The Flint Institute of Music and Performing Arts:
The Center of It All

Nicole Mahoney

Keys pounded, my heart raced, and everyone in the room was synchronized in one giant motion. The instructor's high-pitched but stern voice roared over the brushing of feet on the soft, old, taped floor. This place has been my life for eleven and a half years. Four days a week I would walk down the same cold, beige hallway, hearing the sound of people talking, music playing, and phones ringing. It smelled of popcorn, musk, and the people who congregated there-- musicians, dancers, and parents. For eleven and a half years I walked down the same hallway, and it never changed.

As I entered the corridor of the dance department at the Flint Institute of Music and Performing Arts, the red carpet of the lobby was stained and old gray-speckled chairs were placed about. It was always active with the sound of people talking, feet shuffling, and excited children running around. Continuing through the lobby to the left was the studio, it was a sight to see. A wooden wall was along the back; it had the Barres leaning against it and a door which led into the biggest studio. Along the front wall, there were paneled mirrors and a door. One of the side walls contained windows; the other side wall held pictures of ballet dancers and toe shoes. The gray floor had marks from ballet and Pointe shoes of many dancers.

It took me almost six long and tedious years to earn my pointe shoes. Most of them are pink or peach, but they can come in any color imagined. Pointe shoes are made of compressed cardboard which is covered by a soft silky satin, the shanks or sole is made out of bamboo, and elastic and silky ribbon are attached. Padding of every kind is put in to the Pointe shoes to alleviate some of the pain which is caused from dancing on the tops of our toes; however, this padding was the cause of many painful blisters on our feet. In the past Pointe shoes were made from wood, but that made them heavy and expensive.

The mirrors reflected images of girls looking back at each other showing the determination on their faces. It provided a great opportunity to catch our mistakes and triumphs. When looking back in the mirror, I saw the little girl that I was, trying to accomplish the same challenge, a pirouette. As I spotted my head in the mirror I saw myself doing a relevet, preparing for it, and having to learn straight and correct chinne turns. Completing a double pirouette, I saw the little girl I once was smile back at me.

After one class ended and another began, the room was always very hot and humid. It was filled with the smell of perspiration, feet, and different scents of deodorant and perfume mixed. In the evening when the windows were open, a cool breeze would come through it. It felt like heaven as it blew against our hot and perspiring backs. As people curiously passed by, they would see many girls in rows dressed in burgundy and black leotards and pink tights, moving all at once to the music of the piano. This was a place of hard work, determination, willpower, and discipline.
It was a second home to me for many years. Not only did I take ballet there, but I also ate vending machine dinners and did many home work assignments at the Center as well. I chatted with other young girls that had big dreams of becoming diva ballerinas in their heads. Also, I rehearsed long and tiring hours for the Nutcracker. Sometimes we would have to rehearse for two hours and then come back three hours later and rehearse for another two hours.

The Nutcracker was a great experience for the many students, young and old, to perform. The last year I was in the Nutcracker I was an angel; the angels lighted the way through for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince to guide them to his kingdom. The stage was filled with fog from dry ice, which made us look like we were dancing on white fluffy clouds. We wore white and gold dresses with gold crowns and big foam wings trimmed in gold paint, which were heavy, and the instructors would walk around checking them, saying, "Make sure to check your wings, angels; are not supposed to have drooping wings." As I first fluttered onto the stage all the pre-stage butterflies were gone and the warm moist feeling of the fog reassured me that I was going to be okay. Many parts were hard and intricate, like the Grande pas de dux. Also, solo parts like the Dew Drops, Sugarplum Fairy and Caviler were difficult, but they all came together to tell a touching Christmas story.

When I was dancing I would forget about what happened at school, problems with friends, and anything else on my mind; ballet cleared it all away. It let me focus on the task at hand, showing people without words that many girls could say so much without saying anything at all. We learned to speak the hidden and exhilarating language called ballet. This one place filled many hearts with joy, love, excitement, and exuberation. It gave me many memories, blistered feet, and many stories to tell. It also taught me several lessons, such as never give up, practicing makes perfect, how to take constructive criticism, and always respect your body. The instructor would always say, "Your body is your instrument, never do anything that would harm it. You do not see musicians hurting or doing anything destructive to their instruments. The way to become an excellent and disciplined dancer is to take care of yourself and always be safe."

Dance flowed through my veins, and the studio was the Center of It All.

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