RIISE Spotlight: Persistence en pointe! Jalen Daniels

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Honestly, ballet is not about fairies, and dying swans. Underneath the tutus, leotards, and tights there is a warrior. Because of ballet, I have learned tenacity, dedication, and ambition. These qualities ultimately help me navigate my personal ‘battlefield’ in my life.

When I was younger, I was so fascinated about the capability to dance on your toes, in gorgeous satin shoes. When I finally got to be en pointe, I realized that the beauty of pointe shoes was just an illusion. After class, I would have raw, bruised skin, blisters, burns, and detaching toenails. Because of these obstacles, I doubted that I could do multiple turns en pointe. Instead of pushing through the pain and trying harder, I would complain profusely: “My toe is bleeding, I can’t do this!” or, “My skin is raw, can I get a band-aid?” Later, I began to become conscious that the only way to improve in ballet was to persevere through the pain and not whine pointlessly (no pun intended). With this new attitude of tenacity, my turns came with ease, and the pain was almost unnoticeable. I took this principle and applied it to my academics. As I wanted great turns en pointe, I also wanted a stellar grade in global history. I struggled with this subject in the past because whenever the difficulty increased, I would give up. Taking what I learned from ballet, I approached the class with a determined attitude to achieve my goal, despite the hard material. Because of this, my wishes came true. ‘Paralyze resistance with persistence.’

Ballet is not only rigorous, but it is very time consuming. Ballet happens five times a week for nine hours a day in the summer intensive training. During the school year, ballet occurs six times a week leaving no or little time for recreation with friends, schoolwork, and other activities. A day of absence is like losing a week’s worth of training. This year, due to outside obligations, I missed many dance practices and rehearsals. My absence caused me to lose an opportunity to do the lead role of my dreams, Clara in the Nutcracker. I learned from ballet that in order to reach the top in whatever you do it requires all of your heart, soul, dedication and time. I try to put this same moral to practice in everything from work, to friendships and family. Having genuine commitment will ultimately bring along successful triumphs in life. If genuine commitment is missing, doors that were once available will close. “True strength lies in submission which permits one to dedicate his life, through devotion, to something beyond himself.”

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with fatigue from ballet, I ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth the pain? Is it worth the sacrifice? Is it worth the persistence to push through? Is it worth committing years of work into?” Then I realize yes, it is worth it. It is worth it because of my passion and love for dance. I try to take this idea of ‘zeal’ into my friendships. In the high-school years, friends come and go. I have lost so many friends because they were not eager to be my friend. I have lost some who broke away from me when times got hard, or when fights happened between us. To prevent myself from heartbreak, I evaluate my relationships with my friends by asking myself, “Does he care for me as much as I care for him? Is it worth it to change myself just to be like her? If my friendships don’t have equal amounts of devotion for each other, I know that it just won’t work out. Passion rebuilds the world. It makes all things alive and significant. Ballet has taught me life lessons that I can take with me forever.

Thank you Jalen!

Jalen Daniels, CGPS, Freshman

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