When I was a girl, my mother took me to the ballet. She didn’t take me to the typical “first ballet” for kids — Nutcracker Suite — which mommies take their little girls to see. Instead, she took me to the New York City Ballet Company, while Balanchine was still its choreographer.

It was magic. Extreme magic. I left the theater sure I’d found my future. All I needed were a few lessons, a pair of those cool ballet slippers and I could leap and twirl on my tiptoes, just like the stars at the ballet.

I had not accounted for the klutz factor. I was young and sure that wanting it badly enough would make it happen.

Sadly, I had no talent for dance. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I had a go at ballet, tap, jazz — even belly dancing. All had the same results, yet somehow,  I survived the disappointment.

I was simultaneously coping with the realization I was not going to become a cowboy, either.

For one thing, I wasn’t a boy. For a second thing, I was living in New York, didn’t own a horse, wasn’t likely to ever own a horse and pretending the fence rail was a horse was not going work out long-term.

For anyone who likes dance … even if you don’t … check out the  delicious parody of classical ballet from the original Disney “Fantasia.” No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. You have to love hippos in tutus.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

44 thoughts on “I WILL NOT BE A BALLERINA (OR A COWBOY) – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. One of those difficult parts of life, when we realize and (hopefully) eventually make our peace that some things just aren’t going to be. I recall a young nephew, who I had gifted with learn to skate lessons when he decided he wanted to be a goalie ala Patrick Roy. He was coming off the ice after his second or third lesson “Aunt Steph, that’s so much harder than it looks”. Yes Tom, that’s so true.
    I’m with you on the dance, Marilyn. I love it and I am not gifted in that arena.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was still at the stage where I believed what adults said: “If you want it enough, it will happen.” But it’s the biggest lie we tell our kids. We neglect to mention (for example) talent and physical strength. A gift for words. Eventually, we all realize that it’s s nice thing to say when you don’t yet know what your child MIGHT become. After all, anything is possible if you don’t know anything.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. keeping the possibilities open, and then also allowing for learning and adjustment. An interesting and challenging balance. My best dancing won’t get me on the local stage, much less to NYC. Doesn’t mean I can’t dance, just that I am unlikely to do it professionally. The challenge of realism versus unnecessarily quenching an interest or enthusiasm. One doesn’t know where it may lead.


        1. That’s the problem. You don’t want to discourage their dreams … but you also don’t want to push them in a direction that is probably hopeless. It’s a hard balance and today’s parents are even worse than ours were.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Anyone who doesn’t love hippos in tutus is not to be trusted. As for our childhood aspirations — I don’t know. I would have missed out on a lot of fun if I had realized sooner that I’d never play pro baseball. I’m kind of glad no one told me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No one had to tell me I wasn’t a dancer. It was pretty obvious. But I’m not sorry I tried because despite the ineptitude, i enjoyed trying. I had a good sense of rhythm, but I never got the arms and legs in order. Things got tangled. Garry wanted DESPERATELY to play baseball. Totally lacking in talent, but he still dreams about it … there he is, bottom of the ninth. One long hit and its … the SERIES. I’m surprised at how many people — men and women — have a secret little dream of dance or baseball or racing the perfect horse (okay, the Black!).

      As long as you don’t ignore all the other opportunities to pursue something hopeless. I do try not to encourage hopeless dreams. You can waste a lot of perfectly good years that way.

      I think I was lucky, falling into the work I did. I’m pretty sure what I eventually did , didn’t even exist when I was planning my future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not sure — I ask myself that question a lot. How does one know a dream is hopeless? I mean some are obviously (like me growing up to be Willy Mays). My mom was adamant about my not becoming an artist. But why not? It’s my life, I had talent, maybe I wouldn’t have been Ms. Famous Artist with work hanging in the Guggenheim, but I might have enjoyed whatever I did. AT the same time I’m glad she made it so hard for me because it saved me from becoming an art slave or an art whore. Somewhere along the way I learned to appreciate the evil of adjectives. I AM a writer, but not a famous one. The good thing about a dream is that it will take you SOMEWHERE and at that place you might fight the BETTER dream. ❤


        1. Garry wanted to be a baseball great. Since it was pretty obvious that wasn’t happening, he wanted to be a movie star, which is why he studied drama.

          TV News reporter. Close enough since his other dream was writing. Dreams catch up with you, if you let them. Maybe not quite how you intended, but I spent my life writing after all. Not great novels, but it was good anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. My ballet lessons are the only reason I’m still flexible at my age. When I attempted yoga a few years ago, the instructor was both surprised and impressed at some of the things I can still do with my body. I credit the long ago ballet lessons I took as a kid.


    1. I encourage dance lessons even for the totally untalented. It’s not only great for flexibility (hard to believe, but I was incredibly flexible, even after my spine was fused), but if you are a klutz, the dance helps a little with organizing your feet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved ballet. Loved opera. I can’t dance and I can’t sing. *sigh* I, like you, took every dance class I could, ballet, tap, ‘modern’…and was told when I was 14 that I wasn’t ‘built for ballet’…I guess having breasts makes you less aerodynamic or something. There was a girl in my class who danced beautifully, she could do any of the moves with grace. Yet she didn’t care about being a dancer and was never enthusiastic. I envied her and thought what a waste it is that we sometimes don’t match our own visions of ourselves..


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