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A Love Letter to My Situationship with Ballet

‘Situationship’ - A Gen-z term used to describe a romantic or intimate relationship that lacks clear definitions or commitments typically associated with traditional romantic relationships

HOST 1: And now for another one of our personal perspective series… How do we become our own person when we follow in our parents’ footsteps for most of our lives? 

HOST 2: Cecilia Blotto was a very serious dancer...and she now describes her relationship to ballet as a “situationship” - a relationship with messy boundaries, especially as she works to make peace with her past.  (18 seconds total) 

BLOTTO: My sister and I grew up dancing ballet, following in the footsteps, quite literally, of our mom. She grew up in a small town in northern Italy—the kind of place where wanting to be a professional dancer was frowned upon. 

People would ask, how are you going to make money? What will you do when you can no longer perform? Still, she kept at it. Without a local performing arts school or opportunities to study abroad, she had to fit her training around her college classes. Her routine was like clockwork. Classes in the morning and then at 2pm, she rushed to the studio and spent the rest of the day dancing.

In some ways, that was my life for 15 years. I was in preschool when my mom signed me up for my first ballet class. And even now, my childhood memories take place backstage in a London theater. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and the intoxicating, but comforting, smell of hairspray. 

[fade in dance class ambi] 

My seriousness paid off. I liked being good at something so difficult. But around the age of 15,  all the joy I felt when dancing disappeared. A lot of it had to do with my teachers. I had a sudden 8-inch growth spurt and they freaked out. You see, in ballet your physique is everything. I often overheard my teachers talking about who was going to become a star - a goal that seemed as much about “look” as talent. Dancers who developed larger breasts never made it past a certain point. In my case, I was plagued by my skinny ankles that would always get injured. I was starting to see all the things I wouldn’t be. Yet, I was determined to continue. I didn’t want to disappoint my mom. 

The breaking point eventually came. It was during training, and I had a really heavy period. My teachers insisted I wear my white leotard with no underwear and no pad so as to not ruin the “aesthetic” of the class. I spent the whole time worrying instead of enjoying the dance. I realized this had been my mentality for some time and it just didn’t feel  worth it anymore. I quit

Telling my mom was hard. We were in a shopping mall after class when I told her. She understood, but even today, it makes her sad. 

ALESSANDRA 1: “I’m sad because of the reason why you stopped, not because you stopped. A good teacher knows how to take the joy out of each single child. So that makes me really upset because of the way they treated you and other other students.” (14 secs)

I’ve thought about those teachers who managed to crush my passion - and that in some ways, I let them. It made me resent ballet for years. 

But now, when I think about all those years of hard work, I focus on the positives: the discipline and creativity it taught me –  skills I use now as a journalist. I try to never miss a deadline. 

I don’t want to let my teachers win forever. I’m pretty sure someday I’ll dance again… and maybe I’ll enjoy it. 

HOST OUTRO: You might catch Cecilia at the Lincoln Center when her mom is in town for graduation…in the audience for now!


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