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The Parent Trap, it was not. But sleepaway ballet camp taught a lesson for a lifetime.

By Leah Eskin
April 08, 2021
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S’Mores Squares
Credit: Jason Donnelly

THE HAPPY CAMPER knots lanyard, rows canoe and toasts marshmallow with verve. My camp snubbed such clichés. We pulled on leotards early and kicked off toe shoes late, feet and feelings sore. Though our days were tempered by tall pines and cool breezes, we focused solely on sweat.

Six days a week, the Level I girls followed the Level IIs in their pirouettes and poise. The Level IIs followed the Level IIIs, all arched eyebrows and endless extensions. The Level IIIs followed the ballet master, one powerful arm drawing arcs with the orange point of his cigarette.

Sunday mornings, we walked into town to wash our tights, buy foot ointment and sneak chocolate. Sunday afternoons, we edged down to the stream. Wobbling into the icy water, we shed our labels. We were girls.

The current slid, swirled and leapt. We tipped our swim masks under the rush to admire the quiet stones below. One mask floated loose, took on water and sank. Treading and bobbing, we devised a plan. On the count of three we'd all duck, plunge and grab it. We ducked, plunged and hesitated.

The mask waited on the bottom. The girls waited in the deep, palms wide, eyes wide, each expecting the other to act. It came to me as a surprise: I could be the one to dig down, snag the strap and surface triumphant.

I wasn't a Level III dancer. I wasn't a Level II. But I could lead. And that was well worth a summer of sweat.

S'mores Squares recipe These bars are my grown-up spin on a campfire classic: buttery graham cracker crust, chocolate mousse, toasty meringue.