Best Foot Forward

My true story of struggling with ballet and finally discovering who I am and what I want to be, starting at the beginning.


2. Achilles Heel


I had begun the advanced class at the studio, and I felt like I excelled. I counted down the years until I was age eligible to perform en pointe. It was my dream the night after I stepped into that dance room when I was five.

We had a dance instructor, who I’ll name K for privacy reasons. I had her a year before in Lyrical classes, but this was my first and only year with her in ballet. She was strict, and never corrected our mistakes, which meant our technique slowly disappeared and I was picked on by her more and more, always reminded, “Jessi! You were in my class last year, I expect you to be as good as you were then.”

Day by day passed and as we tied our shoes and chalked them in the bathroom, K’s class before us would come in and let us know how bad of a mood she was in that day. It was usually bad, and the four of us in her ballet class would groan and head to class.

One day, one of the four of us didn’t show up to class. I turned to one of the other students while stretching. “Hey, where’s Kate?”

“Oh no, you didn’t hear?” She replied. “Her achilles heel was hurt. She’s in physical therapy.”

“Oh, that’s sad…” I sighed, turning back to stretching.

The next week she came back in a boot, the teacher gushing over her and making sure she knew what we were doing in class. Kate would be healed in time for the summer showcase. She need physical therapy for about two months.

A few weeks later we were being worked mercilessly. K was in a major funk, and she took it out on us for the remainder of the time we were instructed under her. I slowly felt an ache in my heel day by day, but thought nothing of it. As a dancer, your feet hurt in different places all the time. Kate was halfway through her physical therapy, and we were doing jetes. We were doing double jetes across the floor, and soon it was my turn. I rubbed my heel one last time before doing preparation and doing the combo. Chasse. Four frappes. First jete.

However, in the middle of the prep for my second jete, as my feet lifted off the ground, my heel suddenly cramped, my heel on fire. When I landed, I fell to the ground, clutching my heel.

“What are you doing?!” K yelled, putting her hands on her hips as my friend Jane helped me up. “Go back to the corner, do it again.”

I blinked back tears. “I-I can’t… my heel…”

K sighed annoyed, leading me over to the wall. “Do these stretches.”

The next practice, I turned to Kate’s mom. “My heel hurts really bad… I can’t dance...:”

Kate’s mom called my mom, who came to pick me up. We went to the doctor the next morning. I sat nervously next to my mom, waiting until they called my name and I came back. I was familiar with my ortho doctor, Mrs. Parkolo, so we talked for a bit when I first came in. She felt around on my heel, as I winced in pain. She explained that I have high arches, and as a dancer, I put a lot of stress on my heels. This heel, my dominant heel, had been through severe stress, so my achilles heel grew inflamed, causing pain and bruising. She had us get a boot I was stuck in for 5 weeks. I was worried about not dancing for 5 weeks, so when I got home I cried.

The next practice I walked up to K with my doctor’s note excusing me from class for the next six weeks, an extra week for recovery. She groaned and took the slip of paper. The owner of the studio made sure I was okay and was an angel. However, I wasn’t treated well by K. After I was hurt in class, she always seemed mad at me. Not only that, after hurting my heel and not dancing for a while, I permanently lost flexibility in my legs.

I couldn’t wait to prove her I was better than she thought.



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