When I’m lost in the day-ins and day-outs of life, sometimes something interjects and pauses the cycle for me to think. It was one of these moments that made me stop as I was rushing to a tour of the New York Performing Arts Library. I was desperately late because the subway train ahead of me broke down. And compounding that, I had gotten off at the wrong stop. But not wanting to be trapped again underground, I ventured onto the street, preferring a 20 minute walk over an unpredictable length of claustrophobia. Walking down the streets, I had my headphones in, blocking out the cacophony of city sounds, and my head down, staring at the route on Google Maps. But out of the corner of my eye, something caught my attention, and I looked up. It was a funny sight. A little girl was standing on the street corner looking into a ballet dance studio, with her dad by her side. As her dad tried pulling her away, she stood her ground, her gaze remained transfixed on the dancers. The wall of windows revealed their gracefully synchronized motions, a sharp contrast to the pushing and pulling happening outside. But even as the sounds of the dad’s shouts pierced the air, she kept staring past the panes, fully immersed in the world of the dancers.
I had to fall back into the cycle, rushing onto the library visit. But looking back, I wonder what separated me from that little girl in front of The Ailey Studios. I wasn’t pausing for the dancers, and neither were any of the other commuters. So what was it, I wondered, other than a sense of social cues that it might be weird to ogle at a bunch of ballet dancers practicing, that trapped the little girl in her state of enchantment. She seemed almost lost, not geographically or intellectually, but emotionally lost to the moment. Rather than approach ballet through the aloof eyes of a college-educated man, what if I just stopped for a second and looked at ballet through the eyes of that little girl.