Remember That One Time When I Was a Ballerina?

I have an unfortunate confession to make.

I don’t often pursue things I know I’m not good at.

There. I’ve said it. Call it an overt fear of failure. It’s a character flaw and probably keeps me from learning new and exciting things. I could have been a fantastic skydiver, if I weren’t dreadfully terrified of falling and confident I’d screw it all up. Apparently, the promise of success is the carrot on a stick that motivates me.

When I was three years old, my mother enrolled me in ballet. All my fault. I told her I desperately wanted to take it. The classes met in the afternoon after preschool let out. So on the first day of class, me all excited and bushy tailed, we marched over to the room where they would hold class. I wore my new tights, pink practice leotard and the ballet shoes necessary for the very fancy dancing I was looking forward to doing.

Then something terrible happened. The teacher began to teach, and there was choreography. Very simple choreography, I realize now, looking back. Three-year-old appropriate choreography. But I was perpetually behind. I wasn’t picking up the steps as fast as the other girls and one gung-ho little boy in my class. As you can imagine, the stress followed me throughout my three-year-old week. Ballet was on Wednesday. I learned to loathe Wednesday. I would pray for it never to come! “Please don’t let it be Wednesday!” Sadly, Wednesday always came anyway and I struggled through that afternoon ballet class like a turtle army crawling its way through peanut butter. My progress was slow.

Following the obligatory and traumatic recital (in front of PEOPLE!), you may be surprised to hear that I never took another ballet class. Ever. However, the stigma of ballet-failure has clung to me since like a static driven sock stuck to the back of my shirt. I had to do something about that, find away to take ballet back! So I did what any other human would do and I worked it out in a book. In First Position, I gave my characters all the talents that I totally and utterly lack. They can leap, spin, pirouette, and pose!  And I happily applaud them from the safety of my laptop.

As part of my ballet therapy, I’m happy to report that First Position is now available! Today is its official release, in fact.  If you feel so inclined to hear about two women who can do the things I never could, you can buy First Position from Bold Strokes Books here. Or from Amazon here. Or anywhere books are sold!

Three-Year-Old Melissa learning that there are some things she will never be good at.



Great story! I had a similar experience. Being a late bloomer, I started ballet class at five and was put in class with all the three and four year old beginners. So this awkward, chubby child, a head taller than the rest, felt even more ungainly surrounded by these graceful children who shuffle toe-knocked-ball changed me into hightailing it after the first recital. Luckily there are no pictures to prove it.

Dar Vendegna

After my very first ballet class as a small child, the teacher gently suggested to my mother that I might be better suited to the tumbling class down the hall.


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