A Love Letter From Curvy Ballerina: “In a World of NO, You Create Your YES!”

Photo: Kunle Ayodeji
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“My words to the chocolate babies with booties that want ballet as a standard go a little something like this: “F_** ’em! In a world of NO, you create your YES’!” Every day I get a little smarter, and a little stronger, and I’m able to push myself to unimaginable limits because I have no choice. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION…” Tyde-Courtney Edwards

Kunle Ayodeji

Photo: Kunle Ayodeji

*hits dank, exhales gracefully*

One day, it’s going to be a standard to see a jiggly booty in classical ballet…

So I just knew I was going to be a dancer. I just knew it. I knew I was going to be in a prestigious, classical company that regularly would have sold out seasons. I knew I was going to spend my days in company ballet classes and rehearsals. I knew I was going to spend my evenings studying classical repertoire and committing it to memory the way a good little ‘bunhead’ is supposed to do. I trained my entire life.

Photo: Kunle Ayodeji

Photo: Kunle Ayodeji

I sacrificed summers. I would practice until 9 p.m. during weeknights and then begin homework. I volunteered at countless studios, attended every workshop and master class that I could travel to, and studied various styles of dance for years. During summers, when I was unable to attend local intensives, I worked religiously and would take the bus to master classes. I was determined to have this life and was prepared to work as hard as possible to obtain it. And no matter what I did, no matter how many sacrifices I made, nor how much I struggled, nothing was happening.

I didn’t come from a family or community that thought a career in art was lucrative or sensible. I am proudly from the hood. I am proudly from Baltimore City. My dream to be in a classical ballet company was not encouraged or supported by anyone at all. They didn’t understand my drive: they didn’t understand me. I’m black and curvy; if I was dancing, obviously it would be on a pole or in a rapper’s music video. How else would I make money if I wasn’t shaking my ass? That’s what it’s for, right??

As the years passed, I began to understand something; It was much easier to support a young woman entering into a ‘practical’ field such as customer service, cosmetology or registered nursing because they’re likely to be able to ‘support’ themselves and to be considered ‘wife’ material. I can count on my hands and toes how many times my mother told me to apply to Verizon because of their benefits; how many times my father tried to encourage me to go into the military because of all the luxurious travel benefits and the opportunity to meet a man with a comparable tax bracket.

I’ve been dancing for over 25 years and there are still ‘friends’ and ‘relatives’ of mine who have neither purchased a concert ticket, or even attended a free show. It’s a surprise to many people that I’m actually still doing the ‘dancing stuff’. When it became apparent that my parents, family, and friends weren’t going to be the support system I needed, I decided to start pursuing practical careers which I was promptly fired from.

Although I was lucky when it came to finding jobs, I knew my presence there would be short-lived. Any opportunity I had to audition or take a class somewhere would take precedence over clocking in anywhere and wasting away in a cubicle. Friends stopped inviting me places because I was the ‘starving’ artist that didn’t have the $200 needed to buy table service on Friday nights; guys would dump me because I was an impractical hippie with pipe dreams – and although my name and classical background were unique – I wasn’t quite ‘right on paper’. So, I was just stuck. Alone and stuck.

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Fast forward a few tears and years later and I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve figured out my place, and my plan, and it’s fucking brilliant. I’ve found my calling and I’m building a ground breaking and progressive empire. And I’m doing it by myself. I have a special finger dedicated to all of my ‘friends’ and ‘family’. Especially the ones who forget my birthday but coincidentally remember to invite me to theirs, the friends who forget to come to my performances. The lovely people who forget to invite me to their weddings but don’t forget to ask me what I’ve purchased from the bridal registry, the people who actually pity me for not having a husband or family because following my dreams is more important. I especially love the ones that thought my decision to become celibate was a solution to not being able to get a man…

I say all of this because there is a little, curvy, black girl somewhere dreaming of being a ballet dancer and being told she’s never going to make it or to explore other styles of dance. Being told that she’s going to automatically be referred to ‘Black companies’, that she’s going to feel discouraged, she’s going to feel defeated and she’s going to hang up her shoes.

My words to the chocolate babies with booties that want ballet as a standard go a little something like this: “Fuck ’em! In a world of NO, you create your YES’!” Every day I get a little smarter, and a little stronger, and I’m able to push myself to unimaginable limits because I have no choice. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. There is a way to make your dreams happen. I say all of this because your family and your friends are not needed for you to be great. You can figure it out on your own. You just can’t stop. The time for you to believe in yourself is when no one else does. Don’t give up. Don’t cry. More importantly, don’t forget your struggle and those who supported you. One day, you’ll be invited everywhere. One day, everyone will know your name.

One day, it’s going to be standard to see a jiggly booty in a classical ballet…and it’s going to be because my jiggly booty opened the doors.

You’re welcome.

Originally posted: TheOdysseyonline.com

tyde-courtney-edwardsABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tyde-Courtney Edwards, Ballerina/Founder of Ballet After Dark [As a] black woman in a classical ballet world, I’ve been told my natural hair gives me an “aggressive” appearance and have been asked to leave auditions or I’ve been flat out told hip hop is not offered when I’ve arrived in ballet attire. I’ve also struggled with my weight and depression due to being seen as an outcast in the world that I love dearly.

BalletAfterDark is a group fitness program I started that infuses classical ballet technique with quick, high energy dance combinations. The idea is to encourage women who may have had an interest in classical ballet but may have been rejected due to their body type, physical appearance, lack of skill or just overall courage to still experience fine, classical skills while learning sexy, empowering dances that will culminate in a performance for family and friends. It’s for women of all body types and dancers of all levels. – Beyond Classically Beautiful

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