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Photo by Paul Kolnik, image courtesy of A Chorus Line Wiki, from a touring production of A Chorus Line, "At the Ballet." Three dancers perform "At the Ballet" from the musical, "A Chorus Line."

Breaking up with Facebook was not so hard to do

Photo by Paul Kolnik, image courtesy of A Chorus Line Wiki, from a touring production of A Chorus Line, “At the Ballet

The story of one woman’s choice to leave Facebook and began taking ballet classes again serves as an important lesson in how we can reclaim the narrative of our lives.

By Toby Simon, for Richard Asinof, ConvergenceRI

Breaking up with Facebook was not so hard – But getting back together with ballet was easy

Several weeks ago Facebook told me that it was my 15 year anniversary with them. Had it really been that long? Back in the day [2006] Facebook was only available to students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities. So I joined.

And for most of the 15 years, it was a platform I enjoyed immensely. It enabled me to keep current [sort of] with many of my former students from Brown University, Marymount Manhattan College and Bryant University. I reconnected with old friends, new friends, and relatives. In some instances, I befriended friends of friends who I had never actually met, creating the illusion of friendship.

I recall listening to a speaker at a Women’s Studies conference over 10 years ago who presented her research on social media. The point of her presentation was to warn us not to be fooled by what Facebook actually was doing. Having 1,000 Facebook friends might feel momentarily affirming yet her research showed that it can actually be a more isolating and manipulative experience than people want to acknowledge.

Recently I decided it was time to quit Facebook. Mainly it had to do with my disdain for Mark Zuckerberg’s policies on political advertisements. It just seems dishonest and irresponsible. And yes, I know Facebook owns Instagram, which I still use, but it’s just not the same platform. It serves a very different purpose.

Toxic posts
This particular election cycle has brought out some really toxic posts from many of my Facebook “friends” about various Presidential candidates. I got drawn in to these online discussions. I don’t need Facebook for any business purposes and I began to feel as if the platform was a giant time suck. As a retired person with lots of other interests, I began to wonder why I wasn’t pursuing them.

Around the time of my breakup with Facebook, a friend encouraged me to go with her to an adult ballet class. These two events are definitely related.

I danced until I was 16. At that point, the girls I danced with were encouraged to make a decision about their futures as ballerinas. Although I loved ballet, I knew that I didn’t want to become a professional and that college was my preferred route.

Ballet classes had been an important part of my youth and adolescence. I can’t remember how many classes a week I took, but it was frequent. When I met my now husband Peter at age 19, I fell for him even harder when he told me how much he loved ballet and that his younger sister was dancing with the Boston Ballet company. As a college sophomore in 1966, I had yet to meet any guys who were devotees of ballet let alone positive about dance.

A return to the barre
So a few weeks ago, with a new perspective on how I spend my time, I went to my first ballet class in many, many years. Although I had continued to take some classes when I was first married, I had pretty much abandoned ballet for the past 45 years.

Something magical happened when I returned to the barre [a stationary handrail] and the center of the room. The class is taught by a former dancer who is without doubt, the most encouraging, positive ballet teacher I’ve ever encountered.

She teaches in sweats and wears socks on her feet. She compliments everyone. The class claps for each small group as they move across the floor. Maybe it’s the beautiful classical music playing as we do our barre or center work or dance across the floor. Maybe it’s the familiarity of all the ballet positions that were drilled in to me as a kid. Whatever it is – being in the class felt so good and I felt transported back to a different era. It was joyous, spiritual and liberating all at once.

As a teenager, ballet classes didn’t always feel that way. There was plenty of criticism from teachers, jealousy from fellow dancers and a level of competition I just wasn’t comfortable with. But this adult class is absolutely the opposite. The class is a mixture of Brown students and adult women. Occasionally some men show up. You can be a total novice or an experienced dancer. All are welcome and all receive praise from the lovely teacher Stephanie.

One singular sensation
“A Chorus Line” opened on Broadway in October 1975. A few months later, my mother-in-law bought tickets for Peter and me. We both remember thinking that this was the most exciting theater we had ever seen. And when Sheila, Bebe and Maggie sang “At The Ballet,” we wept.

“But everything is beautiful at the ballet
Graceful men lift lovely girls in white
Yes everything was beautiful at the ballet,
Hey, I was happy at the ballet.”

Toby Simon is a frequent contributor to ConvergenceRI.

Richard Asinof is the founder and editor of www.ConvergenceRI.com