Prologue

Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she's in mine, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand
 

I was sitting on the floor in the dance studio one morning in June.  Just sitting there in a box of early morning sunrise watching the orange and pink rays climb up the hills in the distance. The floor was cold as I stretched my legs out and laid forward, holding onto my ankles, feeling each one of my vertebra pop. I stayed like that and watched the small particles of dust move with each breath I took. This was my every morning, the sun rising, the floor creaking  in the far right corner. I liked it this way. I liked to wake up early, the world still shrouded in darkness, head out to the studio and dance as light was breaking through the windows.

I finished my stretching and went to the barre. I ran my hand along the smoothed spot. The spot I always used. It was sort of an unspoken thing in this studio, I always used the place at the barre in the center right before the joining of the mirrors along the opposite wall.  For a few moments, I just stood there and thought about how long I’d been doing this.

When your mother is a dancer, and your father a musician, it’s a bit difficult to exist unscathed by the performing arts. However, few people are completely engulfed in it as my life has been since the day I was conceived. I’m sure my parents had the whole thing planned. Even if I were a boy, my life would be the way it is now. I wake up, I dance, I go to school and then I come home, and dance some more, and have voice and music lessons. My childhood is a blur of dance and music lessons, and the occasional school
play.

My mother likes to tell me I turned out the way I have because she and my father used to sing and play music for me while I was still in her womb. She says, she continued dancing until she no longer could, and even then she was still teaching, which is why I’m a dancer. My father says, I’m a singer because it’s in my blood, it was inevitable.  No one has ever asked me why I’m a dancer or singer. No one has ever asked me if I even wanted to be a dancer or singer.  This is just what I do, what I am, and for as long as I can remember I’ve just accepted that.  It was simply what my life was.  Once I was walking, my mother had me in Irish step dancing classes, and then ballet lessons. When I started talking, my father began to teach me songs to sing. There was a song for everything growing up in my house, and just my luck, I‘m an only child.

I’ll never forget when I was learning how to tie my shoes. My mother wanted me to be able to tie my own dance shoes, and my father was this close to giving into my desire for Velcro shoes. I could not seem to get the hang of looping the laces together, so my father made up a song. It was from a rhyme he had learned when he was younger, and eventually, I was singing the song to everyone at school who was learning to tie their shoes. I began to hum the tune to myself as I turned on the music my mother liked best for barre work. I did a few of the exercises  we normally did in classes, watching my arms and posture in the mirrors even when I was supposed to be looking somewhere else.  My back was starting to feel warm from the now risen sun. I could feel it’s heat on my skin, and watched my shadow as I stretched for a few more minutes. Before I turned on the Irish dance music, I pulled the shades down, the sun was starting to bother me. As I stood, in the center of the floor, my hard shoes on, waiting for the music, I stared at my reflection in the mirrors. I pulled on the leotard I was wearing and shook my legs a bit. I saw my hair, a little messy, pulled off my face like always. How boring.

When I had finished dancing for the morning, I took off my shoes, and pulled back the feet of my tights. I looked at my feet and grimaced.  There were blisters on both of my heels, and calluses crusting around my toes and the bottoms of my feet. The skin around my big toe was raw and peeling and a few of my toenails were broken, chipped nail polish left over from some weekend.
I hate my feet, they’re hideous looking, compliments of 14 years of dancing.  Lately they seemed more like a hindrance than anything else. I couldn’t wear  the sandals that were popular around here, they made my feet look even worse, and there was no support in them. My mother would kill me, “Those shoes are horrible for your arches honey.” she told me when I tired them on in the mall the other day. I sighed heavily and looked back one more time before locking the studio door as I left for the house.