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U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Audio: U-High dancer explores ballet beyond pointe

As+ninth+grader+Priya+Yamada+becomes+a+member+of+an+advanced+group+of+dancers+at+the+Hyde+Park+School+of+Dance%2C+she+has+to+examine+what+it+means+to+grow+in+ballet+outside+of+pointe.
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle
As ninth grader Priya Yamada becomes a member of an advanced group of dancers at the Hyde Park School of Dance, she has to examine what it means to grow in ballet outside of pointe.

[Sound: Classical ballet music]

Ninth grader Priya Yamada used to sit in a corner, on a linoleum floor, her back against the wall-to-wall mirror her classmates would face. Their appearance would be uniform; burgundy leotards and skin-color tights. However, in class, Priya always kept her sweatpants on from the walk over to Hyde Park School of Dance. When she couldn’t dance, there didn’t seem to be much use in looking like a dancer.

Priya spent six months of seventh grade in this position, forced to sit out of dance class, like many serious dancers, because of a severe injury. An injury, which prevents her from ever dancing on her toes in pointe shoes. Now, as she’s become a member of an advanced group of dancers at the Hyde Park School of Dance, she has to examine what it means to grow in ballet outside of pointe.

The first time Priya’s back flared up, she was just trying to do an exercise in class.

Sounds of teacher instructing overtop music

“I was dancing in a dance class and my back just started to hurt suddenly and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t really sit down correctly. I couldn’t, you know, go into a child’s pose, which is what people usually recommend when you hurt your back. I was in so much pain and I was filled with so much fear, like, ‘Oh my God what’s gonna happen?’”

Soon afterward, Priya’s doctors informed her that if she hoped to continue dancing she would have to stop doing pointe, and even then it would be impossible for her to dance professionally.

[Sound of pointe shoes tapping on the floor]

“Even if I didn’t want to be a dancer, at such a young age, someone telling you flat out, you can’t do this because of your body, because of something that you were born with. That was very jarring, I think, to experience.”

Priya never considered quitting, and In the years since, she has worked for 8 to 10 hours a week on dance, sometimes more. For her, the results have paid off. 

“It feels really great. I want to say almost really impressive, which I don’t know if I can say that about myself but I think if I do look back at where I was in seventh grade and how hopeless I felt and how I was just convinced that it wasn’t gonna get better. I have a long way to go, but it has been a really wonderful turnaround that I’ve experienced, and I can feel myself getting stronger and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Looking toward the future, Priya wants to showcase the potential for ballet that exists outside of pointe.

“I want to be able to show whoever’s watching me that pointe doesn’t mean everything all the time. I wanna be able to be an interesting enough dancer and a good enough dancer, that the audience doesn’t even realize I don’t have a pointe shoe on.”

[Sound: Classic ballet music] 

For the U-High Midway, this is Lila Coyne.

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About the Contributors
Lila Coyne
Lila Coyne, Reporter
Lila Coyne is a member of the Cass of 2027 and serves as a reporter. She began in the 2023-24 school year when she was in ninth grade. She is also a member of the Debate Team and the Renaissance Literary Board.
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle
Elspeth LaCroix-Birdthistle is a beginning photojournalist and a member of the Class of 2026. Elspeth's favorite part of photojournalism is taking photos of school events and being a part of the behind-the-scenes of the Midway and other school-related activities. Outside of school, Elspeth enjoys reading and dancing. She is also a member of the varsity girls soccer team.

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