Why I stopped pursuing ballet as a career.
The studio that was once my favorite place to be at, slowly turned into somewhere I dreaded going to…
When I stopped pursuing ballet as a career, I always sensed some type of pity from people’s responses. It was always, “Oh no, but you’ve worked so hard” or “あら、もったいない” which translates to “Ah, what a waste.”
Everybody around me knew that I had shed literal blood, sweat, and tears in order to become a professional ballerina. So I guess it makes sense that they “pitied” me. Or maybe they thought I just ”gave up and quit.”
I never really explained my decision on why I stopped; I only told people the surface level reason and avoided going into detail: an easily-digestible, bite-sized explanation about my career-ending injury, as well as my wake-up call that the professional ballet world didn’t necessarily align with the values I stood by.
The more detailed reason was that I was traumatized from my experience after signing that elusive, so sought-after “dream contract.” I had moved to Spain alone at 19 to give my all to this art form, but that joy I felt while dancing slowly disappeared.
That magical feeling, a sort of spontaneous chemical reaction happening within me whenever I danced. To knowingly sense that joy fleeting from me crushed me…
I just wanted to dance. The studio that was once my favorite place to be at, slowly turned into somewhere I dreaded going to. It was a combination of multiple factors—The constant pressure to please the “top” people of the company, the need to validate myself in front of my peers, having my young naiveness be taken advantage of, and the act of faking some level of strength, that I was okay even though I wasn’t.
I got tired of that— the ballet world was toxic and pretty evil for me. (There, I finally said it)
Looking back, leaving the ballet industry was one of the best decisions I made for myself. Back then, the thought of leaving was something I couldn’t even fathom without tears falling and shaming myself. But here I am now, so so happy with this decision.
Traumatizing experiences aside, the biggest factor that impacted this decision was because I did not want to hate ballet.
Yeah, it might have brought some mental and body dysmorphia issues but nothing could top that feeling when I was dancing in the moment with a good piece of music.
It’s indescribable— to be in the moment, dancing, where my body was connected to the music, was the most freeing thing. My heart lights up on fire thinking about it ✨
That is the reason I dance, and the sole reason that got me through the not-so-great moments. I stopped dancing professionally to protect that. I didn’t want to destroy my love for the arts.
I’m now at a place where I dance only for myself. I protected both my passion for ballet and myself, and in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have been in the mental and emotional space to switch careers and gears, had I not done that.
My name is Rina, and I am a Ballerina turned Product Designer. Ballet is and will forever be part of who I am. My journey from ballet to tech is the fuel behind my career journey and the reason I am where I am today.
Thank you ballet, you taught me well and I will always love you.