Taking the Leap


Senior Ginger Miller does her ballet routine.

Mya Jones, Staff Writer

In August of 2020 for her senior year, Ginger Miller returned to Center Grove, reverting back to a “normal” life and reconnecting with old friends and family. For the past two years, she had been in Philadelphia, attending the Rock School for Dance Education – a very prestigious and well-known school within the ballet industry. 

After an extended period of time at home away from home, she made the decision to end her ballet career and come back to Indiana, reconciling with everything and everyone that at one time, she had left to pursue a passion. 

Miller started dance when she was just four years old, but solely tap and jazz. She decided to try ballet when she was twelve years old, which is typically a late start for most ballet dancers, due to the restrictiveness of the sport. Eventually, just three years later, she decided she wanted to excel in her new passion. 

“I knew I had to find a way to place myself in an atmosphere that would allow for completely immersing myself in ballet,” she said. “It’s such a consuming thing and if you want it, you have to be all in – no other distractions or desires.”

   Additionally, Miller knew the competitiveness of the field she so longed to be part of. 

   “It’s nearly impossible to get a career in ballet without attending professional training school,” Miller said. “This kind of school is nowhere to be found in Indy so I knew going into it I was going to be looking at schools in other states. I knew about the Rock School, and I just decided to go for it. I didn’t have anything to lose.” 

   So, she auditioned for the Rock School, and she got in. She then was faced with a major decision to make as just a young teen girl – a decision that would require loads of responsibility, dedication, sacrifice and risk-taking. This decision would mean leaving behind the people she loved the most and everything she had ever known. However, she was looking to take the path that would lead her to her dream. 

   Although the future was uncertain and scary, Miller took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, packed her bags, and moved to Philadelphia all on her own with one goal in mind – to become a professional dancer. 

“I was serious about this goal, and I knew I would never reach it without taking the next step. I knew this was my next step,” Miller said. 

After attending a summer program for six weeks in New York City, she officially became a student at the Rock School in Philadelphia. This time period not only prepared her physically and mentally for the competitive field she was bound to enter, but also allowed her to adapt to living in a big city by herself as safely and comfortably as possible. However, Miller was already a fairly independent teen due to her parents raising her in such a way. 

“My parents have always been kind of like, ‘figure it out yourself, kid.’ Not in a bad way; they just want me to be able to take care of myself as a life skill. So some things weren’t difficult,” Miller said. “Still, moving across the country solo as a 15-year-old girl has its challenges, no matter how capable and independent you are.” 

She noted the difficulty of taking care of legality things. Because she was a minor, these things were messy. Things needed to be signed frequently, and her parents weren’t there to do it. Thankfully, she never had a serious injury that required a doctor’s visit, but if something had happened, taking care of that would have been complicated. 

A major emotional obstacle Miller faced throughout her experience was simply being away from home, despite her ability to avoid extreme homesickness. 

“Honestly, I don’t think I was ever really homesick. Obviously I missed being home but it wasn’t like a terrible misery,” Miller said. “It just sucked not being there for events and milestones. I wasn’t home for Easter or Thanksgiving, or my sweet sixteen. I got to come home for Christmas and had a couple weeks off before and after, so it equaled up to being home for a total of about four weeks. Even both summers, I attended a summer program. That sounds awful, but you get used to spending those big moments with the people around you. It became a home away from home.” 

She also recalled a more technical trouble in regards to being away, when she once had to make a trip home specifically for an orthodontist appointment. 

“I had braces for a time period when I was gone, so I remember one day I hopped on a plane and flew to Indy just to sit in a chair and have my orthodontist tell me my teeth looked great. Then, I had to fly back that same day because I couldn’t miss class,” she said. 

Miller explained the amount of pressure that came with being at the Rock School as well – high expectations, competitiveness, even a little bit of jealousy and, the biggest one of them all, stress. 

A lot of this stress came with the lack of time – time for school work, rest and let alone free time – with just Sundays off. 

“It can become super overwhelming very quickly. Ballet is all consuming. Even if you aren’t practicing in the studio at that moment, everything you do still impacts your training,” Miller said. “On our day off from ballet, if we had the time or energy, which was rare, we couldn’t just do things like go explore Philadelphia. We’d have to really plan everything. We can’t walk too far – our feet are already sore and that would tire us even more for the upcoming week. We can’t carry too much stuff – our shoulders would hurt and we wouldn’t be able to hold our arms up for the next few days. Every minute, you have to think about ballet.”

Another large portion of stress stemmed from the fact that you had to be okay with failing every single day. As Miller explained, the goal in ballet is perfection, which is, as Miller knows, unattainable. If a dancer couldn’t handle failing, they would be destroyed mentally. 

“You are literally set up to fail every single day. And you have to be able to accept that. You have to accept being a failure all the time, and know that it’s inevitable. You still have to show up and work hard, knowing that you’re never going to be perfect,” she said.

While there were expected downsides, there were also plenty of benefits. Her experience allowed her to step outside her comfort zone, grow as an individual, meet new people, and learn new things. 

“I met some incredible people that I still stay in touch with and plan to continue our friendships,” Miller said.  “I literally have friends from not only all around the U.S., but all around the world. That’s really cool because I have learned a lot about other cultures and backgrounds and stuff.”

   Miller also noticed differences in academics between public schools and the ballet school. 

“When you’re at a public high school, everyone is on a different path, and then of course you have the ones that just don’t care about anything,” Miller said. “In that atmosphere it can be hard to stay motivated when you’re sitting in class and the girl next to you never does her work and just complains the whole time.”

This reflection helped her to seek more value in the time that she spent at a place where everyone was like-minded. 

“It’s interesting when you’re constantly surrounded by people who have pretty much the exact same goals as you. At the Rock School, everyone was really driven and motivated and trying to achieve the same thing,” Miller said. “There’s a great amount of solidarity. The challenges you face as a ballet dancer are so different from any other hobby or career or sport. Other ballet dancers understand that struggle, so it’s nice to have that company. Everyone just gets it. You find your people,” Miller said. “With that, it’s extremely cutthroat and the competitiveness is insane.” 

The fierce battles that must be fought in order to be successful in the ballet industry took a major part in Miller difficult choice to take a final bow. 

“Job insecurity is a pressing issue. Not only does it take a lot of talent to strive, but you could also have everything you need talent-wise, and you still don’t make it,” she said. “You could spend four years with a company trying to get a job, and you do everything to get it and you still don’t get it… and a lot of times for arbitrary reasons. I could be the best dancer that they have, but I’m not tall enough to partner with the boys, so I can’t get the job because I’m a couple inches too short and I obviously can’t control that.” 

Along with this, Miller discussed another concern of hers in regards to choosing to continue her pursuit ballet – the political aspect. 

“Getting a job in ballet is way more than about how good you are. It’s also about what kind of connections you have – who you know, who trained you, what school you came from,” she said. “So you can do your very best to prepare, have so much talent and potential, and then not get a job just because the company isn’t familiar with your former teachers or where you came from. There’s so many other career choices out there that are promising and solely about your dedication and work ethic, which is something you control. You want to become a doctor, you go to med school, you pass the exams and you are a doctor.”

When taking the time to decide whether to quit or go on, she came to the conclusion that it just was no longer worth it to her to continue. 

“Pursuing the career of ballet is extremely risky, and obviously that was a risk I was willing to take, but it gets to a certain point where if you don’t completely love it 100%, the risks don’t outweigh the consequences,” she said. It’s just not worth it anymore unless it’s all you want. For me, it wasn’t all that I wanted anymore.”

This was another contribution to hanging up her slippers. Miller had other things she wanted to be involved in, and ballet wouldn’t allow her to take part in them. 

“I experienced the world outside of ballet for the first 13 years of my life, and I found myself missing that. I knew I wanted other things,” she said. “I love to dabble, I love academia, I love fine art. Ballet is so ‘one track,’ and I couldn’t handle that anymore because I have so many other passions and loves. You have to sacrifice everything for ballet, and what’s the point in that if it’s not all you want in your life? It was not an all-or-nothing for me anymore.”

 Miller recognizes the issues in the industry of ballet, and while her career may be over, the art of ballet still holds a special place in her heart. Now, in order to fulfill this love, she currently teaches a ballet class for young girls who may have the same dream that she once did. 

“I love ballet, the physical action of doing ballet. But, ballet as a concept… There are so many things wrong with it. It’s very corrupted,” she said. “If I still loved it in its entirety, I wouldn’t be here. I would be at my ballet school, and I would have taken the two trainees I was offered, but I didn’t. With that being said, I’ll always love the art of it.”