“Bread Bakes in Heat” by Taylor Oddino (’17): A Preview for This Whitworth Life

This Whitworth Life 2014Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out “Bread Bakes in Heat” by Taylor Oddino (’17).

When I was twelve, I decided to dedicate my life to ballet: Ballet class, everyday, after school from three to nine, plus all-day Saturday. When I was 15, I auditioned for the Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy in Texas. I was accepted and moved into the dorms at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. I danced six days a week from eight a.m. to 5 p.m., for seven weeks.

All my years of work came to be defined in a single rehearsal. It was a summer day in Houston, and I could feel the 110-degree heat radiating through the glass windows in a sixth-floor studio. It was a three-hour rehearsal. There were three different groups of dancers, and we rotated, so I only danced for a third of the three hours. We were strictly instructed to be standing when not dancing. God help the girl who decided to sit and stretch.

I stood in a corner of the massively spacious studio. The six-story facilities were brand new, and the walls smelled of fresh paint. The floor looked bare without scuffs. It was all too perfect. The barres felt too smooth beneath my sweaty palms.

It was late afternoon, and after dancing all day, I was expected to stand there in the corner. I already knew the choreography by heart, so there was nothing to keep my mind occupied. The complex part of the dance was maintaining our lines, which I found extremely difficult to practice on my own. The only thing left to focus on, apart from my growling tummy, was my feet.

They were screaming at me. That kind of blood-curdling scream that makes your shoulders rise, your muscles tense, and your eardrums throb with the most uncomfortable of pains. My feet were beyond swollen, puffing out of my pointe shoes like a batch of dough that had too much yeast. I will never forget that pain. I used the barre to lift myself up; anything to relieve the pressure.

The heat from the window, my empty stomach, the dizzying smell of paint, and the loaves of bread that I called feet. Something inside me was dying. I think it was my passion. When I took my shoes off after that God-forsaken rehearsal, I rested my chin on my knees and tenderly rubbed my bloody toes. My mom always said it looked like my feet had been through a meat grinder. I preferred a cheese grater analogy.

I came back to Washington and quit dancing six months later. I got a job, and a boyfriend. I became normal. I now teach at a local studio and I am a teacher in Whitworth’s dance ministry, Jubilation.

The passion that I have now is so different. I am so much more fulfilled. I can look into my future and know that I won’t have to worry about how having a baby might endanger my chances of being able to return to work. I don’t have to worry about my career ending at age 35.

I would do it all over again. I would not be who I am today without my dancing.

I started out like these, shiny and new. The sport broke me down to this, ragged and worn. I learned that some things aren’t worth pursuing. But most importantly, I learned that you have to remember to take your shoes off and breathe.

Taylor Ann Oddino was born in California and finds herself torn between the golden Promised Land of Cali and the enchanting forests of the Pacific Northwest. She has lived in Spokane since she was a little girl and decided to study journalism, communications, and French at Whitworth University. In her spare time, she teaches dance, practices yoga, cheers for the Seahawks, and spends time with her lovely family and friends.

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