Thursday’s Children April 18, 2013

Regarding the tragic events in Boston, where I went to college and lived for over ten years, there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. During the horrific event and its aftermath, many ordinary people took extraordinarily inspiring action. Thank you for helping those in need and for allowing me to tell my children that people generally, are inherently good, and allowing me to actually believe it.

Inspired by Feet…

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

Yes, really. But not just any feet. Ballerinas’ feet. When most people hear the word “ballerina”, an image like the one below pirouettes into their heads.

Russian Royal Ballet Swan Lake

Russian Royal Ballet Swan Lake

But when the lights come back on and the music stops and the pointe shoes come off, this is what a ballerina looks like.

Photo from

Photo from

Legend has it that Anna Pavolova left a trail of bloody footprints when she exited the stage after each performance.

When I was in art school, a friend of mine invited me to an adult ed ballet class she taught, so I could work on drawing figures in motion. Those dancers threw their over-age-thirty bodies around in sometimes laughable attempts to imitate the grace and strength of their teacher. That was an amazing lesson in courage right there, but I was too young and stupid to realize it at the time.

My friend said nobody understands the passion it takes to be a professional ballet dancer, until they see a dancer’s feet. She showed me hers once. A pretty horrific sight. She told me that when she danced with the Joffrey Ballet in New York, she was one of their best jumpers. Jumping over and over again fractured her ribs numerous times, simply from the impact of being caught by her male partners.

So, what intrigues me most about all this is that something ethereally beautiful is sometimes made possible by something excruciatingly painful. I’m wondering if the characters in my WIP, who are tortured by past and present experiences, are strong enough to love each other, and if my writing is strong enough to create something beautiful from their suffering. Only time will tell…

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51 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children April 18, 2013

  1. That last paragraph gave me that spooky feeling, Rhiann! Chills, even. I think beauty is often born of pain. As Don Maass says, there is always a price to be paid for success, by our characters, and by us.

    Awesome post. Now I have a week to figure out how to steal from it. 😉

  2. My daughter is about to get her first pair of pointe shoes. I cringe knowing what is likely to happen to her feet, but she loves ballet despite the pain. Her grace and poise astounds me.

    • Male ballet dancers don’t wear toe shoes and dance on pointe so they don’t have NEARLY the same issues – also their bones are typically heavier/thicker and less susceptible to breakage, though of course it does still happen. Did you read about the Cuban male triplet ballet prodigies?

  3. Oh love this post 🙂 first off I was an Irish and Scottish Dancer for years and my feet are STILL recovering from the pain I put then through. But the real beauty about your post is that dancer typically don’t care, they can’t even feel the pain until after they are done dancing because they are that in love with ther performance and their dance. I think tha kind of love for anything is very hard to come by and I think it would be interesting to see if characters in a novel could love each other no matter how much pain the other one causes them. It’s given me something to think about! Thanks 🙂

  4. When I was young, I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I took lessons, but lived in a very small town and even if I had the ability, I never would have had the training available to me. However, I had two magical experiences in my ballet “career” (so to speak). First was when, during class, we went into the gymnastics room and practiced jumps on the bouncy floor. Oh. My. Gosh. I had lift! I had balloon! I soared away from the floor and lost myself in the sensation of my body flying through space. I felt beautiful and graceful, and free from the Earth.

    The second was doing a pas de deux with a friend at the International Student’s Club Pot Luck and Talent Show in college. I was so heavy (in comparison to real ballet dancers, and probably anyone he’d ever danced with), but he lifted me and we danced and at the end the audience gave us a standing ovation and shouted “Bravo” at us. Obviously they were a kind audience. 😉

    Now, why do I tell you all this? Because I have found the same emotions and feelings in writing. when I get lost in a scene, the same sense of being free from the Earth comes over me. When someone reads my stories and says how much they like it, it’s like standing there in front of the cheering crowd. It’s totally addicting and I totally get why dancers keep dancing, no matter the toll on their bodies. Their career is short, but during their career, they are otherworldly. 🙂

  5. OMG that post makes me both grateful I didn’t continue to pursue ballet and deeply touched by what dancers go through. My scars from my writer’s journey are internal and easier to hide, but ballerinas (and other dancers) hide their physical, external pain behind so much beauty it brings us to tears. I am learning that creativity in all forms seems to be born from extremes and intensity. I tend to shy away from both of those things, so I too, hope my writing will be strong enough to convey such incredible depth.

    • Rhiann, I hope I didn’t confuse too much with my own blog post. I can’t see who is following comments on my blog, so I am letting you know that I tried to explain by replying directly to your comment on my blog. See you tomorrow (Thurs, for me)… 🙂

  6. Okay. I have the total heebie-jeebies after looking at those feet. But is way cool think about the idea of enduring such pain for something you love. That is inspiring.

  7. ” . . . that something ethereally beautiful is sometimes made possible by something excruciatingly painful. ” Yes, oh yes. I always fall the most in love with my characters who have suffered the most–because what breaks them refines them.

  8. Great post, as always 🙂

    We must have been on the same wavelength more than usual this week, because my post is on a similar subject!

    As spoken by Wesley in The Princess Bride: “To the pain!”

  9. Another great post, Rhiann! I danced for almost 15 years but my feet never got quite that beat up. (I was kind of a lazy wimp, though.) This is a good reminder that I need to get back to that ballerina manuscript I have in my trunk at some point soon. Inspiring as always!

    Dannie @ Left to Write

    • Haha. Well, now you can be glad you were a lazy wimp. Ballerina foot issues really plague older dancers with ongoing pain and health issues. I started reading about dancers cutting off the corns between their toes and had to stop…

  10. Pingback: Seasons of Change: Thursday’s Children | Dreaming of Other Realms

  11. I love how great dancers make what they do look effortless. It is much the same for great writers – and yet often we don’t see all the hours, blood, sweat and tears that go in to the process. That photo is something else…

  12. I love this post. Though I didn’t dance professionally, ballet kind of killed my knees. I had to stop dancing once I kept getting hurt. What you say is so true–that dancing is so beautiful to watch but there is so much pain behind the scenes. Ahh, so much like writing.

    I’ve got a photo of some dancers from the Boston Ballet in my post this week, so I was so glad to see yours go in-depth on the reality of a dancer’s life.

  13. Wow, what an awesome analogy. I’m with you. Now if only I could get my prose to look more like the performing dancer and not the poor beaten feet. 🙂 I’ll keep at it. Thanks for inspiration today.

  14. “So, what intrigues me most about all this is that something ethereally beautiful is sometimes made possible by something excruciatingly painful.”

    LOVE this.

    You are amazing.

    That is all.

  15. Zoinks! Again, you play a note which reverberates in my soul.
    I used to dance. My feet ached until it hurt to walk, but it never hurt when dancing. Never. Weird, huh?

    Lots of inspiration from this post. Makes me think –
    How much pain joy can hide.
    There’s perspective in suffering.
    Where is the line between ugly and beautiful. For whom?

    Thanks for this.

    • When I was researching for this post, I encountered that very sentiment numerous times (It only hurt like hell when I stopped). And your thoughts on my thoughts have given me more thoughts….thank you 🙂

  16. I never really understood exactly how much self-inflicted punishment ballerinas undergo for their art until I saw the photo above. Incredible that they’re so inspired to dance like that when their bodies – or at least their feet – are really taking a beating. To have that kind of dedication to your art. I’d like to have just an ounce of their determination in my writing. So inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Ouch, that really is dedication and puts sitting at my desk getting a numb bum when writing into perspective. I get the feeling that your writing will be strong enough to create something beautiful from your characters’ suffering.

  18. Is it horribly shallow of me to say that I’m sooooooooo glad I didn’t stick with ballet? At the time, I was devastated. Now? Not so much… Yikes! But I do agree that beauty is often born of pain and suffering.

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