Working Through Jealousy

It was early September when I scrolled through Instagram in the City View Lounge at Ballet Austin, eating a whole-wheat turkey-celery wrap, and rushed into the audition room almost late and sans makeup. I thought I had this in the bag; after all, I was a junior (one of the oldest in the group; they couldn’t possibly make a junior a Cavalry/Chinese), and grace was one of my few strong suits in ballet. At least, I thought so.

We started out doing Clara’s variation, one group at a time, so that Steven Mills and Mr. Piner could see. Who knows, I thought (half-rueful, half-serious), maybe they want a Chinese Clara this year—maybe I really am beautiful enough. I didn’t entertain these visions for long (although now, looking back, I wonder how many of my other classmates had similar thoughts).

Next, we did excerpts from the Party Girl part. Each group did walks on relevé going to plié with one leg extended front—I imagined myself stellar, as the only one smiling. I made a point of turning my head to the side of the extended leg. Then, each group performed a small dancing portion. I realized as I échappé-d that I had forgotten to get new flat shoes. I did notice Mr. Mills’ head glinting in my direction, out of the corner of my eye. That was a good sign.

Finally, we all went to the corner and did a section of the Rat part across the floor. I looked really awkward, as I watched myself in the mirror: but that was okay, I was aiming for Party Girl anyway.

((Three years ago, I was an eighth grader at Hill Country Middle School and I was double-cast as Cavalry and Chinese in the Nutcracker. Rather an honor (the progression: Angels ~8-10 year-olds, Mice ~10-11, Bon-bons ~10-12, Chinese ~13-14, Cavalry ~13-14, Party Girl ~14-17, {Clara ~17-18}, Rat ~16-18). I quit ballet for the next year and a half, returning midway through sophomore year because of circumstances and a lot of deliberation.))

So after that, they told us all to sit down and talk amongst ourselves. We complied. I made a point, again, of sitting up very straight and looking graceful while I talked to my friend Isabelle. I could actually see them looking at me every once in a while (it wasn’t an illusion).

After nearly fifteen minutes, they called us all back up to do the Party Girl parts again. Ms. Martin reminded us to use our upper bodies. When it was my group’s turn to go, I kid you not; Mr. Mills was staring at me. After we were released, Eileen told me that she saw them looking at me a lot for Party Girl. The week before, she had definitively announced that I would be Cavalry. I guess this was a good sign.

So it was late September when I was sitting outside my Linear Algebra classroom, waiting for fourth period to start, and checked my email to see the casting results. Isabella Zou, Cavalry. And the entire period, I have to admit, I heard nothing about linear transformations and closing under addition and multiplication (I had to get tutoring on it later). Instead, I read through that list over and over again. How did — get party girl and not me?? I’m better than her. I’m three years older than that other girl. How could they do this to me? I really must not be good enough. I really am not good enough. I do suck. It must have been my torn-up shoes, or my lack of makeup… or maybe I’m really just bad. (Thinking about it now, Mr. Mills must have been looking at me that final run to decide between me and –.)

So that is the birthing of jealousy—not just being sad about my results, but being sad about others’. It wasn’t so bad at first. I decided to do Nutcracker anyway (maybe me toughing out Cavalry this year will show them my dedication/perseverance and increase my chances of getting Party Girl next year), so at first it was only when I’d come out of rehearsal with the Battle Scene and see all the Party Girls waiting in the hall, sitting and snacking on Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, laughing with each other (these are my friends), that I would resent something. Resenting the forces of nature, the split-second decision by the bald artistic director who doesn’t give a s*** about feelings.

Fast forward to now. It’s my third-to-last performance, and this past week has been hard. Meaning: the first night, after I’d done all my solider makeup and gotten dressed, I watched the TV broadcasting the show and watched how beautiful the party girls were and every time they had their own dance I was sad. And when we went backstage, the party scene was still going on, and I watched my friends and how gorgeous they were in their pastel dresses, and I was sad. I was thinking that that should have been me, and that was sad. This sounds like a sob story but I almost cried backstage (which would not have been good). When they walked offstage my best friend out of them came up to me and bopped my soldier hat. She looked stunning, and that made me sad. Every night I watched their every move, their turnout and the sweep of their arms, and felt sad.

Maybe going back to ballet was a bad idea. The Nutcracker was going to be my last remaining “cool” event (I quit Star Steppers, so there was no more Zenith/Spotlight/Homecoming Pep Rally for my friends to come see me at), and people had wanted to come see me, but I told them no, because I wish I was a Party Girl. I have 1 minute of stage time as a Cavalry (my little brother could do the role); Party Girls have 20min. All I do is march; Party Girls dance. The next oldest Cavalry is a freshman; the others are 8th graders. Like I was, three years ago (one of the Cavalry costumes was made to fit my body in 8th grade, because that was the year they redesigned all the sets and costumes and actually added the Cavalry role). And here I am, a junior, doing the exact same thing. When my best best friend, Marika, is the same age as me and is a Rat (two roles higher). Again, I’m sad.

How to be happy for others even when I’m sad for myself? I dunno. All I know is that I couldn’t sleep for the first few nights of Nutcracker. My heart raced, I imagined the splendor of the Party Girls (I must be going crazy). Was sad.

I started to look towards next year, because part of the sad was that I doubted that I could even be a Party Girl next year. I started to practice the Party Girl audition part. One of these nights, I realized that part of their grace is their turnout (they stand on stage, as they act, in perfect 1st’s). I made a list of things, based on this year’s Party Girls.


    • Every day, do wall splits for 10 minutes (can check phone, etc. during)
    • Every day, do frog stretch for 10 minutes
    • Every day, do Thera-Band exercise (rotation) for 10 minutes
    • Thera-band exercises every day
    • Get a foot stretcher?
    • No food after dinner (can drink tea)
    • Breakfast: smoothie only
    • Use calorie counter
    • Videotape self practicing at home
    • Practice keeping tailbone under

I’ve been stretching my turnout until my hips hurt deeply (in the bones). Is that good for me? Probably not. Are these productive things to do with my sadness? Maybe. Are some of these things overexaggerated (and just me hating myself)? Yeah. At least I have the motivation to improve myself the only ways ballet allows. And even if I don’t get to wear the pastel dresses next year and invite my friends and family to watch, at least I will look more like a ballerina.

Praying for the humbleness to love my friends who exceed me.



Isabella, 12/21/16

remembering Alexei, who did not live to perform in the Nutcracker this year.


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