“Miss Toh… hahaha more like Miss TOES”
I was making a lame joke in the changing room with my friends after an intense ballet training session leading up to our inter-foundation exam on a Friday night. Tensions were high, Miss Toh, our teacher at the time played favourites and if you’re in her bad list, Friday nights are your worst nightmare straight out of a scene from Mean Girls.
I was in her bad books. I was the girl who wouldn’t take shit seriously and laughed at everything, but the sight of Miss Toh would suck the light out of me and I could zap an intense laugh to seriousness in a second. Until today, I still use that technique, I’m 24 and it’s 10 years later.
Mid joke, Miss Toh walks right through the change room alleys to the toilets, she shoots me a bitch face and I knew then and there, I was fkd. Since that day, she puts me in the front of the class and made my ballet training days a living nightmare till the day I switched studios for training.
Malaysian/Asian training in dance was nightmarish, but looking through documentaries of the training that professional dancers go through, the difference was close to nothing. Carb eating was a crime, I remember one of my closest friends already cutting carbs at 13, a straight line was expected between the ribs to the pelvis and a slight rise of a muffin top was frowned upon. Heck, thinking through it, no wonder I love carbs so much now, its a carb catch up in time.
5th December 2018:
As I walked through the local library, a dance magazine caught my eye, it wasn’t your ordinary dance magazine, it was Ballet specific and listed professional training areas to up skill your dance career. This was a serious consideration at 16. I remember mapping out a life plan as I was migrating to Melbourne alone, to finish school, do the degree in dentistry, tell Mum I hate it and go into dance. I swear to God it was a solid plan, it worked well in my 16 year old head.
My 24 year old self flipped through the pages of the magazine as I had a mental flashback of all my memories of my 16 year old self, the dance memories I had as a child, the performances we did in the theatre and the last dance performance I did with my dance school, the night before I flew to Melbourne for my new life. The final words of my ballet principal of 13 years, Ms Gan, that night:
“Keep dancing, don’t get fat in Australia.”
I’m sitting down here, 10 kilos heavier, with a complicated right ACL that occasionally still screws up. If anything, I was the opposite of the advice.
Miss Toh and I are friends on Facebook, I bet she secretly stalks me and I do the same to her. She has a family now and leads my old ballet school, my old ballet class mate teaches there part time.
I met up with my oldest childhood ballet friend on my recent trip back to Malaysia, she had just completed the entire syllabus of the ISTD Ballet curriculum, at 24, teaching ballet part time on the weekends while doing her serious day job. She’s now onto learning Latin and plans to complete the syllabus as well.
Her reality was a dream of mine, to be a dentist with flexi hours while teaching dance.
“Juanlin, you still can you know, it’s not too late.”
“I don’t know what you mean Sophie, I’ve torn my ACL”
Sophie shakes her head, “You can, you just didn’t try. Try Latin.”
“I kinda to choreos now”
It’s a lie if my heart didn’t hurt through that conversation. I tell her I keep dance alive through choreography for others, but it’s truly different.
Really the little girl in me just wishes an empty stage and theatre to dance her heart out, let the knees hurt, let the dance flow, let the toes hurt. Maybe that will reconnect me back to the one true gift that was ripped from me at 17.