Age thirteen. At an audition downtown in a studio with floor to ceiling windows I empty out my heart at the barre and during center exercises, hoping for a spot in Boston Ballet’s summer workshop. When my name isn’t called, I cry in a too-bright dressing room that smells of sweaty bodies and Diet Coke. I’m naked and still sobbing when a woman with a dancer’s bun and street shoes sticks her head in to offer those of us not selected a chance to speak to the director. It’s a chance to learn what we should work on. A chance to strengthen our audition for next year.
I dress quickly and wipe my face with a paper towel. In the studio, the director pulls out my audition card. It’s blank as an asylum wall. Not a single box is checked. Not a single note scribbled. There’s nothing written on it but the number they assigned me at check-in. He flips it over and there are two letters written in pencil: “OW.” Ah, he says. We don’t process applications for dancers who are overweight.
My universe collapses under the weight of those two letters. Ballet is nothing more than a shimmering illusion. It’s just like home and all the other places where my body is Too Big, where I Don’t Fit In, where There’s No Place For Me.
None of it belongs to me anymore.