New class, new teacher (new insight.)

We had our regular teacher for the ballet/pointe IV class last night, Lori.
To say I love her is an understatement.
First off, she knows my old dance teacher. She started out class with roll and asked which of us came from that studio and we raised our hands. It was like she completely understood our plight and empathized. She used to be Jilissa’s neighbor and they are good friends. This made me really want to do Jilissa proud and show how well she trained us.
Lori used to dance with the San Francisco Ballet, (Insert me freaking out here.) although she grew up taking classes in the very building we are in. (I read this in her bio, but it’s definitely amazing hearing her say all of this.) She’s quirky like me, and keeps it light, but she also hones in on us and teaches us.
Not just shows us or not just tells us. She makes sure we have a clear understanding of the movement and why.
I have what I call a “why brain.”
I really like to grasp the full concept, and can sometimes get really frustrated if I don’t understand how I’m doing something, even if it’s correct. Why is it correct? It can get interesting.
But she made sure we all had clear understanding, and without difficulty. It’s like it just rolled right off of her.

I’m notorious for having incorrect arms. (Which, I now have a better understanding of, as she was able to show us efface, ecarte, and croise. Not just show us, but explain them in ways I comprehend.) There was one point where we were going across the floor and realized I had the wrong arms. I switched them and said, “ah, sorry!” kind of under my breath. (I’m also notorious for speaking without realizing it, although I’m getting better at this…)
To which she responded,
Never apologize! Every movement is important!”

This was a new concept to me.
I have been told before that if you mess up, just go with it. If you’re confident about it, most people don’t even notice. I actually won a debate round at a speech and debate tournament with this logic. I debated affirmative while I was supposed to be negative, but I was so convincing, they gave me the win anyway. Ps. I suck at debate. PPs. The topic was interracial couples.
But in dance, you’re always told to strive to be better, to work harder, to be perfect. Having the wrong arms to me was imperfect.
But she didn’t merely scold me or correct me, she noted that doing it incorrectly is an important part of learning the correct way, to not apologize.

We aren’t here to be perfect, we’re here to learn. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need class and she wouldn’t have a job. It’s not bad to be wrong, we just have to learn how to improve, and being wrong can be just the ticket to learning correctly.

Needless to say, my mind was blown.
I wish this class was more than once a week, but I am beyond grateful to be in it now.


Pointe Shoe Solutions

Not too long ago, my friend Jackie saw a post from Capezio about a contest for a VIP Pointe Shoe fitting. There was one for NYC, one for Dallas, and one for Austin. The winner gets professionally fitted, a pair of shoes, toe pads, ribbons and elastics in an experience of a lifetime.

I entered, semi-absentmindedly, not even really thinking of how far Austin and Dallas are.
Yesterday as I was journaling at work about something semi-deep, I got an email and looked at it more out of habit than actual curiosity. But when I saw who it was from, I was shocked.

Dianne Giacoio  with the subject, “VIP Pointe Shoe Fitting–Dallas TX”

I think my exact words were, “There’s no freakin’ way.”

I opened it, and sure enough, it was a congratulations because I won the fitting.

When I entered, I said a little informal prayer, knowing that my feet need some real attention by someone who knows what they’re doing. It has been the most difficult thing trying to find shoes that work, and it’s really frustrating knowing that I can do more than my shoes allow.

I was in denial of this for a while because I had once heard, “Bad dancers blame the shoe.” Until my friend Liz, who has had pointe shoe woes of her own, told me, “Um, you need different shoes.”

I don’t know if they were expecting some 12-year-old whose momma signed them up, but they got this almost 26-year-old who is at the end of her rope and needed something like this to happen.

So, thank you, Capezio, for hosting this contest. For choosing me, an adult ballerina who will never be part of a company or probably amount to anything in the world of ballet. Because of all the opposition, you make me feel like you believe in me. That this dream isn’t something childish that I should give up on, but worth pursuing. That maybe I can finally have a solution.
Thank you.

Couldn’t have said it better.

From my fellow adult ballet friend, Lillian, on her ballet blog

Three Ballerinas Walk Into a Barre?

Three adult ballet students walk into a Level IV ballet class and sit down at the barre. 

The teacher says to the class that we will get started in just a few minutes. The three adult ballet students start to stretch and get ready for class.A young girl walks over and says “So,are y’all like real ballerinas, then?” and the three adults laugh and say “WE WISH”!

True story. We must have looked very convincing. It was a great class. 

It was pretty much the greatest thing.
We had this girl in class the week before, even. And these girls are pretty good, too. The fact that she a.) realized I wasn’t in high school and b.) thought we were professionals completely made my day.
Needless to say, Thursday classes are my absolute favorite. The girls are starting to warm up to us, and I’m making friends 😀
One of the younger ones, Rachel, has taken to me. She is my first new “baby” at this studio, and I love it. Such a sweet heart! 
More about the technical ooey-gooey deep things on the next post.

New studio thoughts.

I’m watching The Joffrey Ballet rehearse for Swan Lake with no volume so they don’t find out at work.
I’m also talking to a friend of mine about the possibility of auditioning for this year’s nutcracker. She did it last year, and I had been thinking about how much fun that would be. I just don’t know if I have enough skills yet. She says I do. I wish I could dedicate more to ballet.
It’s got me reflecting back on yesterday’s class.
My friend Liz brought the gel toe pads, so I decided to try the Ballet V Pointe class with them to see what my toes would do.
They went numb, as usual, but they didn’t hurt. I mean, it kinda felt like my toe nail would pop off, but I think that’s just my nail bed. It was something I felt, but not something that really bothered me. (If that makes sense?) What I need now is practice. It was amazing how much my balance improved with those toe pads, and I don’t mean when en pointe. Before, I would struggle even doing moves flat, just because my pointe shoes were on. It was almost as if everything I knew went out the window because my brain was so consumed with the shoes. But yesterday I was able to actually able to forget about that and just dance.
But I was so out of practice, that I didn’t try the lame ducks. I didn’t try the turns from second.
I did try (And semi-succeed at) the funny soutenu turn we had in there. And I have been able to do turn preps, which I couldn’t even manage before.
We’re doing a class today with the ballet IV’s and pointe IV’s. I’m nervous only because it’s the little kids, but I think it’ll be good. I think it’ll help my confidence and help me build up the strength and skill I need.
My friend Lilian said it was the class she did last year.
She’s also the one trying to get me to audition for The Nutcracker.
It would be a dream to get to do it. The closest to a real ballet I would ever get. (Well, it is a real ballet. But, I mean, like, with a company or whatever.) It wouldn’t be a big part, but it would be fun nonetheless. Lilian thinks I’m good enough. I’m nervous. I have about a month to decide, so we’ll see.

A comment the teacher made yesterday really made me feel good.
We were doing this barre combo, and the first side we did she said, “That was actually really good. I thought it was going to be a mess, but you all really went for it.”
Then the next time she said, “You look like the corps out there. You were all so together.”
This made me feel impeccable.
What I’m used to is being in class mixed with girls who are only there because they have to be. These girls are there because they want to be. The challenge me to try my best, and then try harder still. When we all look good together, it really encourages you.

Another thing I noticed was the younger girls.
They’re good. Some of them are insanely good. But of course they are, they’re in the studio every moment they’re allowed to be. They work hard. They’re dedicated. I was intimidated by them at first.
Then as we were doing barre, and I was actually able to retain the combos. (Which really made me feel good. If I would just breathe and not over think, then I would float right through them and be able to focus on technique and stuff instead of focusing on “what’s next?”)
I was confident, and able to use my head, and as I looked towards the girls parallel to me, my eyes rested on some of the girls for a second, and I noticed that they were watching me. 
These extremely talented dancers were looking to me for guidance in what step to do next.
I have something to offer.
I’m not drowning, here.
I have hopes that I’ll improve over my time here, no matter what happens in the future.
I’m hopeful.

Dear 20-something year old new girl in ballet class

Dear 20 – something year old new girl in ballet class,
I know you probably feel overwhelmed by everyone around you,
Seeing the perfectly sculpted bodies executing moves with seemingly flawless technique as you stand there struggling the follow the person in front of you and keep your head above water.
But I want you to know something;
We’re so glad you’re here.
Those other bodies you see at the barre are only watching you because they are nervous and don’t know what move comes next in the combo, and are hoping you do so you can help keep you both above water. When it feels like they’re criticizing your every move, they’re actually either zoning out to try and retain the combo across the floor, or their learning from you.
That’s right, you’re already a teacher and it’s your first class.
Don’t let your head get to you. You’re doing better than you think.
So even though I’m watching you bang your head against your steering wheel while you go over every fault you remember from the last hour, assuming no one is noticing as you sit in the safety of your car, I’m not sitting in mine judging you. I’m looking at a reflection of myself from not too long ago. I was the girl that broke down in the corner because I should be better. I was the girl that sat in her car before driving off because I knew I couldn’t drive with so many tears in my eyes. So as I watch you do the same, I wish I could go over and hug you and some how transport what I see in you into your brain.
How you stuck out to me as I peaked into the class you were in.
Not because of your flaws—we all have them— but because of something wonderful you possess that not all ballet dancers do;
You want this so badly, there’s no denying it. You have so much heart when you dance that I can’t not watch you. That is what will make you a great dancer; not technique or build, or talent. I’ve seen people will all three of those that were so boring. There was no life to their movement.
You are full of life.
It drips from your every fiber.
And that is why I chose to back up instead of saying something. To give you your moment to process.
I know you’ll be back.
Theres something in you crazy enough to fight for what you want.
For now, I’ll just hope you don’t beat yourself up too badly, and that one day you’ll be able to look back and see how every step has a lesson and is worth taking. That every move helps shape you into the person you’re destined to be. That this dream will make you feel more alive than you ever thought possible.
And I’ll keep pulling for you.
You’ll be back
And I look forward to seeing you grow.


We went to a class at a new studio to see if we could hold up last week, and yesterday was our first day in the fall classes.
This also meant it was our first class including pointe.
I can’t tell you the last time I was on pointe. I’ve put on my pointe shoes to try and keep up my ankle strength, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to leave them on for a full class. Not because I’m incapable, but because the pain was so intense that my toes were literally numb within minutes. And not the nice kind of numb where you don’t feel anything; this was the painful numb. Like when your leg falls asleep and you start to wake it, or the numb spot on my leg from the car wreck. It’s “numb” because if I scratch it I can’t feel it, but if you press on it, it warrants me immobile.
But this is a new class of students at a new studio. I don’t want to count myself out because I don’t try. They’re watching me to see what I’m capable, and my greatest hope is that they’ll see that I’m trying and it’s not because of my inability in skill but a separate problem. I want someone to tell me something different than what I’ve heard. (“You’re just going to have to suck it up.”) I have a pretty high pain tolerance. There’s no way all these other girls are doing these moves so simply with this kind of pain.
I didn’t cry. Thank God I didn’t cry. Because I really wanted to. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t do a simple task that I should be able to do. Everyone else is busting it out like it’s nothing, and I should be able to as well.
Thankfully, the teacher was kind.
It didn’t help that I was having a really off day. My co worker has a weird way of teasing that is kind of degrading, and it was really getting to me. Then my leotard didn’t fit right, and it seemed I was the biggest one and the only one in class that wasn’t ballet sculpted. Thank God my friend’s little sister whose more my size came in to the class. She made me feel so much better. The fact that she went out there and danced with confidence made me believe I could, too. You know, there’s times I’m glad that I’m not the perfect dancer, the perfect shape, the perfect _______________. (insert expectation here.) I was beyond grateful to have here there to help pull me out of the insecure slump I had fallen into. I had to keep reminding myself that this was permanent, that “home” as I knew it (in a dance studio) didn’t exist anymore, and I had to adjust–either adjust or give up, and the latter is not an option.
Class ended, and the owner of the studio came over to us to ask how it went. My friend and I were honest with pointe–she struggled to keep up, and I struggled with my toes. (I had heard once that “bad dancers blame their shoes” so I refused to do that. It must be me.)
She was so patient and considerate. She suggested some other classes to try to see what might be best for us. I told her I knew my friend Lilian–who was in a class in studio B that started before ours let out–and she told us how she had found her fit and tried many different things.
Then she helped me try and figure out what was causing my toes to hurt so badly. She asked me about it and I explained the best I could, while trying to say “Yes, Ma’am.” But slipping a couple of “yeah”‘s when I was on an epiphany.
She asked me to point my foot.
I did.
“You have really good feet.”
“My toes are kinda gimpy, which gives me some trouble.”
“But that shouldn’t matter. See, your first two toes are rather level, which means the weight can distribute on two instead of just one. That’s good, see I only had the one here as my other toes are much shorter.”
I have good feet?
My friend Liz had these gel toe pads, and Ms. Munro had me try them and see if there was a difference. She suggested using those, as it may make all the difference in the world. I had always been told they were horrible. Just like I was told that Grishko 2007’s were the cop out shoe. But it turns out I just may be the one foot type that is perfect for Grisko 2007’s and gel toe pads.
What are the odds?
So now we are trying out an adult class on Wednesday with Alex, whom Lilian loves and I’m excited to get to dance under, and then trying out a ballet IV class on Thursday with Lori to see how we do on pointe there. A bit younger, but we’re used to that. (I’m also excited to take with Lori.)

Nothing worth having comes easy.
The struggle reminds you that it’s worth it.
You have to encourage yourself if you want to make it through.
You got this.
You’re better for it.
Never. Give. Up.

New studio. First attempt.

Yesterday was my first ballet class since the last summer class at Instep.
Let me be honest with you in tell you I was freaking out.
I don’t really know how to explain everything that was going on inside me, but there was a lot of it, and it was unavoidable.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to go alone. My friends Sarah, Liz, and Karin were all there as well. That helped tremendously, but also made me feel a little awkward at first. Here we were, 4 new people, infiltrating the last summer class of this studio that had some really good dancers. It was intimidating, but Sarah pointed out that some of these girls were at Bailando–the dance festival we have every year here locally–and that they tried playing the intimidation card there, too, but were just as good or lost as we were. (mostly)
We were able to keep up with the class, which made me feel good. I was extremely grateful to Jilissa for making sure we knew terminology, differing styles, and making sure we had the full understanding of things. There were only two things we had never seen before: one was fairly simple to catch on to, the other was a step usually performed by guys. Our only guy moved to California, so we hadn’t seen any of those steps in a while. We were able to execute the moves with just being told the combination, and our main struggle was in execution and technique, rather than understanding and comprehension, (redundant? oh well.) which is how it should be.

Needless to say, I woke up sore today. It is a welcomed feeling and has re-ignited my love for this art form.

My emotions are still everywhere. This is a very difficult thing to explain. It is as though we are orphans, trying to fit into a new family. The parents are kind, but the kids are apprehensive to let so many new people in to their world. It’s all understandable, but it’s definitely unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Every thing else I’ve had end, I knew it had an end. It was clear, expected. This was only prefaced by dreams and intuition. A few rumors here and there, but they weren’t studio-wide. I only knew because, for some reason, people trust me. (It’s a blessing and a curse.)
I’m grateful that I was at least somewhat prepared. But it has been a difficult transition. Not everyone is as open minded towards adult dancers, especially ones that started as adults and “can’t do anything with it.” It’s either not enough of a challenge to advance in, or completely misunderstood. Instep had that balance that’s rare.

So, here it is. The first of many first steps toward dealing.

(in the lobby, waiting for class to start. Nervous as heck.)

Journal entry. 8-5-2014, 6:30pm

Before I write more about the Instep coping, I wanted to write about other things that have happened.
Yesterday, as I left work, I almost got into a head on collision.
I was turning left. A car was coming and one of the guys was next to me pulling ahead of the car going right. I decided there was enough time to cross over the lane of the car and get into my lane, so I hit the gas. As I did, my tires spun in the gravel, inadvertently giving me just the right amount of time to miss the white truck I hadn’t seen, but not get hit by the car in the other lane.
I don’t know–logically–why things like that happen to me, but they do. It reminds me to be grateful for the days I have, even when faced with difficult things.
The studio closed. This is a difficult thing for us to handle. Worse would be having been involved in a 3+ car head-on collision on the way to say goodbye to something so dear to my heart.
This isn’t to say you should down play that sometimes handling things is a struggle–denial will get you nowhere–instead we can embrace it, and be grateful for the opportunity to get to love something so deeply. That these fleeting days we do have could be filled with something so lovely.
None of us will last forever. We may very well live and die without our names being known past our inner circle. But if you live it right, that is enough. I’ve had enough friends die to make me wonder how I’ll be remembered, and I always hoped to be remembered; to reach people and leave a positive mark, to not be just another forgotten name in the cemetery. I wanted to inspire strangers and have them be grateful I lived. I felt I could  never live enough, and feared dying with empty days that left me forgotten in a year.
That has changed now.
I’m not worried about more than those my arms can wrap around. Those whom I know and love. If I can matter to just one of those who matter so greatly to me, then I have nothing to fear. I do believe what we are all facing in losing the studio is a form of grief, but if we never knew hardship, we would never truly appreciate what we have. We would be living in shallow waters, instead of going all in.
If my friends had never died, I wouldn’t fully appreciate the ones I have in my life now.
My life can be full because I have known emptiness.
I take my camera, I document, I hug and tell the ones I love that I love them. I do my best to make the most of every moment because it could very well be our last memory to hold to.
And for that, I have no regrets.
I can look back and know I made the most of every opportunity. I can smile and take the inevitable steps forward to the days to come with confidence.
And when my last day comes, I know I can breathe my last breath in peace.
No regrets.

Jilissa told me some incredibly kind things on facebook. On the link to the pictures, she said, “Thank you for giving my studio eternal life with your photos! I will treasure them!”
And on the link to my blog post, “Emilee, you created a rainbow over this dark and sad time for so many of us. Thank you for your words…”
That’s where I cried. To know the person who inspires me most read my words and was encouraged by them…
I don’t know, I just feel like my life is complete. There’s nothing more I could ask for. I’m moved beyond explanation.
I hope to see everyone again.I hope this isn’t the final goodbye. More than anything, I hope they find the peace I know, and that I can see them forever where our toes will never grow weary of dancing.
That is my greatest hope; my prayer.

Curtain Call.

Last night was our farewell to Instep Dance Studios.
Many of us swung by the studio to hug and sign a banner and take pictures and cry and Jilissa gave us different pictures and things from around the place… it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I got to keep one of the pictures we looked at in the hallway every day. Jilissa even signed it with some of the sweetest words ever spoken. (even typing this makes me tear up.)

Then, my sweet Sydnie got the sign that inspired a blog post from my first day of dance at Instep that inadvertently inspired this blog.

I can’t even begin to explain what this place means to me. It was the home I craved. It was the place of safety through all the tragedy I experienced in the last almost 3 years. I helped me heal from that and previous tragedies. It taught me confidence and kindness and numerous things to make me a better person. (I mean, just read through the blog.) It taught me how to dream again, and to make goals and not give up until I achieve them. I learned that anything is possible and everyone is deserving of love and a chance. I’ve learned that family isn’t only blood, but a unit of people connected by a greater cause, encouraging each other and being there through the difficult things life throws at us, as well as celebrating successes. I’ve made life long friends and been inspired by so many.
There literally aren’t enough words to express everything my heart holds toward such a wonderful place.

Instep Dance Studios has made me a better person, something I will carry with me the rest of my life.
To the outside, it’s just a studio, it’s just dance, it’s no big deal.
But to those of us that were lucky enough to call this place home, we know better than that.We get to carry with us something that most people never get to experience in their lives.