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3:33 Sports Short #48 // After Ballet by Zoë McLaughlin

I feel weak right now, flabby and fat, truly a sack of potatoes like Mr. B. always threatened.  I don’t dance anymore, and when I do it’s wrong: I give myself a short barre, stepping off my bad leg as soon as it starts to complain; I slip back into the easy, languid movements of Javanese dance, tricking my muscles into doing something, tricking my body into thinking it’s strong.  I never do center combinations.  Somehow I’ve become this person who doesn’t dance anymore.  If I sit too long, I feel it.  If I eat too much, I feel it.

When I’m home during the summer, I still take class, slipping into my old leotard and my old place at the barre.  I wrap my bad leg up and I do the steps and I stare at myself in the mirror the way I always have.  But of course it’s wrong.  There are still potatoes in me, or bricks, weighing me down, changing the way my body feels.  In the mirror, I still look almost the same—my extensions are lower, but my feet still point and my arms still curve.  But inside my body something is missing.  When you stop practicing, you forget.  You lose something.

Mr. B. says, “It takes twice as long to get it back.”


Zoë McLaughlin is currently pursuing a Master's in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. She has previously lived in Indonesia, teaching, freelancing, and spending the rest of her time dancing and trying to develop a tolerance for spicy food.

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