Riley Knouse: Dear ballet

Credit: Rachel Horiuchi/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Rachel Horiuchi/The Foothill Dragon Press

Riley Knouse

Dear ballet,

We’ve been together for a while now, and 13 years is a long time. You’ve been with me through the good and bad, and you’ve caused a lot of good and bad.

This will be a sad breakup.

While I’ve always known that we wouldn’t move past this point, I’ve enjoyed the times we’ve had together, and still want to stay in touch in college. However, I hope you won’t mind if I flirt with other types of dance.

I’ve learned a lot from you, probably more than I would have if we hadn’t been together. You’ve taught me that not everything comes easily, and that while envisioning something helps, you need hard work and a lot of sweat to achieve it.

I’ve learned that you won’t always get what you want, and will refuse to believe that what you got might be what you need. You have made me mentally stronger by showing me how to separate constructive criticism from mean comments, which is beyond helpful outside of the studio.

You’ve given me a second family, complete with weird inside jokes, and a certain comfort level around each other that takes years to build. Because of you I have friends that I’m confident will last for a very, very long time (you can’t openly talk about cervical fluid with just anyone). I have a support system, good friends, and a non-biological sister thanks to you.

You have forced me to look at all of my flaws head-on, in floor to ceiling mirrors, and you taught me to accept and work with them rather than just run away.

The moment that I probably realized that I was one of the “Advanced” dancers wasn’t when I had gotten the title, but when I started looking forward to combinations that I would have previously dreaded, or at the very least acknowledged that I needed on certain moves and positions, and a combination will force me to do so.

I have gained a certain physical and mental strength that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else, from being able to balance all of my body weight on my two big toes to wearing a white unitard with a smile.

Pointe shoes can turn to be extremely painful, but a dancer must smile and glide through the blisters, bruised toenails, and shin-splints. If you have never worn a white unitard, consider yourself lucky. Be smart and avoid them at all costs.

It would be a lie to say that every time I go on stage I am expressing myself. I am not a skunk, flower, snowflake, or small German boy.

However, I do get the opportunity to play many different characters, and try on many different personalities. Some have been challenging, and some I’ve had an immense amount of joy portraying. While I may not have expressed myself, I was still able to be expressive and bring a previously fictional character to life.

Ballet, this will be a hard breakup. I will undoubtedly stalk you on social media, find videos of you, and still come back to visit. You have been my best and longest relationship, and I will always be grateful for the things you have taught me, and the people you have introduced to me.

With love,


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