danced in the kitchen when you were drying the dishes. You danced in the driveway when you were waiting for the school bus. You danced every waking moment. You danced in your sleep. At dance class, you looked up to the older girls with a mixture of awe and envy. You wanted their dancer bodies and their graceful poise but most of all you wanted their role in the next show. You wanted to stand on stage in front of all those people and dance, just dance, until you danced their collective breath away.
And you did. You do. Day in, day out, when you are healthy and strong and when you are tired and cranky. When you have a cold. When you have too much other stuff to do. You are a dancer and dancing is everything. So you get out of bed and you stretch away the aches and pains of yesterday and then you get ready for the aches and pains today will bring. You practice. Then you practice some more. You stretch and you strengthen. You work. You sweat. You give it everything you’ve got, and when you think there is nothing left to give, you reach deep down inside and find something more and then you give that too. Because you are a dancer. And even when you are 100 years old and your body is too old and tired to dance anymore, inside your head, you will still be dancing. And you will never ever stop.
Now you are Miss Julia or Miss Tina or Miss Diane, sharing what you have learned with girls who remind you of yourself. You teach them. You encourage them. You nurture them. But mostly, you push them. You push and you push and you push until eventually, they learn to push themselves.
You give them what they need. Instruction and support, yes. But practical stuff too. A clean studio, music, the barre. And wardrobe. Dancers need wardrobe. They need footwear and dancewear that is more often defined by what it is not rather than what it actually is. It is not itchy. It does not bind. It is not too hot or too short or too big or too impractical or to flimsy to endure the punishment that is the daily routine. Above all, it is not a distraction.
Costumes on the other hand, are something dancers notice. As a dancer, you appreciate their infinite variety. You love when they are well-made from quality materials, not scrunched up scraps of leftover Halloween costumes someone mistook for dancewear. That sort of costume you don’t like at all.
You love the day your favorite costume catalog arrives. You can’t wait to sit down and flip through the pages, imagining what those offerings will look like on stage. Each page, another possibility. What song will enliven the swing of that skirt? What step will breathe life into the boa or make the tiara twinkle in the footlights?