ARMELLE AURELYA MORTON
I started dancing at 4 years old when I was still living in Guadeloupe – a small island in the Caribbean which is part of French overseas territory.
Guadeloupean ballet teachers believe they have to be very hard on the students in order to keep up with French standards. They taught us discipline and to never give up. On several occasions I was ready to never go back to another class – in the end I always did.
When I moved to France at age 17 I was accepted into the ballet conservatory. As children we had dreamed of dancing in the conservatory one day but the reality was different from what I expected. It’s not all glamorous. The world of ballet is a very competitive one. Everyone’s competing to be the star of the company. I once saw a girl put crushed glass in a soloist’s shoes before a big performance. If you make it to that stage, it’s not only mentally and physically exhausting, but you can end up feeling quite alone.
When I was a teenager I got a chance to travel to Cuba to dance. At that point I was constantly complaining about how hard dancing was. I was ready to give up. Going to Cuba was a real wake up call. Castro was still in power at the time and during my visit I came across people who were extremely poor. Some of the dancers didn’t even own proper pointe shoes. They wrapped their feet in tissues and used wood as a pointe. Their feet were bleeding.
No matter how much they were hurting, these girls never cried or complained. They were there to shine – that was the only hope they had to get themselves and their families out of their living situations.
This experience taught me humility, discipline and hard work, at an age at which I thought I was entitled. I learnt how to be thankful for what I have and I think that’s one of the best things you can learn in life. I eventually gave up on the idea of becoming a professional dancer. It was not the right lifestyle for me but I still keep practicing and continue to enjoy dancing. While everything is ever changing, dance remains a constant – something I can always come back to, something that keeps me on the right track.
Part of the profits of this campaign are donated to empower a displaced family in Syria by providing them with a gift of six chickens.