One of my ballet teachers once said something about ballet attracting the quiet people, the shy people, introverts. And perhaps she is right – after all, the chatter heard from dance students of other forms of dance seems much more boisterous than from the ballet students (I’m specifically thinking of the jazz class that has the studio before my ballet class, or the hip hop class that was in the studio before my ballet class a couple sessions ago). So yes, she is right, to an extent. Yes, those of us who are quiet and shy may gravitate towards ballet, but this definitely does not mean that all ballet students fall into the quiet and shy category either.
As I may have mentioned once or twice, I am an introvert. Being introverted, combined with having anxiety, being socially awkward, and somewhat emotional can make things – sometimes everything – complicated. I feel extremely uncomfortable in group conversations (though 1 on 1 conversations work much better for me), shy away from eye contact, and seem to have a much larger personal space bubble than others. I’m prone to tearing up, suck at picking up social cues, and often times I’m terrified that others are upset at me. Those who are the closest to me have said that I build a wall around myself, and they’re somewhat right. What they don’t seem to understand is that I do it not because I’m upset or angry but because I’m afraid of being hurt. Again.
You can imagine how much fun my teen years were… *sarcasm*
Anyway, one of the things I like about ballet class is that there’s not a huge emphasis on it being a social occasion. I mean, once class starts it’s expected that we’ll all shut up and give our undivided attention to the teacher. The pre-class period though, when everyone is kind of sitting around sort of stretching while waiting for the teacher to arrive, that is the worst. I mean, there’s some days when I have a ballet friend, another quiet-ish girl like me who’s content to warm up off in the corner, as we quietly discuss the latest happenings in our ballet lives. But when there’s no one there that falls into my “ballet friend” category, yeah, those days suck…
(why can’t I make any other/additional ballet friends, you might ask? Well, for whatever reason, most – though definitely not all – extroverts scare the crap out of me (plus they tend to prefer groups to one on one like I do). In turn, they seem to think there’s something wrong with me because I’m so quiet. “Why are you so quiet?” or “What’s wrong?” I’ve heard dozens of times. It’s like, nothing’s freaking wrong! I’m just thinking!)
Those ballet-friendless days, the pre-class period is so awkward for me, as (mostly) everyone sits around talking. I used to never know what to do! Now I just go off to a spot as far away as possible and warm up, facing the wall. I worry that they all think I’m unfriendly – or worse, stuck up – but in truth I’m just scared. Everytime I’ve tried just sticking around and being part of the group it really hasn’t worked out for me – I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do! Like, just sit there and smile? Laugh when everyone else laughs? Look down at the floor and pretend there’s something fascinating there? It doesn’t help that we don’t seem to have much in common, besides ballet. They talk about things like clothes (but not ballet clothes), hair/hairstyles (but not ballet-specific hairstyles), t.v. shows (not ballet related, but by now I think you get the picture), and other non-ballet things. Sometimes without participating I like to listen, other times I’m bored out of my mind so then I escape to my own world – welcome to Kit-land; population: me!
Despite growing up feeling like there was something wrong with me, I do like my introvertion. I just wish there were more of us out there, or there was an easier way for those of us that are shy and quiet to befriend each other. When both people are shy it’s hard for one of them to make the first move, you know? Like last year, I shared a barre in silence with another quiet girl until we finally became ballet friends near the end of the term – all that wasted time!
Wrapping up with a funny and completely non-ballet-related story about my introvertedness: when I was five or six, my mom invited over a small group of girls my age to have a playdate of sorts with me. She left us in my room, then went off to the kitchen to prepare dinner. When she checked on us, she found all the girls playing in my room with my toys while I sat quietly in the living room with a book by myself. She was so mad (and I felt like such a disappointment to her)! I tell this story because I feel like I’ve come a long way, to be able to accept and love my introverted nature instead of feeling like it’s something wrong with me. We’re all just different, with different strengths and weaknesses, and there’s plenty of room for all types of people. 🙂