Pointe to Point
Alejandra spent her life building a successful career and mastering the art of ballet in cosmopolitan Mexico City. When an exchange semester did not go as planned, she realized there was a wild landscape beyond city life that was waiting for her to discover. The door to adventure in the Rocky Mountains was opened, along with a new sense of self.
The river roared. My heart pounded as I desperately tried to get air into my lungs while my kayak and I were dragged towards the falls ahead. I caught a glimpse of my partner on the shore. “Glen, help!” I yelled as I reached for him with my paddle. This would be yet another adventure I would tell my coworkers about on Monday.
At age four, I set foot into a ballet studio for the first time. My parents said right from the start that if I began a year of studying ballet, I had to finish. There would be no talk of quitting. Ballet lessons were not something my family could easily afford, but seeing how excited I was to learn, they made it work.
At eleven, I earned the chance to wear my first pointe shoes. This was no easy step. The process of fabricating the shoes, finding the right fit and preparing the body to dance on tiptoe is intricate and involved. Bones need to be developed, muscles need to be strong, and the dancer’s technique must be precise. When I went up on pointe for the first time, my body went rigid. I couldn’t smile like ballerinas do on stage. Just when I thought I knew how to dance, I realized I had a long way to go. I felt exactly like that when I moved to Canada on January 1, 2016.
The first time I visited here was on an exchange semester in university. I had chosen to go to England, but that option was cancelled and replaced with the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. A list of first experiences created the best several months of my life. By the end, I was in love with this place and I knew I would return.
After graduating in Mexico, I had a fancy job. Overall, life was good. I knew the dance of the big city and I was confident about it, but Alberta was calling. Eventually, I left everything behind and moved to Calgary, again as a student.
For years, I was unable to find the rhythm of this new dance. I went from having a well-paying job to being a broke student. I constantly felt defeated and frustrated, but as my parents taught me, I would not quit until I figured out the moves myself. I realized I needed to stop dancing ballet to a two-step song.
I threw myself into all sorts of mountain sports: scrambling, snowboarding, climbing. With every new pair of shoes or boots I laced on, I hurt, just like when I was eleven. I had never been so bruised and sore since learning to dance on pointe, but I also had never felt such satisfaction. Each week I returned to work with an exciting story of adventure. I had transitioned from clean pink pointe shoes and a perfect bun to a sweaty face and messy mountain hair. I was offered my dream job in Banff, and I continued to establish my passion for the outdoors. Through that passion, I met my partner who saved my life on the river that day.
Although a retired dancer, I will always be a ballerina. Now my pointe shoes look different, depending on the activity I choose for the weekend, but it is in these new shoes that I find peace and a sense of belonging. It took a lot of practice, blisters, sweat and tears to be where I am today, just like when I first tried to stand on pointe.
With the Rocky Mountains as my stage, I am finally getting the hang of this Canadian dance.
Alejandra Sanchez was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. She lived the big-city life for 25 years. In 2016, she moved to Canmore, Alberta, trading giant skyscrapers for vast mountains. She now spends most of her free time exploring.