Lapsed Ballerina, a short story

By Brielle Saggese

For 13 years, my hair follicles knew no sense of freedom. Groped to the crown of my head, twisted into a tight coil and pinned through the lowest layer of scalp – the ballet bun was my childhood-long sentence of irreparable root damage.

For 13 years of practicing those pirouettes, dressing my blisters, memorizing Balanchine and crying through a daily split stretch, the ballet bun remained in an upright and hairspray-locked position. Letting my hair down, either figuratively or literally, seemed a luxury that my little pink tights would never stretch to.

But as every lapsed ballerina knows, the day comes when you ditch the little pink tights, and everything changes.

For me, this occasion was my first night as a college freshman. Not really being the party type in high school, I didn’t have the slightest clue what to wear going out, let alone how to accessorize. My only insight into the hallowed halls of frat basements was possibly from watching Legally Blonde on cable or stalking an older friend’s PG-13 Instagram account.  

In search of inspiration, I sheepishly asked my much more experienced floormates for advice.

“Bodysuits!” Upon looting through my wardrobe, one of them spotted my leotard stash from the formidable ballet bun years.

She chose one in particular from the pile – a black halter neck that cut low on my chest, high at the hips and sported a mesh cut out chevron through the middle. Three years ago I would have worn it to a class with my 60-year-old ballet mistress. Tonight I would wear it to a frat house with my 60 newest friends.

It seemed as though the ballet bun had come to my rescue. I threw my hair into a top knot for old time’s sake, sent my thanks to Balanchine and slid into the back of our group’s Uber.

Arriving at our destination, the mystique of said frat house quickly dissipated but a staunch pang of anxiety only arose in its place.

Here I was, on the way to losing my party virginity, but I had no idea how to do it. How low can one drop it without compromising technique? Was I moving my arms too much? Should I show teeth? Casual dancing was never in my repertoire and I had just unwillingly been thrust center stage.

But as my panic began to peak, the unimaginable happened: No matter how many fouettés she spots, how low she penchés forward, or how high she jetés across the floor, a ballerina’s bun never, ever, ever comes undone.

Nevertheless, as a stranger’s fist pumped near my head, his hand made contact and the bobby pins fell to the ground. Just three months after my last ballet class, the bun had officially fallen.

And maybe it was the fact my scalp had never experienced such great circulation or maybe it was the evening’s impressive mix list, but I had let the hair down and the steps just came along with it.

Photo by Alexis Tokarski