I've been dancing since I was three, and up until I was about 12, all of my teachers and peers remarked on my exceptional abilities as a dancer. I was advanced in my god-given gift and at 12-years-old I was put into classes with 18-year olds. I worked hard and was always studying dance. On stage I came alive and I never considered doing or being anything else but a dancer. As I developed past puberty, my teachers began to look at me differently.
Every time a new dance teacher met me, standing in first position at the barre, all of their eyes did the same thing. They would look at me with a slight smile, they'd scan my body from head to toe and stop at my pelvis. They would then proceed to place their hands on my hips as to try and "fix" my asymmetry. Many X-rays and orthopedic opinions later, I had premature arthritis in my left hip and my entire left side body was mysteriously crooked. I was 14. One chiropractor advised that in this case, having scoliosis in my lumbar spine actually helped me to stand upright and if I wasn't dancing it may be way worse.
Depression and an eating disorder later, I was accepted into a well-known dance program in New York City. When I auditioned for the program the head of the department did the familiar body scan with her eyes, looked at me and said, "You're a real anomaly."
"No one's going to buy a broken toy," my jazz dance professor shouted at me over the fast pulsing music in my Junior year of college.
"Amber, can I diagnose you? You're a mess," remarked another ballet mistress in my training.
"Amber, how's the bum hip?," said another modern dance professor. For 20 plus years I heard comments like this. My self esteem was in the gutter and my self worth disappeared. Dance was the very thing that made me come alive and it was also killing me.
One day one of my more gentle teachers asked me if I'd every cross-trained? Aside from a few fitness classes and doing the elliptical at the gym, I didn't know what he was talking about.
About a week later I signed up for a work-study program at a Pilates studio near my college. I was able to understand my body in new ways and learned to love all that I was capable of in movement.
Flash to fifteen years later, I have been teaching Ballet and Pilates to all ages and abilities. I still have dorment arthritis in my hip but it has never caused me pain or prevented me from moving in any way. Movement is a gift and we must honor that gift by learning about ourselves and keep dancing through life.