Recital 2023

Although I officially don’t work for our studio where classes are held anymore, I still attend and help with the annual recital in May.

It’s weird to say “I don’t work there anymore” since I work at the performance studio and am often going to the classes studio for one reason or another, and the distinction doesn’t really matter, but I had a great time saying it at rehearsals whenever anyone asked me something about the goings on since I didn’t know the answers because, ya know, I don’t work there. People often forget the two are separate since they’re so connected in many ways, but still, they are separate, and I work at one and not the other.

I attended the rehearsals so I would be able to see all my former student’s pieces in case I missed any on show day. I help Shay sell tickets to the performance and usually miss at least the first two dances which tend to be our most advanced dancers’ pieces. This way, I guarantee to not miss anything no matter the circumstances.

My friend Lillian, with whom I used to dance when I first started back in the day, did the photography for recital pictures. I was so elated to get to see her, and also to know that the kids would have good pictures this year. Last year’s photographer I’m sure is great for outdoors, but in a studio setting it was a struggle. Lillian knocked it out of the park, as I well knew she would, and I was so proud to see her rocking it. She and I were in Swan Lake together last time we did it, which was her last show with us and my second to last spring show. It’s wild to think how much has changed in that time, people I danced with and who are in stories I tell are people these kids don’t even remember or ever knew. So much feels the same, yet so much has changed.

Ain’t that just how it goes?

The theater where we perform is under new management this year, causing weird hiccups and issues like the dressing room incident at Cinderella last month. This time it included being told we couldn’t get into the box office because they “weren’t told we needed it” and “don’t have anyone here with a key to open it.” We were told they could set us up outside, in the south Texas heat, to sell tickets. This is all happening ten minutes to when we’re supposed to open and with a long line already forming. Where they set us up was weird as the table was up against the security line barrier, and we didn’t have enough time to get set up before they started letting people through security. We needed a plug to sell to people paying by credit card, which didn’t happen until almost 15 minutes after we were due to open, so a nice little crowd formed behind us of people waiting to buy tickets with credit cards. As soon as Shay got there with the tickets and cash box I started doing cash sales, but it was clunky and stressful. Then, no sooner we got the extension cord, a venue employee came over and told us he had a key to the box office and opened it for us. We shifted the line that way, with many apologies, and moved everything to the box office.

It ended up causing such a delay, mixed with various accidents people were caught up in and trouble parking due to graduations next door, that we had a line until 15 minutes after show was supposed to start. They delayed the start until our line was gone, but even still we stayed open selling tickets until intermission. I’ve never had that happen before. It made me extra glad I’d gone to rehearsal since I missed most of the dances that first day.

The second day went way better, and I was able to go watch after the second dance. I was really glad, too, because most of my former students were on the second day.

It’s a weird thing, no longer teaching but still being able to be involved in these kids lives. “Weird” in the best way. I’m so grateful to still have these opportunities to work at the performing studio and get to be at recital and see the kids who don’t do performances as well. There’s also many kids I didn’t teach but have gotten to know this past year through performances that I love to see as well.

I’ve almost been at Munro a decade, hitting the nine year mark this next season, meaning I first started teaching there eight years ago this next season. Some of these kids I had that first year when they were three, and taught every year until I had to stop. Time is a jerk, and it feels like it just flies by, but I’m so grateful to still be involved in their lives and getting to see them grow in this art form.

One of the most rewarding things is hearing the kids tell me little things, like saying I’m their favorite teacher they had or how much they loved my classes. Back then, I was just doing my best and hoping it mattered, but to be so many years down the road now and seeing that it did matter, it’s a feeling I can’t describe. Some of the kids have even come up to me, hugged me excitedly, asked to take selfies, and said, “It’s like seeing a celebrity. You’re our Taylor Swift!” to which I absolutely melt into a puddle because Taylor Swift is an absolute icon of a human and so incredibly genuine (many of my friends have met her and said she’s exactly as wonderful as you’d hope she’d be.) which I feel is evident by her actions over the years. What an honor to be considered in teen and preteen opinion with someone of that caliber.

How lucky am I?

It makes me excited for the few I get to continue to work with this summer, and excited for the season coming up, knowing they will be there and seeing them grow even more.

Life has been extremely difficult here lately, and the true honor and privilege of having these kids in my life is not lost on me. There are days when the kindness they show back to me is literally what keeps me going. They think I’m cool or whatever, but really they’re the cool ones, and I don’t know that they’ll ever realize how they encourage me. Seeing them strive and succeed is such a gift.

Jackie, one of my private lesson kids who was a former student, brought me flowers for teacher appreciation week. She’s recently homeschooled and, as she put it, “You’re my teacher, and I appreciate you!” It’s been weeks and the flowers are still alive. I pressed on, just to have forever. I was absolutely moved by this action, completely unexpected, and so grateful. How kind is that?

I’m grateful for the slower pace of summer. I’ll continue to go into the studio to do things that need doing, but with less hours than during show time. A perfect blend for the off season, I think. Every day I walk through those doors, my heart swells with gratitude. I’m grateful to younger me for taking the risk to try out ballet, and extremely grateful to the community around me. They are gifts.

In personal health updates (trigger warning from here on for talk of food, etc,) those that have been around a while will know I’ve struggled with health junk throughout, (check out the “health” category for some of the relevant posts) especially since my gallbladder came out almost a decade ago when, we’ve learned, it was perfectly fine and could have stayed. In that, there’s a list of foods I can’t eat and it’s been difficult to find a dietary balance. I’ve learned I have MCAS (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) which caused my issues for which they took the gallbladder in the first place (and had doctors taken me serious about my EDS theories we might have learned that earlier) and having that knowledge has improved my life significantly, but today I have new knowledge.

I can eat walnuts.

Since my gallbaldder was removed, I haven’t been able to eat nuts, pork, avocados, or chickpeas. This week I did a random google search trying to find if there’s any “good fats” I can eat I stumbled upon a blog post that listed out the different kinds of fats food contains and what each does for our bodies. In that, I learned that unsaturated fats can be broken down into two different categories; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. This article gave a few examples of each and I realized all the things I can’t eat fall under monounsaturated fats. I formed a theory that maybe it’s monounsaturated fats my body can’t tolerate now, so I tested that theory by trying walnuts, the only nut on the polyunsaturated list. And, wouldn’t you know it, I had zero reaction.

This is huge for me.

Not only does it open up options for food choices, it opens up options for ways to get vital nutrients I’ve been missing out on for years. And it gives me understanding, which has been a game changer. Now I don’t need to be as afraid of food. I can approach new things with better confidence, knowing what it is that’s causing the reaction and avoid the things that trigger it between MCAS and monounsaturated fats. I’ve looked up the rates of mono- versus polyunsaturated fats in all the things that have triggered me, and found that chickpeas actually have a lesser amount of mono-, though still considerable at 19% (versus 66% poly-) and I’m evaluating trying those one more time to see if it was what gave me the worst reaction years ago or perhaps it was something else I didn’t know to consider since that happened before I knew about MCAS. If I do, it won’t be until probably late summer, as I want to give my body time to adjust to adding in walnuts.

Overall, a great week over here in my neck of the woods. I’m encouraged for the first time in years about my health, which is something I didn’t even dare hope for before.

I hope you all are well.

Until next time!


Cinderella 2023

Now that I’ve had a few days to pretend like I’m recovering, I’m finally sitting down to type up the blog post for Cinderella.

We had one weekend of shows; a school show on Friday, an evening show on Saturday, and a matinee on Sunday with rehearsals at the theater peppered between.

There were many bits that were exhausting and overwhelming, but all things considered this show went substantially better than Nutcracker did this past December. Maybe because I’m more confident in what I’m doing, maybe because the cast is smaller, maybe because it’s only one weekend, maybe a combination of these things and others–who knows. All I know is I’m grateful.

I’m also extremely grateful for the dance parents who have been absolutely phenomenal in giving of their time and energy to help make this show run smoothly. I can guarantee that their efforts contributed to how smoothly these shows went, and how much less stressful it was for me personally. They’re rock stars and my gratitude knows no bounds.

These rehearsals were long, and many of the dancers are young and not used to it, yet they handled it with grace and endurance. Much of the time they ended up being released early, but even then it wasn’t something we could know until rehearsals got started and we knew what areas needed work and which looked good.

I was a “Wig Maker” in the show, helping one of the Step-sisters in the Dressing Scene by putting the wig on after two other dancers got her ball gown on. Roles like this are really fun for me as you get the opportunity to really make the role your own. With one of the step-sisters, we brainstormed little bits we could do to make it funnier, like getting giant tweezers and “tweezing her face” as well as filing her nails and such. I also brought a giant feather I had to act as a quill a la Lady Whistledown from Bridgerton. The whole scene lasted maybe three minutes or so, and they decided to let us bow at the end. This took me by surprise, as usually first act scenes don’t bow at the end of second act, especially a little bit part like this, but I can see why, given that if we didn’t we would literally be the only ones in the show not bowing.

I called my costume, affectionate, “The Potato” as it was this big brown thing. Mrs. Jane made me a really great bonnet to go with it and, coming in clutch, her husband Jim made me way better “tools” to use for the face plucking and nail filing. What I had before were long and sharp. How literally none of us recognized the danger these things posed is beyond me, but Mrs. Jane saved the day and have Mr. Jim make me big sparkly props that were absolutely fantastic–and in two hours, no less. I kept them, and am quite fond of them. Their entire family really means a lot to me, making sure I’m taken care of and informed, even walking me to my car after late shows since they know I’m alone. Little things that add up to a whole lot.

While I’m quite proud of the dancers as a whole, for their various personal triumphs and accomplishments, there’s two in particular I want to write about.

There were two sets of Step-sisters, the Saturday night set being a set of our Principal dancers, and the Sunday set being two of our soloists.

Jessica, in the green dress (the one I wigged up,) is a fellow adult ballerina, though she didn’t begin as an adult. She’s built her way up and when she and her husband moved to Corpus, she joined us here at CCB. I first met her last year when I wore a University of Kansas jacket and she came up and said, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk?” and I excitedly exclaimed, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!” We’ve been friends ever since.

Last year I watched as she danced roles with some of the high school girls, having the best attitude and outlook on it all, lighting up the stage with her presence. I can’t even remember what her Nutcracker roles were, as some of the high school girls were no doubt cast above her, but when the cast list came out for Cinderella, I saw her name as a step sister and said, “oh, PERFECT.” Because it is. Casting Jessica as a step sister is absolutely perfect, which was only further confirmed with each rehearsal. The comedy she brought to the role often had me forgetting to go back to the office when I popped into the studio for something or another, instead being drawn in by her performance. So often in ballet, beautiful and talented dancers can end up overlooked for one reason or another, usually nothing personal though it can feel deeply as such, and seeing that happen can be really disheartening, let alone feeling it. But seeing Jessica completely nail this role so perfectly was extremely rewarding. She and Kaelin played off each other so well and you could tell they were having so much fun.

Speaking of Kaelin, she’s the other one I want to write about in this post. The step sister with the orange dress, she and I didn’t interact in our small scene, other than a quick glance in character, but watching her had me absolutely beaming with pride.

Kaelin was one of the little nuggets when I first started dancing at Munro. I remember waiting for my classes and peeking in through the window to watch their level II’s class when they first barely got their pointe shoes. She was a villager my first Spring show in Wizard of Oz and it was quickly evident what a delight she was (and is.) I watched as Kaelin looked up to the “big girls” as she danced, watched her recital dances through the years, watched her be called up as a back up understudy in my last role in which I was an understudy put in the very first rehearsal, watched her take on the roles I did, and watched as she surpassed my skillset. I watched her do Dew Drop on an injury, trying to find the tricky balance between enduring while risking further injury and taking a step back for recovery. Having the injury so close to shows, she endured, and thankfully the risk was worth it. And now I had the extreme honor of watching her take the challenge of such an advanced role, shared with one of our top Principal dancers, and completely rock it, making it look easy, even. I watched the little dancers watch her, one of the “big girls,” and see how their faces glow as she acknowledges them, some of them her students, others not. I heard their whispers of how cool they think she is and saw them trying to do the moves she did in the aisles.

When you have a young group of dancers, you have thoughts about what these kids could grow to be. You see their skills and drive, or lack thereof, and can sometimes guess which ones will continue on and which ones won’t. Kaelin has always had the drive, and she’s honed her skills over the years by paying attention and making the most of every opportunity. She’s not a kid anyone would have expected to just be handed these things, but worked her way up through the ranks, a normal dancer who had the endurance and self discipline to keep going, and now she gets to reap the rewards of her hard work. It’s been an absolute joy watching her as a step sister, and also seeing her as the Fairy Godmother during school shows, and even stepping up to cover Lead Star when Haeleigh hurt her foot the week of shows while working on recital in class. (:( my heart is sad for Haeleigh.) She has risen to the occasion and I couldn’t be more proud.

There’s loads of dancers I’m proud of who have taken great responsibility and really risen up this show, and some who have endured some really difficult things, dancing while their heart is breaking. I wish I could do more to reward them for their efforts.

After school show, we brought back a school whose teacher used to dance with us. It was so much fun seeing their reactions to the costumes and backdrops and props up close, and even more fun seeing Chrisi, our Cinderella that show who also knew Holly, the teacher, talk the kids through what it takes to make a production happen. Their eyes filled with wonder and Chrisi’s gentle instruction was a joy to behold, some of our dancers even being entranced by her explaining how she prepares her shoes to dance. The whole scene was so magical and heartwarming.

On Sunday, we had a big thunderstorm roll through, causing some localized flooding and the power to flicker before shows started. We were all on pins and needles, unsure of what might actually happen during the show and hoping against all hope the power would stay on and the audience would still show up. Thankfully, we didn’t have the orchestra, as the basement definitely flooded, and the power stayed on past the one flicker about an hour before curtain.

On Saturday, one of my favorite stories I’ll tell forever occurred.

James, who was our Step Mother, had his dressing room on the same floor as the stage. Around the corner, in fact. Somehow, the lock engaged on the handle, making him unable to get inside his dressing room after the ball scene to change back into his regular dress. We asked security if they could get someone to unlock it. They tracked down the lady with the keys and she came to unlock it, but didn’t have the correct keys. I asked James what he would do, and he had me hook his dress back up and said, “I’ll just make it work” in such a calm and composed manner. A true professional. I told him I’d wait for her to come back and bring his dress over. His cue, of course, was on the other side of the stage, and I had absolutely zero clue when he went back on, but tried not to worry about it. The lady got back and, about four or five tries later, got the right key and opened it. I thanked her, grabbed the dress, and looked around for anything else, spotting his wig/headpiece combo and grabbing it as well. Then, I ran, waving the wig so he’d see me coming, trying not to clomp backstage as I was in my character shoes. Tim, a hairdresser who was also the Head Wig Maker in the production (among other things) got his dress unhooked. James stepped into the costume, I shoved in his petticoat as Tim started working on switching out the wigs and headpieces. I got James’s skirt hooked and tried to start on the dress, my hands shaking, when someone behind me said, “start at the top!” And thankfully they did, my brain spaced and I hadn’t even thought of that. I told James I would keep going until his cue. Joe, our stage manager, came over with a flashlight and I went as fast as I could, taking about two tries on each of these bajillion hooks and eyes, feeling more hopeful with each one. As I got the last one fastened, I let James know I was done, and literally without a second to spare, he walked on in perfect timing for his cue. I looked at Tim, and said something like, “did we just pull that off?” then doubled over as the adrenaline coursed through my body.

I couldn’t recreate that if I tried. Had I stopped long enough to doubt or wonder if I’d have enough time, had I not ran, had she not had the right keys the second time, had I forgotten the headpiece–any of it and I’m sure loads more–it wouldn’t have worked, yet James sauntered on as if nothing happened out of the ordinary and the audience was none the wiser.

I have no doubt had James gone on in his ball dress he would have made it work, but I’m glad we were able to pull it off.

…and I just answered the phone at my courthouse job as “Corpus Christi Ballet,” so on that note, I’m gonna leave you with pictures and sign off. Please note, we got a good laugh at my mix-up.

Angel Begins.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but of course life sometimes makes that difficult.

I’m so grateful and so glad to be able to have my blog active again, yet my health junk–the fatigue in particular–can sometimes make it difficult to get words out the way I want them. Also, I have to be a little more careful and aware of what I’m writing since I work there now, but that’s not entirely difficult. (Just means some of my best stories I’m not allowed to share. Which is fair. How’s that for suspense? Hah!)

One that I am able to share happened about a month ago.

I teach private lessons to a few of the dance kids, most of them my former students. One sweet little nugget I began working with this season is my little ray of sunshine. She is a delight to work with as she loves dance so much and is very aware and astute in her observations during rehearsals.

After we started lessons, her mom, who I have developed a dear friendship with since this past Nutcracker, approached me with a question,

“Would you consider teaching an adult beginner?”

If you’ve been around a while or read any of my posts, you’ll know why this had me absolutely delighted. This is literally my entire ballet shtick. It’s how this blog is “a thing” and how I’ve managed to meet many of my dearest friends. My heart absolutely swelled knowing she was unknowingly asking me to also join this wonderful world of beginning ballet as an adult, learning to dance because your heart begs for it, and fulfilling that desire for the younger version of you that for whatever reason wasn’t allowed to.

The next week, we began.

It was an absolute thrill to work with Angel. To be on the other side of this; I was once the student, and now I’m the teacher. I was once the adult beginner, and now I’m teaching one. The full-circle moment is something beyond words, and something I truly cherish. Especially teaching someone like Angel, who is every bit what her name suggests. My life is already better having her in it, and now we get to share something that’s so sacred to me personally. It’s beautiful.

It was also interesting coming into it with the perspective I have; remembering what it felt like to be a complete beginner as a “grown up,” how your brain makes connections in different ways, but is capable of soaking up new information even if that stereotype is generally reserved for children.

We went through the positions of the arms and feet, separately then together. I explained that we mainly work out of first and fifth, that fourth and second are used more in center and choreography and in between movements of steps, and that for us personally we don’t use third much but it’s still important to learn so you know when someone asks for fifth, it’s not third. I explained how there’s different versions of third for your arms, depending on what you’re doing, but that we’d get into that later. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, and this was a lot of information, even if it’s literally the very basis. It’ll one day be second nature to her, but first it has to be introduced.

Then we went on to the basic steps I teach all my students: Plie, releve, tendu, pique, passe, soute, echappe. I talked through them and explained, giving different funny examples that helps my brain remember the details about them. She soaked it up like a sponge, making connections from what she’s witnessed in her daughters dancing and applying it to her own. It was really cool to get to watch.

From there we did some floor work. I mainly did this by asking what she’d like to work on and learn. We started with pique turns, which she picked up really well. We began the process by doing pique passe across the floor, getting used to the motion, thinking through making sure our knee is straight when we pique the standing leg and having a strong proper passe on the working leg. Then we added in the turning motion. Since Angel is an adult, I explained that it’s technically a 3/4 turn, showing how you prepare for the next turn by coming down at the right moment to place you where you need to be. By the end, she was rocking them.

We did a few other things, and ended with Grand Jete’s. I showed her the arm positions, showed how there’s different ways to get into them (as she’d witnessed with her daughter) and she went for it. She had beautiful height, straight knees, pointed toes even. Her arms were where they needed to be, all was going so well.

Then on the last one, she landed and we heard a pop.

Calmly, she hopped on the other foot, saying she thinks she rolled her ankle. We sat down and evaluated the situation, talked through what just happened, I told her she was doing the step properly and it looked really good. We told stories, she laughed, as casually as though we were sharing stories of flowers we’d seen in a field or something. She felt around on her foot, seeing if she could point it and such, then she said she felt something pop again.

One trip to urgent care later and turns out, she broke it. My friend Lillian had a similar injury a few years back when I was still dancing, and she managed it when she was doing an italian pas de chat–sort of similar in how the foot comes down and where.

Yet Angel is not deterred. This one set back isn’t going to stop her from pursuing what she desires. She’s not foolish enough to ignore the fact her body is telling her something, and we will change up our approach and what steps we will work on once her foot has healed, but she’s eager to get back to work once she’s cleared.

I admire her, both for her tenacity and for her honoring her body and limitations. So often people just exploit inspiration without considering stepping back is okay and sometimes what is wise. It doesn’t always mean you have to give up what you love, but it may mean it looks differently than before.

With my own health, it’s been difficult dealing with what I’m sure are well meaning comments from people, trying to tell me I could keep dancing if I just put my mind to it, expecting me to be driven enough to be like these “inspiring” people who fight through whatever and put their bodies through hell to achieve x, y, and z. While there’s no doubt I am driven, I also recognize that my body doesn’t give a crap about that. I have limits, and that’s okay. I’ve been lucky enough to manage to be given opportunities that keep me involved in the ballet in ways I never thought possible. They’re also ways that may have made past me sad to think about; being on the sidelines while I watch everyone do what I love. But from this vantage point, from the way my story played out, I can look back on the days I danced with gratitude and pride, being so grateful to past me that I started when I did, giving me time to do what I so badly desired before I was unknowingly approaching a time when I would be unable to. I look at where I am and realize what an absolute privilege it is to be where I am, that the path I took was a unique one, making me qualified and setting me up to fill this role in ways that aren’t typical.

Had I listened to the doubters, I would have been deprived of such a wonderful and arguably my favorite part of my life, not even knowing what I was sacrificing.

It’s not that the before was better, but that the entire story is a beautiful one. One I’m proud of.

The next time I saw Angel, I brought her one of my “Begin.” shirts I still have from when I was selling them. This is just the beginning for her. This part isn’t the end of her dance story, it’s just a chapter in it. It’s just one blog post of many as she continues on.

I’m so proud of her, and truly honored to get to be a part of it, thrilled to get to have a front row view of her progress.

Stay tuned.

behind the scenes magic

I intended to write this post last month, but after 3.5 years of avoiding it covid hit me. I did better than I expected with it, for which i’m incredibly grateful and recognize my privilege in that. I think the avoidance for so long helped me personally so it was more mutated by the time I actually got it, but I know for some people that doesn’t matter. what a difficult time to live in and navigate.

In the in between of Nutcracker and auditions for Spring Show, I didn’t see many people, but a few people came by for various things. One raffle prize winner has a granddaughter that dances with us. When she arrived to pick up her prize, we got into conversation about the productions and the discipline that goes into it as well as the magic. I asked if she had ever been in the studio, she said only to drop her granddaughter off. I offered her a tour which she gladly accepted.

From the foyer of our studio, you walk through a costume room with tutus and character dresses and rat heads hanging from the ceiling and carefully stacked. Many times the dancers walk passed it without a second thought, used to the sight of of the stacks of fabric they pass by week after week, some pausing to comment on what animal they were as 7 year olds or the seemingly endless years of villager roles, but most rushing past to the studio without a second thought.

This lady gasped; she was in complete awe of the vastness of it. I pointed out a few costumes from recent ballets, talked about the fire we had in the 1990s and showed some of the costumes that survived that we still use and which ones we got from Louisville Ballet after that have held up so well over the last 30 years of constant use with who knows how many years of use before that.

From there I walked her through the break room and showed her the studio. A room we are so familiar with its easy to forget how impressive it is. A converted warehouse, there’s a weight-bearing support structure in the middle of the front of the floor, one each dancer is all too familiar with avoiding while rehearsing and having to adjust to its absence when we’re on stage.

There’s a wall of thick cubed windows, made in a way you can’t see through them but allow a beautiful amount of natural light to come in, and a back wall of mirrors with curtains pulled back and tucked behind the barres when not in use. The lady was so impressed, speaking to how awe inspiring it was to see the place where we work in the lead up to performances. We talked about the process and how things translate from there to stage, seeing the light in her eyes bringing a smile to my face.

It truly is magic.

It’s easy to forget when it’s something you’re so closely involved in, something you’re so used to dedicating so much of your time to, something you experience so often. If we allow ourselves to take a step back and notice the magic flowing all around us, remember the first time we were involved, remember how we felt the first time we put on a tutu, remember our excitement with goals we achieved—remember the magic—we can bring a little bit of that with us and translate it onto the stage. Sometimes we need to take a step back and realize how incredibly lucky and privileged we are to be involved in something like this at all, and for us specifically at our studio to be under the tutelage of such a legendary teacher.

Of course, there will be downs along with the ups, and there is cause to feel and process the not-so-magical parts of this world. There’s disappointment and difficulty and long, long days. There are things completely out of our control and things that feel personal but aren’t, some I remember all too well (aye swifties) from my own experiences. However, the conclusion I came to is I dance for me. Ballet is what I make it. For some people, that includes a change of some form, a move, an adjustment, a program elsewhere than their home studio, a shake up in their routine. For others, it’s a mentality shift, a step back, a perspective change.

What you bring to ballet is your legacy to it. And if you bring your best, if you work hard, if you do it for you, that’s a beautiful legacy to leave, and you should be proud of yourself on that.

Today as I go back to the studio for rehearsals, sitting at my desk in the office and flitting back and forth from the studio for various tasks, i’ll choose to remember the magic, to hold the memories of the days when my body let me move freely close, and appreciate the privilege it is to have involvement still even with my limitations.

Nutcracker, 2022

My intentions were to write one post for each weekend, full of all the little details I love to remember and hate to forget so I could go back on them in the future and remember this year of shows, but clearly that didn’t happen.

In truth, I was a bit afraid there for a bit that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to write at all this year. That fact alone broke my heart to even consider. I decided, instead, not to force it and hope that time would relieve me of the block that was forming and allow me to have a post full of those happy little details, and one I actually want to look back on. Thankfully, that is what happened, and thankfully, that will be the majority of this post.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least reference what caused the shift in intentions last weekend. Turns out, it’s my own humanity. This is my first year actually working for the ballet, and while I had a general idea of much of what goes on, I didn’t fully know the execution. Most of it was fairly cut and dry on how to go about it all and make it happen, but there were a few things with which I didn’t really know what to expect.

Add into that mix the fact the internet went out the week things were beginning to come due, causing us to not have access to internet, phones, printing tickets, credit card machines, or our regular printer, all of which we eventually found clunky work-arounds to except for the phones, but not until I was already an entire weekend worth of turn ins behind and learning I put the wrong due date on a form.

Because of this, I put in extra hours to catch up, on occasion working nearly 80 hour weeks between my two jobs. If you’ve been here any length of time, you’ll know I’m chronically ill. If you’ve been here since the “before” times, you’ll know I had to quit my previous full time job because it was too much to handle with my health issues. Thankfully, I was able to manage decently enough health-wise, largely due to the help I had from volunteers, but I found myself heading home after long days with no memory of what I had done. I couldn’t recall the details, the brain fog settling so deeply I was basically going off muscle memory, relying on logs to keep the record my brain wasn’t able to do. It was frustrating and at times scary, not to mention setting off my newly diagnosed OCD since I felt I didn’t have the control over the situation considering I can’t do too much about what my body does when I’m pushing it to it’s limits.

And, of course, errors were made. They weren’t brought to my attention in ugly or hateful ways, the people were by and large extremely kind about it, or at least civil. By the point that happened on Saturday, I was at a breaking point I hadn’t even realized I was reaching. It wasn’t until I sat next to two of my friends who asked how I was that my throat tightened and my eyes betrayed me. I’m not one to cry, but once the dam broke I couldn’t seem to get it to stop. Then, my brain started to do a number on me, telling me all those things I was afraid of happening, happening, were because I was a failure, blah blah blah.

Thankfully, in all this, I’ve had wonderful people around me. I work for a company that doesn’t berate me or even blame me for what happened. Their concern is rectifying with apology and moving forward, learning from our mistakes and doing better next time. They understand we are humans and humans are flawed and that mistakes happen. I kept expecting to be chastised and verbally beat over the head like I had been at previous places of employment, but that never happened here.

When I first started teaching classes however many years ago, I was struck by how well I was treated there. It was teaching that showed me the standard I should hold for myself and gave me the boldness to leave former places of employment that weren’t at the level of how I deserve to be treated. And now, I’m finding the same is true on this side of things. To say I’m grateful is an understatement.

I also had an army of dance moms at my side, a choice few in an inner circle, gathering around me to support me and help pull me out of the spiral my brain began to take before it got too bad. Even as I was still allowing time to run it’s course and bring me back to the place of being “okay,” I was constantly floored by the kindness I was met with. The people we have here currently are gems, and I’m grateful to be among them.

Alright, so now that’s out of the way, lets get on to the many, many wonderful things this year brought. Considering this post is already this long, brace yourself for quite the lengthy continuation, though I’m sure some details will be forgotten since I waited. That’s okay.

When it came to school shows, I was working off a contact list that was from the “before times” of 2019. I did my best to update it, but wasn’t quite sure who to contact about reserving spots for the two performances. For a moment, there was even consideration to only have one show. However, the risk of having two shows proved worth it as the first was completely maxed out and the second was over half sold. The members of administration I worked with were absolutely lovely, making this learning experience a delightful one. They were also very understanding of all the complications with the prolonged internet outage.

School shows are my favorite, as they tend to be packed out, and the kids are so responsive, laughing and clapping and gasping at all the right times. Sometimes you’ll hear a comment from the audience that just makes your heart swell as you know they’re completely immersed in what’s happening on stage. Everyone danced so incredibly well, and starting out the season with such responsive audiences did much to boost our confidence and I stood back and watched as the kids in our scene came alive as we went through what we’ve rehearsed for countless hours at the studio over the weeks in the lead up. The two Clara’s danced beautifully, clearly enjoying every moment of their dreams being realized, dancing the role they’ve hoped they’d one day have the opportunity to embody.

The first Saturday’s show was a great full show kick off. Lauren, the youngest of the Clara’s, went on stage like a seasoned professional, hitting every step and giving such wonderful facial expressions and characterizations sometimes I forgot this is a role I’ve done and watched from this same spot for, what, six years now? She embodied the role in a way that set the tone for a fantastic run, truly becoming Clara and not just going through the motions of a role she’s been tasked with. It was a joy to watch.

The first Sunday’s show was also a knock out, extra impressive when you add in all the quirks that seemed to try and plague it. For starters, the air wasn’t set at the right temperature and backstage was absolutely sweltering, making the dancers make adjustments to handle it, causing particular issues with those dancers with asthma who navigated it all with grace and boldness to where no one was the wiser that anything could possible be amiss.

Sophia danced beautifully, even navigating an issue with the sleigh without skipping a beat where other dancers may let the unexpected change get the best of them. She opened second act on the sleigh, and as they brought it around something happened with the mechanics of it and she had to go back on without it, something they’ve never practiced or ran through, with about 15 seconds warning. You wouldn’t know if you didn’t know that anything was other than it should be. Sophia is a dancer I’ve known since she was a party girl, and gotten to know well since last year. I’m so proud of her for all she’s accomplished and all she’s endured to get to this point in her dancing, absolutely beaming backstage as I watched on second act like a proud aunt or something.

Second weekend of shows brings in the live orchestra, with only one of the two Clara’s being able to rehearse with them. McKenna, the one without the rehearsal, opened us up on Saturday with one of the best performances I’ve seen. Everyone seemed to be on their A-game, and the audience was the best show audience we’ve had in recent memory. They laughed, they gasped, they applauded at all the perfect times, boosting all of our confidences on stage. McKenna is a dancer I’ve known since she was itty bitty and a former assistant of mine when I was still teaching. Her older sister, Kaelin, was a Clara back, I believe, five years ago, and when Covid shut everything down in 2019 I was hopeful she wouldn’t get passed over. Then last year she found herself out with an injury and we all hoped taking the time to step back and recover would mean she would come back stronger. That’s exactly what she did, and watching her finally after so many delays and drawbacks dance this role she’s dreamed of was something that lead me to tears. She was so incredibly beautiful that I was covered in goosebumps any time I’d watch her in party scene, and absolutely speechless backstage during second act. Then, seeing her older sister Kaelin as lead Spanish, and her younger sister Cassidy as a Lilac, dancing with her and hugging her after the curtain drop, you’d be hard pressed to find a dry eye; their sibling bond one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. The entire family is absolutely lovely, and I’m so grateful to know them and watch the girls grow. To say I’m proud is an understatement.

Last night, at our last show, Kara was our Clara. Having recently moved from Austin to Corpus last year, she made the wise decision to audition for our spring show, Sleeping Beauty, where she could get a feel for how things run here and get to know some of the people. An absolute delight, we ended up being in scenes together and even next to each other for a big chunk of it, which I’m grateful for. I remember her asking about Nutcracker auditions and if it would be too late for her to try for Clara. I told her no, and to make sure she had great expression (which I had no doubt she would since she was so expressive in the spring show.) When cast list came out I was so thrilled for her, and even more so watching her dance her heart out this weekend. Orchestra weekend is often the most challenging since we usually rehearse to a recording and the timing difference of live music can throw some dancers off, however Kara handled it like a seasoned pro, giving the other dancers a great leader to follow in their dancing. She was absolutely beautiful, her dancing exquisite, and I’m so glad that she has joined our company as she truly is a wonderful human as well.

It wouldn’t be live “theater” without the occasional happenings to cause adjustment to make sure the show must go on. First weekend didn’t have too many, besides the sleigh mishap, but second weekend made up for it. First, our Clara’s Mother ended up testing positive for Covid on Friday, our first day back at rehearsals. She got it from her husband, who tested positive earlier in the week, so there wasn’t an immense risk to the company or the fear she picked it up from someone there and she’s recovering well. We did a bit of party parent cast shifting, as one Party Mom became Clara’s Mom, and we recruited one of our teachers whose done the role a few years ago. Then, our Auntie ended up sick, so her daughter, who was a Maid, jumped in to fill the role. On top of all the party scene changes, we had a Polichinelle end up sick, so my love Lilly, who was unable to audition due to an injury but has been recovering well, jumped in. It was, of course, the smallest Polichinelle, and thankfully Lilly, who is super tall, fit the costume, so it worked out well. Lilly is a Maid and she’s also the Nutcracker that salutes at the end, but being able to actually dance for a show was so fulfilling. I was incredibly proud of her. Jumping in to a role you haven’t done in a couple years, at the extreme last minute, and doing it so well is quite impressive. There was also a Mouse who,

We also had other dancers enduring unimaginable things, yet still finding the mental strength to endure through the shows, even when it was extremely difficult to do. I’m so proud of these dancers, more than I have words for.

I’ve done party scene for longer now than I danced in the corps de ballet, which is a wild concept. I only did three Nutcracker’s in the corps, but I have done four years as party parent. It would have been five had Covid not, ya know, done what it did. When I realized I had been a party mom so many years now, it blew my mind a bit. Time is wild, y’all.

This group of party kids were my favorite. Usually you have a mixed bag of kids that are super fun and kids that are more nervous or just stoic, but this year every single one of them was out there having the time of their lives. Our party kids brought their own characters into it, which made it easier and more fun to act alongside them for such a long scene, adding in little quips we’ve never thought to add before but I’m sure will carry on now. And, of course, we do the macarena during the overture to help with the nerves. Now we’ve gotten to the point where former party girls are Clara’s, so they joined in each night, as well as other dancers who were backstage. It’s my favorite tradition we do. McKenna even told me that joining in helped her keep the nerves at bay before her Clara night, which made me so happy. Last night we even had some of the Soldiers joining in on the other side of the stage, such a fun sight to see all of us connected in this thing across all the different roles and levels.

This was also the most fun I’ve had in party scene as a whole. I don’t even know what made it so much better this year, but I found myself genuinely laughing most of the time at one thing or another, enjoying every second we’re up there.

Behind the scenes, I got to help a lot more than usual. It brought an extra layer of joy to my heart, especially after the rocky start I had mentally, to be able to jump in and help this department or that department. When I started dancing eleven (goodness) years ago, I was nervous as heck, feeling like there wasn’t really a place for me. I fought that fear and kept going anyway, finding myself with opportunities I never expected, including dancing for a pre-professional company. Right as I was starting to feel like maybe I’d somehow found a place for myself, I had to give it up because of my health. Thankfully, able to do it in doses instead of all at once, I held on to doing The Nutcracker, partially out of stubbornness. Then, when our Drosselmeyer died, I was prepared to give it all up, until two of my “babies” convinced me (with a simple, “Are you going to do party parent this year?”) to keep going last year. And now, here I am, working for the ballet company that took me in those years ago and gave me a place to belong, working among such wonderful people, meeting such lovely dancers and dance parents, getting to be a part of this beautiful world I fell in love with so long ago and had been made to give up. I never would have guessed it would find a way to draw me back in, and especially not to this caliber, but I couldn’t be more grateful than I already am.

I’ve gotten to know a few of the dance moms really well this season, which has made my heart extremely happy. The kindness I have been met with has been overwhelming in the best way, I’m almost in a state of shock by it all, not entirely certain what to do with it. But even when I get awkward in my adjustment to such kindness, I’m met with more kindness. Who knew places like this existed?

I know there will be challenges along the way, as I’ve already seen, but I also know that those challenges are ones worth facing, and that I’m safe here.

Overall, this Nutcracker season has been one for the books. I hope I never forget the look of joy on the kids faces, the way the conductor looks when I peek out from the curtains, the way I feel when we’re all having so much fun on stage, the exhilaration of seeing former dancers visit while in town, the feel of the tiny arms wrapping around my middle in many, many hugs–especially as these dancers grow. This is my favorite part of the holiday season, and I’m so grateful to still get to be a part of it.

crunch time.

I had every intent of making posts far more regularly, however life had other plans.

Still, I want to make sure I get this post written before opening weekend when I’m sure to have far more stories to tell that will make the details of these begin to fade, and I want to make sure I remember them.

A few days after I officially returned, we got a really heavy rain which for our old building means a bit of flooding and internet issues. Usually, we’re out a day, maybe two, and then back up and running. This time, that wasn’t the case. When we called our provider they informed us the underground cable had to be completely replaced and they didn’t have a timeline for when that might be completed. Their best suggestion was to get a hot spot.

I had come in to the office that Monday, October 31, to send an email reminding of the Ad due date that weekend. The rain happened the next day, Tuesday, November 1. We found out Friday that they would have to replace the cable and began the scramble to find work-arounds until we could get back up and running.

And it wasn’t just internet that was out. We didn’t have access to our phones, we couldn’t print tickets, couldn’t run payments, and our printer works off WiFi, so we couldn’t send anything to print. We did have a backup that’s supposed to work even in extreme cases like hurricanes, but it didn’t work either.

First order of business was figuring out how to endure the weekend. Thankfully, I had copies of all of the forms we would need for the weekend already printed, and our printer still functioned as a copier, so I made a bunch of copies of each of the forms to help fill the gap of everything we couldn’t access. When the weekend arrived, it was full of apologies, while offering the temporary fixes which usually did the trick. The hiccup was the fact I had missed changing the date on one of the forms we sent out for when the Ads were due and didn’t know until that weekend. We, of course, accepted them when that incorrect date said since that was my mistake, but most were able to get them in by the 4th anyway, which was helpful, and the ones who couldn’t we knew to be expecting so we could leave the size space for them.

After we got through rehearsal weekend, we got a hotspot hooked up and I came in Monday to get as much caught up as possible from the weekend. During rehearsals, I usually don’t come in Mondays or Tuesdays since I’m there through the weekends, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe between the two jobs I work, that week I put in 75 hours. And after the first day of using the hotspot, it stopped working for some reason, so I used the one on my phone, which wasn’t my idea. My brain seemed to short circuit through all of this, but thankfully someone suggested it and it worked. One of the dance moms, Jackie, found a way to use the backup thing so the printer could scan to the computer even if it couldn’t print, which saved my butt with the Ads as we scan in many of them and send them over.

Then, I reached out via email to our ticketing liaison, Jeff, who is a legend. He got us set up at the actual box office so we could print tickets, which my friend Nicole powered through and got caught up so quickly it was incredible. She also had us caught up up until this outage fiasco, so we weren’t behind to start with, which was nice. The only thing we couldn’t find a work around for was the phones, so those just had to wait. I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do.

We were out of commission, using these patches for three weeks before it came up. They never notified us, I just happened to notice once that my hotspot wasn’t on but I could see the emails, looked at our internet tower thing and saw the green lights all on. A glorious day.

When I went to check the voicemails, we had 86. I wrote them all down and called back the ones who hadn’t emailed, getting hold of most of the people who we had missed. Thankfully, ballet patrons here are lovely and were completely understanding of our delay, most just happy to hear back from someone. I don’t like making phone calls, but obviously it’s part of the job. It’s made a little easier knowing what I’m talking about so I mentally prepare myself and hope for the best. Take that, anxiety.

In all of this, we have gotten the ads in and program produced, ticket orders in and printed, school shows reserved and seats assigned, raffle tickets logged and submitted, questions answered and studio running. Now, I’m thankfully at the point where it’s the lead up to opening weekend and I’m caught up, having double checked everything I had marked on emails while things were clunky to go back and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I’m going to triple check this week, just in case, but I don’t have as much on my plate as I expected. It appears as though we are through the worst of it and now its mostly just normal office management things I have on my to do list.

I have found the busier I am, the more difficult it becomes to manage my physical and mental health. During the covid shutdowns, I was seeing a psychologist (ironic timing) and diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, PTSD, Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety, and depression, though I have a good handle on them most days. This was the real first test in that and it yielded interesting results. About two of the three weeks of the internet outage, I found myself really struggling, having to pull myself out of mental spirals and fight compulsions in ways I hadn’t experienced since before I knew what these things were and how they happened. Truly, had it not been for friends, I’d be a lot more worse for wear, the biggest hurdle being actually letting anyone in and admitting I wasn’t okay. I struggle with the balance of what I show to whom still, since most of the time it is easier in the long run not to admit when I’m struggling as it leads to more exhausting explanations and situations than just pretending I’m fine and figuring it out later when I’m home and alone. But here, I have been blown away.

Ballet has been my safe space since I first dared to take up classes at the age of 23, eleven (!!) years ago this past October. It’s been where I’ve gone to process my grief and trauma, giving myself the hour or two to leave everything out the door and reset, allowing myself a clearer head to process it all through. From car wrecks to friends deaths to everything in between, the studio is where I’ve gone. This, of course, became extremely complicated to navigate when I found myself too sick to continue anymore, and I clung to teaching until I physically couldn’t handle it anymore, which is also ironically when the world shut down. Honestly, having had to scale back so much in doses helped me handle the changes covid brought as I didn’t lose everything all at once as so many did; I had been processing each loss slowly as they came and was already mentally preparing for the final loss of giving up teaching when covid took it from me prematurely. Still, that’s only one loss of ballet instead of many at once. And now I find myself back in this place I have loved for so long, that has offered me safety and comfort in uncertainty, where I’ve met lovely people and carved a space for myself, but I’m here in new ways I never expected.

I thought coming into this that I knew what to expect, and work wise, I’d say my assumptions were spot on. What I didn’t expect was the onslaught of kindness I have experienced. Compliments literally every day, from so many different types of peopled–dance moms, dancers, board members, the public, even from our studio owners/artistic directs–and often. I’m so used to working and being in spaces where my kindness is used and abused, where I’m only important if people can get something from me, and once I’m out of sight I’m completely out of mind. I’m not a pushover–I’ve learned over the years not to be–however I’ve been in many work and volunteer spaces where I struggled to feel like I belonged or was seen. I was invisible, out of sight out of mind, only considered when they had some role that needed filled and not in ways that benefited me but instead drained me or requiring me to do things I was clueless about with little to no training and zero support.

I’ve told Ms. Munro how I didn’t realize that the way many of my superiors had treated me throughout my life wasn’t the way I should be treated until I came to teach at the studio. I was paid fairly, never forced or pressured to do things I couldn’t or wasn’t comfortable doing, and was considered in every decision that involved me. As my health declined, they accommodated that, and still do, making sure I have enough volunteers to help me take on the task of running the ballet office during Nutcracker season, checking in on me throughout. It’s taught me what I deserve, and to not accept anything less, which has set me up to take big risks with jobs that have lead to me being taken care of in my places of employment, with so little stress and zero fear; a stark contrast to some previous experiences. As a whole, I’m better for it.

And as if that isn’t enough, then you have the dance parents. We’ve all heard horror stories of dance moms, being divas and demanding and treating people terribly, but on the whole I have found the complete opposite. They thank me and compliment me, something I’m not used to. I go full awkward potato about 87% of the time I’m there because I don’t quite know what to do with compliments. I’ve finally got saying, “thank you” down, but I haven’t quite broken my compulsion of feeling I need to explain that I’m actually not that great. I’m trying.

Not only are these moms expressing their gratitude with words, but some even go as far as to bring me food and gifts and hand written cards, which are my personal brand of love language. Handwriting something tangible is an enduring and personal expression, so deeply “you,” and something I cherish and keep forever. It’s all so kind. Some of the mom’s have offered to help me, volunteering where they can, being a listening ear, offering solutions in the chaos, and some just meeting needs without me even asking. Truly, without them I wouldn’t have made it through this season. I’m eternally grateful and completely moved by their kindness.

It’s also been really nice getting to know some of the dance moms. For so long, I’ve been “friends with the kids” and most of the moms I knew had moved away and a majority of them I knew their kids better. It’s a weird dynamic since I am an adult, but truly to most of the kids I’m more of a bonus aunt or something, which is nice. But now, I’ve been becoming friends with the moms and its nice to be around people more my age, and not being the oldest for once. Its as though I feel a weight lifted by being around people older than me again, even if our life paths aren’t the same. They don’t look down on me for that, they accept it no questions, which I didn’t realize wasn’t always the case before until I was here and can see the difference.

The exhaustion of the season is definitely kicking in, and I’m sure when it’s all said and done I’ll have a little mini crash of sorts, though it will likely be more emotional than physical. I’m so grateful to get to be a part of this community and this ballet company, to be surrounded by such incredible and supportive people, to be making these memories and filling the story of my life with tales I will want to retell and, a bonus, ones that aren’t full of sadness as so much of my life seems to be. (so dramatic, I know.)

Here we go; ready or not, it’s show week, and I for one am thrilled.

behind the scenes from program photos

“every ending is just a new beginning.”

My favorite movie has long been Uptown Girls, and when I tell people that most haven’t even heard it; but I stand by it. Even when it comes to a point I haven’t seen it in a while and I think to myself, “surely my love for this movie has waned a bit,” I’ll revisit in and sure enough in near tears and covered in goosebumps. Why? I don’t know if I could really tell you, but the fact remains.

Recently it has seemed to hold an additional meaning I never could have expected, on that is encompassed in the last line “Ray” says, which is where the title of this post comes from:

“Every ending is just a new beginning.”

When I wrote my last blog post, the world was a different place, let alone me being a different person. It was December 2019, most people hadn’t even heard of Covid-19, let alone had a clue what that would hold for our world as a whole–the loss, the fear, the confusion, the solitude, the suffering–and even in that, the positive things like the connections that were formed out of necessity and how many people started realizing the importance of caring for your fellow human. For me personally, it has meant a bit more research into the disease that has taken over my life from a post viral infection of the Epstein Barr Virus I got from the chicken pox I was intentionally exposed to as a child to “get it over with” which reactivated in me as an adult and is what has dictated much of my life since, including having to give up dancing ballet; something I had long fought for.

Of course in that, there are personal frustrations this pandemic has brought me, as well as continued fears for my safety as my health conditions aren’t fully understood. I’m not allowed to get a flu vaccine, does that mean I can’t get a covid vaccine? Do I have a weakened or heightened immune system? What will happen to me if I get covid, seeing as I live with the chicken pox equivalent of “long covid” as it is. I’ve made it this far, at times with near misses to direct exposure, without getting covid for which I am extremely grateful.

I didn’t get to have my last recital with my dancers as covid required many shut downs at the beginning, which included our ballet’s performances. I believe it was absolutely the right decision to keep people safe. It also was an inevitable one that left me feeling as though my close of this chapter of my life was one that ended more abruptly than I could have hoped–because it was. I still wrote notes to all my dancers and put them with their costumes to have when they picked up and hoped I’d have the opportunity to see them one day in the uncertain future. I had just told our artistic director the week before we shut down that I would for sure not be able to return to teaching, and was going to tell my students parents when we returned from spring break, but we never did.

I know it was the right decision for me, as teaching the next year, even with the safety precautions, would have been too big of a risk for me than I could afford to take. At least I was prepared mentally for that year to be my last, rather than having it forced upon me by a global pandemic. It helped ease the sting of ending this thing I love so dearly a smidge.

As it stood, I wasn’t sure if I would come back for Party Scene in The Nutcracker or not; so much of it would depend on things no one could predict until we got closer. Then, in August of 2020, our beloved Drosselmeyer passed away of a stroke.
My heart shattered. He was the heartbeat of our production, having done the role for the past 27 years, I believe, and still every performance was as magical as if it were the first time seeing it. I was devastated, his passing was such an unexpected thing in a world that was already so inundated with uncertainty. I swore I couldn’t do a Nutcracker without him–it would hurt too much; and, after all, I had already lost so much in the ballet world. I didn’t think I could face it.

And then:

I was dog sitting for one of my favorite ballet families. They returned home shortly before auditions, and I needed to drop something off to or pick something up from them, I can’t remember which. The easiest way to do this would be to meet them at the ballet building on audition day. I was nervous; I hadn’t seen so many of these people I loved since the world shut down. I didn’t know how my emotions could cope with it all. I walk in and two of my favorites, one of whom was the last of the original group of girls I danced with when I started at this studio and danced with the Corps, came up to me as soon as they saw me. They hugged me and asked, “are you doing Nutcracker this year?” and I looked at them, and I felt the love in that room, and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

In that moment, Catherine and Macey reminded me of what a beautiful place the ballet is, that being there is exactly where I would need to be and especially in a time of such a loss we all felt so deeply. I decided then that yes, I would do Party Scene again, and began to fill with hope at the predictability of it as I was surrounded by other people who had also survived this pandemic so far and also grieved the loss of our beloved Xavier and also were filled with such gratitude to just be there doing the thing we loved. I told Mrs. Alex, our artistic director, to count me in for this year. She was elated which made me feel even better.

So often I have struggled with feeling like I belong anywhere. I’ve felt that, even when I give everything I have to give and try my best to offer everything I’m able to an experience, there still isn’t a place for me. Somehow, I’m seen just for what I can do for the place/situation/group/et cetera, and not for who I am as a person. I feel replaceable from the start; which of course everyone is replaceable, we all have to be, if not the world would not endure and that would be the end of it. But there’s something magical about when you find a place that gives back to you as much as you put in, and for a bit I wondered if the ballet would finally be that for me. It’s been my most enduring “relationship” to date and left me feeling so fulfilled in ways I’d searched for in so many places that always came up short or left me with enough stories to make my therapist cry when I recount them. And as soon as I was sure I had finally found my place, it was taken from me by the cruelty of chronic illness, and once again I’m back at square one trying to find something in this world that doesn’t make me feel like I solely exist in the world to fill needs for other people, screw what I may need, right?

I gave it up.
I said my goodbyes.
I left it all, save for the one private lesson I taught by zoom during covid because I’m extremely stubborn and it helped me feel like I had a purpose; that all those years of fighting wasn’t wasted, and I’d hold on as long as I could. She was old enough to be instructed just by explaining so I wasn’t worn out from showing all the different things.
I made peace with the fact that life isn’t fair and no matter how hard we try, we really don’t have control over anything, even if we’re stubborn, even if we hold on with a vice grip–life doesn’t care. There’s no quota of loss you somehow reach and then have sunshine and roses forever. You can always lose more; this fact weighed heavily on me, and I sat with it and came to a point of acceptance.

During the shutdowns, my herniated disks in my lower back became unstable and hit my nerve, causing immense pain. I had to wait seven months to get in to see the doctor since I was new to insurance (bless my former boss who fought for me to be a permanent position and to have two extra hours so I could get benefits, including insurance–this kicked in February 2020.) and as soon as we got the MRI he referred me to an orthopedic specialist. Getting scheduled for surgery took another two months, and I was nervous because I’ve been told by doctors and friends and precious old ladies at water aerobics that doctors here make things worse rather than better for back hernias. I took a risk, seeing as I can’t afford, financially and physically, to travel and ended up with a wonderful competent Doctor who didn’t even have to take the whole disk and was determined not to put hardware into my back, which I appreciate. Of course, this would mean if I hadn’t already given up dance I would have had to, which I’m not surprised about. I also found out I have scoliosis, which makes things make a lot of sense. We’ve also done MRI’s on my shoulder and I’m told it’s sprained. All the issues I was having are still around, and it started from taking off my jacket incorrectly which dislocated my shoulder and put it back in, irritating all the ligaments or whatever it is in my shoulder. Of course, this is aggravated by port de bras and everything else vital to ballet. Between the two, even just doing a simple barre myself is risky and likely to make things worse.

While I haven’t been formally diagnosed by a doctor, a good friend of mine, Krista, showed me how you can take your raw data from Ancestry DNA and search for EDS markers in it to see if you have EDS. I figured it was worth a shot before paying for genetic testing, and I wrote down the markers I had. Dear reader, it would have been easier to write down the markers I didn’t have, and I have found I actually have three different types: Classical Type, Kyphoscoliotic Type, and Dermatosparaxis Type. I do still need to get formally tested, but that requires energy and money and time I do not currently have. I feel satisfied in this for now, though I do hope to one day further pursue formal diagnosis. My current Primary Care doctor has told me he is open to referring me to anywhere I want to go for it, so that is on the table, which I’m grateful for. All of this would also mean that my stomach issues this whole time have been due to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome–basically your body is sensitive to histamines and treats certain foods as allergens. I had found this at the suggestion of someone in a support group I’m in on Facebook and tried out the FODMAP way of eating to see if it would help and, wouldn’t you know it? I can go days, weeks, even months without getting sick. I wish I had known this before my gallbladder came out. I wish many things, but especially that as it seems to have been the source of many of my issues, possibly including the re-occurance of EBV, leading to my ME/CFS (the fatigue bit.) If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll know just how life changing all of this information is for me. I have been able to learn how to eat in ways that don’t cause me stress, though I’ll forever have disordered eating to a degree. I’ve also, during the shut down, seen a lovely local Psychologist and been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder, which made my life make a lot of sense and thus gave me the ability to extend myself grace in all these places I was told I was “wrong” or needed to “fix.”

To say it’s been a life altering few years would be an understatement.

Now that I’ve said all that, why the heck am I posting a blog post? We thought I was done with this, right?

I thought the same, however, back in August I was doing one of my private lessons. We moved it in person, as schedule and safety finally allowed it and my sweet nugget has gotten her pointe shoes. (cue tears because time is wild.) While there, Ms. Munro–our Artistic Director and studio owner–was in the office of the teaching studio we were using since it was registration time for classes. She pops her head out and asks if I’m sure I’m not able to teach any classes. I confirm that I’m just not physically able to commit to that as it’s too much for me to handle. She asks how my job is treating me and I tell her it’s going well and I have been able to find a good balance on maintaining my energy levels and everything. She’s pleased to hear it, which makes me feel good.

The next day I get a call from our ballet board president, offering me a part time gig at the company studio working in the office. I listened to her describe some of the responsibilities I would have, all things I could hear and understand immediately on what would need to be done. She told me to think about it over the weekend and get back to her Monday, but that she thought I would be a perfect fit if I wanted to join.

I was shocked. I sat on my friends couch, as I was dog sitting, and thought it through, evaluating my energy levels and if I could take on an extra 20 hours a week on top of my 30 at the court house. I thought through all the possible scenarios I could come up with, people I would be working with and for, potential stress triggers, et cetera, then I called a good friend of mine and asked her to tell me honestly if she thought I could handle it.

“Oh, definitely.”

On Monday, I called and let them know I was interested, and I started the next week. It’s been two full months and so far the worst thing I’ve messed up is forgetting to attach a document on an email–in other words, it’s going great.

TL;DR, in a wild turn of events, I have found myself back in the ballet world in the most perfect way for me. I’m thrilled and loving it and will be back to the blog, writing about my adventures from this side of things. My hands have been shaking typing this, whether out of nerves or excitement I’m not entirely sure. So much has changed and yet so much remains.

If you’re a nosey-nancy and wondering if I will be dishing out deep dark secrets of behind the scenes things I’m privy to–that’s a hard no. Find that gossip elsewhere because it won’t be here. But if you’d like to read about my adventures and experiences and the good feelings I’ve had so far, please do stick around.

I’m excited to have a reason to be posting again, as I have missed you all so dearly. Thank you for coming back and coming along for this new ride. I look forward to sharing it with you ❤

In the words of Taylor Swift, lets watch it begin again.

empty studio space

The end.

Much has happened since my last post.

I traveled to England and had the opportunity to meet and spend time with many dear friends I’ve gotten to know through this blog and corresponding instagram page.

I’ve taught many classes (though many have also had to be subbed unexpectedly to attend funerals)

Nutcracker has come and gone.

And also, I’ve had the beginnings of a conversation with our artistic director about realities I’ve been trying to pretend aren’t realities.

I don’t ignore the fact I’m sick, but I’ve been trying to act like the extremities of it don’t exist. If I don’t have a solid diagnosis, a solid reason for this, then surely it’s not actually happening, right? Surely it’ll go away at some point, won’t it?

The answer to that is, “No.”

I’ve been sick since high school, which is now more than half my life. I don’t know what it feels like to be well or “normal” and it’s infuriating, but for much of my experience with it, I’ve been able to handle life miraging as a functioning human being. Once I got it into my head that I can do things if I set my mind to do so I didn’t want to limit myself, so I began ballet at 23, was given permission to begin pointe at 25, and managed to end up part of a pre-professional company even dancing in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. These were things I never even dared to dream, and I did them.

I tried to soak up every moment of it all, from the swish of tulle to the pressure of pointe shoes to the pull of your hair in a bun for hours, tried to memorize the emotions that came with just getting to experience these things simply because that’s how my life was going–it’s where I ended up. I tried to relish the fact I got paid to teach tiny humans this incredibly exciting thing that is ballet and watch them learn to love it as much as I did. I watched their progress and marveled at their triumphs, I teared up hugging them at the end of the year and hoped I’d see them either in classes the next year or at rehearsals the next season. It helped the goodbyes not hurt so much.

I’ve tried to deny most of my life that I’m a “feeler” but turns out its a very deep and innate part of who I am. I’m learning to love it, but it can make goodbyes complicated to process.

This year as the weeks rolled on, I realized it will be my last year teaching–the last main tether holding me to the ballet world. One of the first rehearsals for party scene of The Nutcracker I let our artistic director know that my body officially can’t hold up anymore. She replied with, “I was afraid you’d say that.”

They don’t want to see me go, either, which I appreciate so much, but they also are aware that there are things out of our control. They have been so kind and considerate of the fact that I have limitations, and have done everything possible to accommodate me with them. Ultimately, it’s up to me to decide when it’s too much to push through anymore, and this year has proven I am at my limit.

I’ve developed a pain in my right shoulder that caused me to have to teach 2.5 out of 4 classes with an ice pack on it for two weeks. Along with the herniated disks in my lower back that are hitting a nerve, arthritis in my knee and neck, and the chronic fatigue I believe I have reached my limit. It simultaneously breaks my heart to know I have to leave this thing I love and also makes it swell to see how much has happened and how many people fill it due to ballet.

As of how it stands currently, I’ll still be on call to sub classes, and still do Nutcracker if they’ll have me, but even so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to manage that. Still, I’m going to hold on to it as long as I can.

I’m getting ready to choreograph my last ballet recitals for the spring recital. I probably won’t write a blog post about it, so as it stands this will serve as the stagnant post to greet people who wonder where I’ve been or want some sort of closure to my story. (that’s a bold statement but I’m leaving it.)

I’m going to keep the blog up and keep my instagram page live for posterity and for whoever can benefit from the posts that have come out of these past 8 years. Hopefully some of you can find comfort or solace or encouragement in their words even if they’re not new.

I appreciate you guys for your support and love and kindness to me. Your friendships have been a lifeline to me and I value them more than words could ever express. While this all is incredibly difficult to let go of, I’m grateful beyond words that it was ever possible at all.

Enjoy every moment you’re given, soak it up while you have it, hold the people you love close, take the dang picture, and remember how valuable you truly are.


Start of the new school year.

This week marked the first week back at classes at our studio.

I’m only teaching Saturdays this year, so today was my first day.

I was a bit nervous because we added a 5-6 year old class, giving me 4 classes in a row, and a fairly consistent private after that, putting me at the studio teaching from 10-2. Now, if you’ve been following along, you’ll remember I’m chronically ill and don’t have, ya know, energy.

This is a huge risk for me, but my hope is since I’m pretty consistent during the week that I’ll be able to have enough energy for saturdays to make it through.

I was excited to find that so many of the names on my roster were ones I recognized, whether I taught the kids or had subbed their classes.

Classes are supposed to cap at 18, but my first class I believe ended up with 20. Already. First day. I’m not really worried because a good amount of them won’t show up, or at least not consistently, and the class seems to be full of kids that actually want to be there. It makes the classes function so much better, especially giant classes, if the kids actually care enough to be there. I have no clue how I’ll do recital, but if they keep up how they did today, I’ll be able to do fun stuff with them.

I think we’re gonna move a few of the 4-5 year olds to the 5-6, since the last class is rather empty and a few of them are on the older side of things anyway. I’m hopeful the 5-6 class will do better with more kids in it, but they’re good kids as it is. The 3-4 class doesn’t have many in it either, but I’m hoping once I learn all their names it’ll be a pretty decent class.

I had a truly mind blowing experience in my 4-5 year old class. If you’ve followed my story, you’ll know I danced briefly when I was a kid (six and seven, then ten and eleven) before my mom pulled me out. I came back to ballet when I was 23 because the pull of the dream of dancing was too big to ignore. This summer, I had one of my friends from high school enroll her daughter. She did so well and seemed to love it so much, I was pumped to see her back in class today. Then, my mind blew when behind her was the daughter of one of the girls I used to dance with, and probably haven’t seen since. We ended up at the same high school, but I didn’t have any classes with her.

Her daughter was a bit nervous, so she sat in with her this first class to see if we could get her warmed up, and it was so wild that a girl who was with me at my very beginnings when we were kids was now watching me teach. Me. Teaching. Teaching her kid. I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. I wasn’t ever good at ballet, I never looked like a dancer, it’s still a new thing if someone can ever recognize my dancing background off of me. (And part of why Paul harris’ comment last blog post meant so much to me)

Time is weird.

I made it through the classes well enough. I’m exhausted, as expected, and my heart feels kind of weird and my head just started hurting, but that’s alright. I’m taking things slowly.

I’m hopeful for these classes. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to be surrounded by a bunch of tiny humans I know and love. These past couple weeks have been pretty intense and jarring, but being with all these kids made me feel so good and truly helped my heart.

Ballet is magical.

Dueling ballet.

I didn’t expect to have something worth blogging here after a Harry Potter convention, but here I am, writing a blog about something that happened at a Harry Potter convention.

This past week was a whirlwind. I drove to Dallas to fly to Seattle for 13 hours so i could go to an Alison Sudol show, then back to Dallas for a convention called LeakyCon. (Think Leaky Cauldron.)

LeakyCon has easily become my favorite thing every year, coming together with hundreds of people who’s weirdest thing about them is the weirdest thing about you, knowing any references I throw into normal conversation will be completely understood. I come with friends and then make a bunch more, meet some of the actors, go to panels about literally everything, attend a wizard wrock concert and the Esther Earl ball and have all the fun.

This year, they brought in Paul Harris, who choreographed (for lack of better words) the dueling sequences for the movies. He’s a dancer originally, and director David Yeats tasked him with essentially creating the language of dueling.

We got to hear him talk of the background he pulled from, his favorite scenes, how he ended up staying longer and working more in depth than planned, and many fun behind the scenes stories.

He mentioned how since he is a dancer, he came at the task with the thought that if all of ballet is foundationally based from 5 position, why not dueling? He showed us the 5 defensive and 5 offensive positions it all originated from, which are the positions all new actors are taught when they learn how to duel.

As we were doing it, I found myself feeling like I was back in a dance class. Paying attention to the details of the movement, trying to make sure I’m facing the right direction, and true to form doing things opposite. (He corrected me, I laughed.) When Paul Harris made the comment, “okay, now, you do a plie in second” the girl behind me and I made a sound of understanding and realized we were both dancers. It was super fun.

He used me as an example at one point unexpectedly, which was super fun, then we split off into groups to create our own battle scene. He picked three groups to show theirs, including my new dancer friend who’s was my favorite.

At the end, my friend I came with and I went to get a picture with Paul Harris. As we thanked him and went to leave, he turns to me and says, “dance classes” before moving on to the next group for a photo, saying it in a tone that suggested he could tell I had a dance background.

I walked out of that room on cloud freaking nine.

The man who choreographed the Cheetah Girls could tell I was a dancer just from dueling. He had told me “good!” And “right!” A few times, like it were a dance class, and that alone made me feel super good, but that comment on the end meant more than he could ever know.

I haven’t taken a class in a year. I teach, but hardly do anything anymore and honestly, my days are numbered. But this man could tell that I danced. And he said something to let me know he could.

Being sick is hard. You go through various phases of grief and acceptance, then think you’ve got it down, then realize there’s about 30 more layers just to scratch the surface. Obviously one of the biggest parts of me that’s affected is my relationship to dance. This thing I fought for all these years essentially ripped from me in a slow fade over a matter of mere months. Realizing I don’t need to save up for my favorite dance skirt anymore because I can’t wear it, or having use for the custom leotards I had just received, not feeling that blissful exhaustion after a class that really challenged you, not being able to set goals in dance and work to achieve them.

It’s a process.

And oftentimes, it feels like something a part of my past.

But his comment made me realize that, even though I can’t take the classes anymore, I can’t physically do it, this is still a part of me. It’s a huge chunk of my story and it’s something that I’ll carry with me forever. I don’t have to prove that I am (or was) an adult dancer to anyone. It’s in me.

Thank you, Paul Harris.