by Cambre Brewster
Standing at the barre in my garage, I looked back at my computer, which blasted an online class from the Dutch National Ballet. The temperature was never right, I never absolutely knew the combination, and I was never satisfied. Filming myself throughout the class, I could feel my skills slowly slipping away. Things that used to be easy, my extensions which used to be so high, were all gone. Staying up for hours at night, comparing my videos, and searching for new workouts or online classes was maddening.
Frustrated at my absence of control in ballet, I knew that I had to establish an aspect of my life that I actually had power over. So, I started running. Offering an escape from my mind, which was so mentally drained from ballet, I became addicted to this form of escapism. I went from barely being able to run two miles consecutively, to five miles. Observing my regression in ballet, even with all the effort I was putting in, was exhausting. Running became my safe place. I saw the progression and became addicted to this feeling, one that ballet simply couldn’t offer.
Later, I applied for a job as a lifeguard. Throughout the entirety of my childhood, I never necessarily got a normal summer. It was always filled with ballet, from summer intensives to classes, and recitals. Having a job gave me a purpose; it made me feel important. I felt normal for the first time, but ballet started slipping away even faster. From doing five classes a week to two, and then one, I felt like I was betraying ballet. I put almost no energy into this art form that used to solely dominate my life.
Although generally happy, a feeling of insufficiency plagued me throughout the summer. I felt like a fraud, seeing my peers do online intensives and classes outside in the blistering sun. I thought that I didn’t love ballet enough to be able to do these things. In my mind, it was either ballet or a “normal” life, just as it had been throughout my life. This false realization felt like lifting a heavy burden off of myself, while also placing another one on. With running, and working, I had an opportunity to be happy, and I didn’t think ballet could play a role in this. Something that had always been a part of my life, I saw slipping away right before my eyes.
I had very mixed feelings once ballet was scheduled to be back in person at the start of the school year. On one hand, I was excited to get my old life back, but I grieved the happiness and sense of normalcy that I experienced during the summer. However, being back in ballet, though incredibly hard at first, made me understand why I had dedicated my whole life to it. I experienced the love and sense of purpose for this art form that I had lost throughout the summer. But more than that, I was still able to maintain aspects of the new life I created for myself throughout the summer, with ballet being a part of it. I kept my job, and sustained my workout routine; ballet didn’t solely define me anymore.
Overall, Covid helped me make an important realization; my sole purpose in life doesn’t have to be ballet. Ever since I was young, my life consisted of sacrifice for this art form. From not going trick or treating because I had class or missing my final ball for cotillion because I had a dance exam. I held this mindset that ballet could remain my only passion and I couldn’t have a life outside of this art form. I realized that this isn’t healthy or true. Ballet doesn’t have to be the only undertaking guiding my life.
Cambre Brewster is a senior dancing at Charlotte Ballet Academy and has been dancing since she was 2. She has attended summer intensives at The Boston Ballet School, The Washington Ballet, and The Bolshoi Ballet Academy and performed roles in Gisselle and the Nutcracker. After graduation, she plans to attend college and continue to dance.