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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
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
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  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
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
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
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
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
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
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