Living and Learning in London

The day I arrived in London I felt like I stood apart from the crowd. In my mind, I looked very American and moving to a big city for the first time in my life wasn’t helping.

A little over a month later, (yes I can’t believe I’ve been here for over a month too) I realize I was so naïve to have thought that. There is so much diversity here and in every way imaginable from accents, ethnicity, fashion, and social class anything you can think of and London has it. But, I’ve never felt so out of place in my life as I did at the ballet.

A few nights ago I went to the ballet at the Royal Opera House in London with some of the students in my program. I had previously expressed my interest of going to a ballet, and they surprised me that morning with an extra ticket for me. From all the things I would like to do during my time in London, going to a ballet was one of them.

So far, I’d only been to several plays in London and I thought a ballet and a musical were next on the list. I was so excited to learn my dream was coming true, and so there I was, making my way to the venue later that night. I felt so good and happy of doing something new. It’s a feeling I’ve had nearly everyday, but this was different. I knew going to a ballet would be a big deal and so I was wearing my Sunday best. We all decided to get all dressed up for the occasion, and as we walked around Covent Garden where the Royal Opera House is my excitement was building up too much! For one, I love Covent Garden. It is such a fun place to be at with all the street performers, high end stores, and the hip and young scene. So many times had I walked around Covent Garden and admired the colorful energy of the place, but I was finally going to go inside the opera house since before I could only admire it from outside.

We walked in and I was breathless. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I have to admit I had a knot in my throat. I never thought a girl like me would be in a place like that. I was so emotional at that time, and so honored that someone like me was actually in the Royal Opera House about to watch a ballet. I would have never imagined that to happen in a million years, but thanks to our cheap tickets of only 9 pounds and the Gilman scholarship, I was able to do just that.

Of course, this happiness also came with its insecurities. I come from a very low income family, and it’s something I’ve never been ashamed of. But in this case, I felt out of place and like I could really stick out from the crowd. My outfit, which was my best clothes I own were like rags compared to everyone else. There were middle class people at the ballet as well, but the majority were very wealthy. They looked just the way I’ve always thought aristocrats would look like. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to label or say that all wealthy people look and dress a specific way in which they are expected, but they definitely looked like blue bloods. I really can’t explain it, but the way they carried themselves just screamed “rich.”

The women were wearing the most elegant clothing I have ever seen. They had floor length gowns, jewels, fur coats, and diamonds on. I only wish I could explain this so much better, but I suddenly felt very small. It was clear that we weren’t from the same world, and it was obvious I was invisible to them. My low class status has never been a problem to me, but for that split second I felt like an intruder. I felt like I was trying to be and mingle with people who have had a very different experience in life than I have.

This feeling only intensified when we found our seats. I knew our tickets were for the standing seats because only that could explain their low price, but after witnessing the other extravagant audience members I felt even smaller. It reminded me of “The Globe” because we toured the theater a few days before the ballet, and I remembered the tour guide telling us the poor stood to watch Shakespeare’s plays. And I suddenly started to see myself as the peasant, until the ballet began.

I was also starting to worry about the ballet itself. It wasn’t just the fact that I know nothing of dance, but my insecurities made me believe a person like me would never be able to understand such a cultured activity. I was so wrong. Within two minutes I was swept away by the dancing and music. I was so captivated I completely forgot about my insecurities. I had eyes for nothing but the dancers, and I cried and laughed for them as they danced. I never imaged ballet to be this way. I knew they would involve a story, but I never imagined it to be such powerful storytelling or that so much acting was involved. The dancers didn’t just use their body in movement to tell the story, they used facial expressions and their eyes. Somehow, you just know what their telling you.

I’ve always been a supporter of the arts, but after the ballet I’ve become more passionate. The arts have always found the way of uniting people. It brings people together regardless of race and social class. And the most beautiful part was seeing everyone having at least one thing in common, the love for the arts.

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