Ballet

Open Letter

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. Almost a year in fact. But I’m back now. And I have some news to share. I quit my professional ballet training.

I was doing a writing assignment for English and by the time I finished it, I realized it was a sort of explanation I could share here. So here ya go. The prompt I had was: What choices in life are you most afraid to make? Which choices are you most excited to make? Why?

An open letter to anyone who will listen:

So far in my life, I have had to make a lot of big choices. Some have been easier to make, and some have been a lot harder. First of all, at the age of fifteen, I decided to move away from home. I have been training in ballet since I was six years old. The older I got, the more serious I became about pursuing it as a career. There were definitely rough times here in there, such as bullying in elementary/middle school for being a boy who did ballet, and also a few minor injuries here and there. However, I pushed through all of that. When I was fifteen, I auditioned for the Houston Ballet’s six-week summer intensive program. I had been to many different training programs over the past few years, so this was nothing new. However, I was going into it with the mentality that I wanted to get into their year-round training program. Both of my ballet teachers had studied and then danced professionally at the Houston Ballet years ago, so I knew that if that was what I wanted to do, this was the right choice. During the summer course, I auditioned for the year round program and was accepted. Right away, I was very excited to move there to train. I made my decision to go very quickly, and the next couple of weeks before the school year started were a blur. I didn’t really think about everything that I was leaving behind, which is why I think it was such an easy decision for me.

The first couple of months of my sophomore year went by really well. I was so excited to be living on my own (albeit in a dorm situation), where I cooked for myself, had freedom to walk around downtown Houston by myself, and I also was doing online school which to me was so much better than being in normal school classes. Once all of that cleared, I was faced with a harsh reality. I didn’t want to dance professionally. At first I just told myself I would finish out high school in Houston, then go to college. However the more and more time that went by, the more I started getting stressed out and anxious. Had I been training all this time because I really loved it, or because other people saw talent and potential in me? In the spring of 2016, I had a little emotional meltdown. I had been suppressing my feelings and in one phone call to my mom they all poured out. Everyone was very supportive of me, and I started making plans to go back to public school in the fall. I knew that was the best option for me at that point in my life. Then after a while, I realized some people didn’t want me to leave as much as I wanted me to leave. I grew tired of fighting for my stance, so I started telling people what they wanted to hear instead of how I felt. Once again, I was repressing how I felt.

Flash forward to this school year. I’d still been having many issues with how I felt about my training, and I still felt like I wanted to move home. But I continued to not share my inner conflict with other people. However, at first I think I was happier with my choice to stay. I was in a very nice apartment all by myself, and my hard work was paying off in dance. But I still knew that deep down this wasn’t right for me. I didn’t want to dance professionally, and on top of that the environment was really rough. I was months behind in school, and sick of all of the people who were being so mean to each other.You have to be very strong mentally to make it as a dancer, as there are a lot of people who are ready to put you down to lift themselves up. I really wanted to make the bold choice to move home, but I was terrified of letting down other people. Choices where I would be inconveniencing other people are the ones that are hardest for me. I always try to put other people first, but then I’m not thinking enough about myself enough in the end. After over a year of struggling with my feelings, I decided that my time in Houston was up, and I moved back home over spring break. I don’t regret my decision, as it is the right one for me at this point in my life. It was just really hard because I didn’t want to let the teachers and my friends down. Also, I am well aware of how much my family has put into making this dream a reality. I didn’t want their efforts to be for nothing. It would’ve been a lot easier to make my decision if I hadn’t had all of those outside pressures.

Do I regret staying this long? Not at all. I have had so many wonderful experiences these past two years that have been amazing moments. I have grown a lot as a person and as a dancer, and I am so very grateful for those things. But at the end of the day, when I’m having more negative experiences than positive experiences, that’s when I need to make a change.

Now, to all of the people I left behind (who probably will never read this haha), I want to leave you with a final message. Please just really try to be nice to each other. Think before you act. Give yourself love, and think positively about yourself. Just really try to consider things from other people’s shoes. You never know if something that’s “funny” to you is actually going to be funny to someone else. But most importantly, just really be nice to everyone that you can. You will thank yourself for it someday, guaranteed.

With much love and my best wishes,

Paul Amrani

 

(p.s. If you have any questions you’d like to ask me privately, please shoot me a message at ballerinohtx@gmail.com)

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8 thoughts on “Open Letter”

  1. Sounds to me that this was never really YOUR dream at all, but someone else’s for you. Do what YOU want to do, and if you don’t have a dream, that’s ok too! It will all fall into place one day. And your talent won’t go away. Take time to discover.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul,you express yourself so well and you should be so proud for sharing your story and the vulnerabilities that come with being a male dancer. I must add that I find your sharing the struggles and being able to express yourself a strength in the end. I do believe it was your dream. But as dancers mature, dreams change and the reality it takes to get there also play a role in the decision process. I can totally relate to you being conflicted. My son, 19, has had a very similar path with very similar experiences. Bullying and teasing in middle school, though most of it was friendly bantering, it builds up. Conflict between studies and dance and the time constraints and challenges of trying to simply be an “average” student while keeping up with a rigorous training program. Many non dance families don’t understand, and also dance families with younger dancers as well, what it takes to train at the pre pro level. True pre pro training is 6 days a week, approximately 4 to 6 hours a day. I’d say equivalent to a pre Olympic athlete in training. Add home work and studies to that and that IS your life. My son was an average student. He also went to Houston at age 15 and was asked to stay year round. We live close to SFB so we had an option close to home. After Houston’s summer he returned home and auditioned for SFB year round thst September. Combining his Junior year with his dance schedule at SFB was almost unbearable. We decided to take the conflict out of the equation and he took the GED and did not go to high school his senior year. Best decision ever, for him, not for everyone. Even with that, as he is completing his 3rd year at SFB, the audition process for 2nd company positions creeped up on him, almost unexpectedly, even though he knew this was his path. Self doubt began to sink in, even though there were no exterior reasons for this. He has experienced a lot of opportunities and success at SFB. He has recieved praise and recognition and words of encouragement for a promising career for SFB staff. The lack of confidence and self esteem came from within. Try carrying that with you through your first season of company auditions. Needless to say, he went through his first auditions in the midst of a slump when he needed to be at his prime. He had some meltdowns, and wasn’t eating properly or enough, as well. He has since rebounded and jumped over a few hurdles and made it through the end of auditions on a high. It took a meeting with SFB school director who encouraged and inspired him and a few privates with his former dance school, Marin Dance Theatre, to put him back on his journey. He was accepted by his first choice 2nd company and will be going away from home year round for the first time, a month before he turns twenty. He also is a nice young man like you and does not like the drama or competitive part of ballet. Many say he is too nice. But I’m hoping at 20 he is socially and emotionally mature enough to deal with whatever comes his way and can with whatever comes his way while being true to himself. Thank you for sharing the side of ballet, men usually don’t feel comfortable sharing. The struggles are real. Good luck with your future and all your endeavors.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Although I will miss working with you, I am so proud of how thoughtful and insightful your blog post is. It takes courage to investigate one’s choices, but your future Self will have no regrets by doing so. Congrats on living your dream and making conscious choices that bring you joy and happiness. Best wishes to you! Please keep singing!

    Like

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