Swan Rehearsal

We had our first Swan Lake rehearsal today.
When we got there, seven girls were missing, one of whom was also a cover, which left us four covers with six spots to fill. We sort of went by height, and then just left the other two spots for later.
I was the cover for my friend Adrienne, since she is one of the tallest.
It went really well, and I think we learned a good chunk of the swan bit. I wouldn’t say it was all that hard, but definitely takes immense stamina and dedication with attention to detail. It’s not for the faint of heart.
The swans are all–obviously–part of the corps, but there are many different variations of corps work among it. Being the cover is turning out to be quite the endeavor. There are parts that are just mirrored on each other, then depending on if you’re stage right or stage left with determine which leg to begin on. Of course, Adrienne wasn’t part of that. she was in the back of the middle, which had the different bit. What’s more is that she is part of a section that consists of just her and one other dancer. It’s not really a solo since they’re all dancing at the same time, but it is different from everyone else.
Chances are once I teach this to Adrienne, I’ll never have to learn it again. So I had one of the girls in the middle part teach me the different part they learned. Of course, I didn’t retain it as well, but at least I get the gist of it. I also had one of the girls on the sides show me what it is they do so at least I’m exposed to it and if I’m thrown in one of those spots, it won’t be completely foreign.
I asked my friend who owns the DVD from our last production if I can borrow it so I can learn all the different sections, just in case.
Ps. Two of the girls that were missing showed up late, so the one went in her spot and the cover went in the other.

I sewed my Gaynor’s just in case we had to do pointe today, though I doubted we did. I put them on after rehearsal to get a picture for a friend who couldn’t be there, and then showed them to Mrs. Alex. Ms. Munro ended up coming over as well, so we discussed my feet and my shoes and how my knee doesn’t hurt, even after this rehearsal, and why I don’t do jumps in Julie’s class, and Ms. Munro agreed to not do grand plie’s and all that. Mrs. Alex even said these shoes made my feet look better. I don’t want them to cause me to be lazy, but it definitely is nice having the extra support in keeping my arch where it needs to be.
We are a bit concerned about the sizing on them, since my big toe literally hits the end and feels like it’s being pushed hard enough to make the knuckle bend, but Gaynor’s are supposed to give a bit with wear, so we’re going to see how that goes.

After assisting class on Friday, I was talking with a friend who also teaches at the studio. She told me, very gently and tactfully, that she thought my shoes held me back at auditions. I told her about the fitting earlier this week and how I got Gaynor’s, and she agreed that they sounded like the best option. She has similar issues and was able to give me even more insight on how to help with it.
I swear, if it wasn’t for my dance friends, I don’t know if I would be able to keep dancing. Their advice and input and support has literally been everything.

I’m pretty exhausted after today. Didn’t help that my body still hates me and food isn’t really my friend. I’m at a loss of what else to do about it.

I decided that on the days I get to rehearse for swans, I will tell myself, “You are a swan.” It helps me be more into it when we actually do it, rather than just feel like the title of “cover” is looming over me. I have no idea what the future holds. There is a very real possibility that I can do all this work and never get to dance it. There is also a possibility that one of the other covers could get it over me. I don’t know. I try not to think about it. I’m going to move on and keep going and do my best, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still hurt to think about. But, it also doesn’t mean I need to talk about it. I feel stupid mentioning it at all anymore. Like maybe people aren’t telling me everything and maybe I’m not as good as I think I am.
One of my teachers told me today to not take missing out on this role as a sign that I’m not good. She said that there’s probably more playing into it, and it may not be fair to me, but that it’s part of the deal. I don’t know how much of that is true, but you almost can’t help but believe that it is. Reality is, it’s a small town, and this non profit runs on money that I may not bring in simply because I’m older, I don’t have super loaded friends or tons of family dying to pay loads of money to see me dance.

My reality is that each day there’s another reminder of how much I wanted this, slapping me in the face, showing me I missed the mark. No one really knows what all is going on on the inside. But honestly, I don’t think that’s for anyone but me to know.
What good would it do to share that with anyone anyway? No one can change things. All I can do now is work my butt off and hope it’s not for nothing.
And limit my crying.
And not get overwhelmed as work starts getting more intense.
Ahhhhhhhhhh

Friends in the right places

My friend, Jacie, (Cheyanne’s mom) told me yesterday that Gaynor came out with a 5 box shoe, and that the local dance store had them.
Now, I don’t know how long they may have had the 5 box available, but regardless, the risk would have been rather great to just get them blindly. Anyway.
My friend Abby–the Wicked Witch from Oz last year–teaches at the studio attached to this dance store, so I messaged her and asked if she knew anything about them. I had a photo shoot yesterday, which got me out of work early, thus giving me time to meet up with Abby to see about the shoes.
(Cue all the happiness because I haven’t seen her in I-don’t-know-how-long and miss her terribly, so this was a win just stepping out of the car and hugging her neck.
She only had 15 minutes before her class started, so she got me started seeing how the Gaynor’s did.
The best part about having Abby there is that she already knows me. She knows my dancing, she knows my feet, she knows my quirks and what struggles I have. She knows about the nerve damage in one leg, the extra length the other gives, the un-square hips, the short toes–all of it.
She knows about Swan Lake. I told her what Mrs. Alex and Ms. Munro had told me. And I expressed my concerns. I asked her my questions on if she knew what I could do better or try to work on.
She. Knows. So. Much.
She put me in Gaynors, and put me in some Grishko’s, and they had the hard shanks on all, which was wonderful. I showed her my current shoes, and how I seem to knuckle over in them.
She had to rush to her class, so Mrs. Coker helped me from there. I explained to her the bit of my pointe quirks that I could, and asked her about the knuckling over and the way the shank shifts, especially on my left foot. She explained how it will do that if your weight isn’t centered in your shoe, and I asked if there was anything I could do about that. My toes being so insanely short definitely has an effect, so she tried me in a narrower shoe, but then my foot knuckles (is that what they’re called? That’s what they look like. Whatever) are painfully smooshed. It’s a very complicated predicament, as most people have either one or the other. I have two toes relatively close to the same length, then the other three are relatively close to the same, but polar opposite, length.
Rolling up is complex. Mix that in with my uneven legs, causing knee pain if I’m not super careful, and the struggle is so real.
She had me try on pretty much all the Grishko’s they had. Some were more painful, but seemed a better fit–if that even makes sense– and others didn’t put as much pressure, but I would sink right to the bottom. They were all hard shanks, which my arch was lost in, but I was able to get all the way on the box of, so I figured if those were best, I would just break them in. I was actually impressed with their shanks, because Capezio’s hardest shank was almost like perfectly broken in shoes for me now when I first wear them. Which is great, except that they don’t last long at all.

It came down to the Gaynor’s and a pair of Grishko’s. Mrs. Coker said she thinks the Gaynor’s were better, but Abby had expressed concern of them still causing me to knuckle over. She came back by with the spare minute she had between classes to see me in them again and approved vigorously. That made me feel so much better about the risk of getting the shoes.

I went to class, danced on my old shoes, and hated life.
Dramatic, obviously, but I could tell how dead those really were after having been in new shoes for the greater part of the previous hour.

When I got out of class, I had a text from Abby saying that Mrs. Coker told her that I was the hardest fitting she’s ever done. (This made me feel quite accomplished.)
We got to talking, and she was telling me what they thought about my feet. She says she doesn’t think my feet are weak–quite the contrary. She thinks my feet are actually rather strong, and that’s why I keep killing the shanks and may be why I’m hesitant to fully pull out of my shoe since it will cause me to go too far and end up eating dirt going over the top of the box. She mentioned that getting over on the box of a hard shank Grishko is nearly impossible, that she can’t even do it, which is unheard of being that she is solid muscle. Seriously. Gosh, I miss her…
anyway.
She said she thinks maybe it’s my ankles that are weaker. Which would make sense. My ankles give me trouble for seemingly no reason. Especially before starting dance, I could just be walking down the street and suddenly my ankle would give out. Mrs. Coker had also told me some specific theraband work to do to help with my foot shifting the way it does in the shoe that causes the shank to shift.

Over all, yesterday made me feel so much better. I have answers, and though they may not technically have solutions, I have plans of action to try and make this work. At least I know it’s not because of laziness or lack of work or something.

Also

Ms. Munro spoke to me yesterday.
Asked me if I was okay. Asked how my knees were, mentioned how I never do jumps.
I explained why I didn’t do them in class, but how I still marked and learned and can do them if needed. How in such a fast paced environment I tend to forget the details I need to think about and hurt my knees. I explained how the right leg is longer, how my back is curved, and how I have the calcified whiplash. I told her in choreography, I’m fine, because I can think about it. I can work specifically on something and know how to avoid injury.

She told me I should be very proud of how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time. She asked how long I’ve been en pointe, and said that these other girls have just been on longer.
She asked me to pointe my foot, so I did, and she said I had really good arches, and I need to lift out of my shoe more. That I need to build the strength so I don’t sink.

I wish someone had told me this sooner.
I had heard whims of this, but never definite. It wasn’t anything concrete. I do stuff with the theraband, but I wish I had known to dedicate to this. That this is what they were looking for.

I can’t change the past, but I can move forward to the future.
I am still the cover, which means I still have a shot, even if it’s not the way I had hoped.
Even if it sucks.
Even if I feel like complete crap and a failure and like I must suck to get the roles I got, since I’m not even with my level.

I can’t change the past.
So I’m going to work like hell on what I now know to do. I’m going to press forward with fierce determination, and hope someone doesn’t show up enough and they actually follow through with replacing them. I’m going to show them I can do it. Because nothing would be worse than feeling all these things, getting to do the part, and finding that I can’t do it.

Tuesday’s after ballet will be dedicated to building strength.
I can’t let myself be afraid of my knee hurting, instead I must train it to go in the right direction.
I’m going to speak to teachers about how to better focus on gaining this strength, what to do with my shoes to help them last longer, and if I should start doing jumps in class or if it would do more damage than good. (I also don’t grande plie for this reason. My knees haven’t hurt since, even with choreography.) (I also don’t have to wear the brace any more.)

So if they can see the improvement in all my other efforts, I’m going to keep up with that til they see these.

Positives:

  • Ms. M complimented my musicality, asking if I played an instrument. I have not
  • She said I have come a very long way for the short amount of time I have been dancing
  • She said that I did really well in the Winkie Guard role last year and carried the other dancers, specifically with my ability to count and acting skills
  • She said I have really arched feet (I’m taking it as a compliment)

Swan Lake Casting

I’m not a swan.
I’m cast, but I’m not anything exciting or impressive.
I have many thoughts and feelings towards this, mostly of disappointment and confusion. But I’m trying to put those to the side for this post. (As “Fight Song” decides to come on my Pandora)
I’ll make the most of it, like I do every time. I am the cover for the swans, along with a few other girls, but there’s no guarantee anything will come of that.
I talked to Mrs. Alex about it after class. I asked her what I could have done better. She said it’s just a really intense show with a bunch of pointe work and they really struggled with casting. That my name was heavily debated and thought over. She said she knows nothing she says can really help.
I just want understanding, ya know?
I thought I had proved myself with Oz, and with Nutcracker this year. I thought my hard work in class was being seen. I thought the fact they asked me to come to VI’s meant they saw me. And she said they did. She said they see how much I’ve improved and how hard I work. I just don’t understand.

But it is what it is. What can we do about it now? Nothing.
Take my roles and do the best possible in them.
I’m struggling personally because I let myself get hopeful. I let myself believe my friends when they said I did well and I had it in the bag. Mrs. Alex even said I auditioned well, that she was impressed. She said she saw my en dedan turn when I did do it.
I just wasn’t enough.
And everyone tells me there’s always next time.
Except I don’t know if there is.
I mean, technically we never know. None of us. But really, I’m not getting any younger. There’s only so many things my body will let me do, and time isn’t kind. I’ll never see Swan Lake again in my dancing days.
Next year I’ll get Lilac and Snow, because it’s the next in line. It’s not a challenge. It’s not anything that will take more effort than is expected, or whatever.
I just don’t understand.

I honestly feel like I’m grieving. The loss of this role and this dream. The realization that I’ll realistically never reach some of the things I strive for, that my heart longs for.
Not everything is attainable, no matter how hard you work and try.
And you have to find a way to be okay with that.

Progress and regress.

In our V’s class yesterday, we did barre a little differently.
Typically, we do combinations that are quick or complex. Instead, Mrs. Alex had us do simple combinations with a lot of repetition. She had us focus on proper technique, rather than just trying to get through the combination and move on. I really enjoyed this approach, and I think we all benefited from it. It was great to take the time to really think about what we were doing and how we are to properly execute each movement.

I don’t remember exactly what the entire combination was, but there was one where we ended in a low arabesque on releve. I tend to struggle with this kind of thing–once I’m on releve on one leg, my turn out goes out the window. But as I held this arabesque on my shorter, weaker leg, Mrs. Alex came by and said, “Good, Emilee! Great turn out on that standing leg, nice straight knees, good!”

I think I made a face, because I couldn’t really believe she was actually saying these things to me. I looked down to see what it looked like, then tried to see it in the mirror. It felt right, but I didn’t expect it to look that right. I wasn’t really thinking specifically about achieving these things, as I usually do. I was shocked, and very pleased.

I got frustrated as we moved to the center and en dedan turns were there. I wanted to try them, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t know if I psyched myself out, or what. When we were going through, working on recital, there were a few moments when I was away from the others, so I tried them. Sure enough, I couldn’t get up. So I held the barre and tried the preparation. Okay, I could do that. So I tried the preparation away from the barre. I can do that. I tried the turn, nope.
I’m not sure if it’s because these shoes are already dead, or if it’s something else, but the struggle is real. I put it on the back burner, knowing at least I can do the preparation and work on it from there, and that I’m getting around in my pirouettes now. Most of the time at least. They could still use work, but that’s what class is for.
We did a few chaines, too, which weren’t as good as I was hoping, but somewhat better than before.
I’ll take it.

Cast lists should be out soon. I wish I could see it for myself without anyone telling me and no one watching me. This won’t happen. So whatever. It’s possible they could even come out today when I don’t have class, so we’ll see.

Stay tuned!

Swan Lake Auditions

Swan Lake auditions are now behind us.
(we survived, thank God.)

Friday night, Annika and I stayed at the Munro studio after the class I assist to work on a project she has for school, as well as a few things for auditions. She helped me with my chaines and jetes and the darn tombe, coupe, jete which I despise. Most of what I have to work on will take thought and time. She helped me get the feel, which is the biggest hurdle.

Saturday began back at the Munro studio to work the front desk during classes before my audition since everyone else was downtown for the first audition group. I think it ended up being good for me, so I wasn’t just sitting in my house drowning in nerves, waiting for it to be late enough for me to justify being early.
(The struggle is real)
We got there, registered, got our audition numbers, and the madness began.

We did a quick barre in our number order, then put on pointe shoes immediately for the rest of the two hours we had for the audition. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the first group, but I don’t know if that was really a good thing. Our group was pretty level in ability, which meant that there wasn’t really any advanced girls, which seemed to be what it was favoring. (I mean, obviously, it’s Swan Lake.) I think of all the groups, we probably looked to be the least together and able, but that’s going up against some hard hitters, so I don’t think it really worked too much against us as a whole.
There were a few things that were out of my depths, and even things they would have understood had I not tried. And I didn’t think I was going to on two specific things. One was really overwhelming for me in the moment and I got permission to sit it out, which was tough for me to even ask. But I was near tears and knew I was capable of the different steps, my brain just wasn’t wrapping around putting them together for some reason. But, thankfully, Mari is a doll and took a second to help me understand what was happening and I did it on demi-pointe to at least put forth effort. The other part was at the end and my toes were so dead I was afraid to try what they were asking would make me roll my ankle. (Keeping in mind the last time I rolled my ankle was when I pushed it at the end of an audition.) So instead of sitting it out all together, I did it on demi-pointe as well and didn’t beat myself over it.

We started with the different variations. They were pretty fun and actually not excruciatingly difficult. I mean, I couldn’t up and perform them right then and there, but I know I could learn them and be capable of doing them, which left me feeling really good. We had some bits that had turns I couldn’t do, which was really frustrating for me personally. I still tried, and did demi-pointe if I couldn’t manage, but it was definitely frustrating to be incapable when I know I should be able to do it. They were in two different variations, and the very last one, I said, “Screw it, I can’t do it, just do everything else well” and made myself include the sous-sous after the turn in that. Low and behold, the very last time, I got the turn. It was when we repeated it a second time, so I had just done the sous-sous and went in to do the turn again and managed to do it. So I left that segment feeling pretty okay.
 I started hearing complaints that they were saving the swan parts for last, in a “how dare they, what are they thinking?” kind of way, but really it made sense. Swans takes a ton of endurance, and if you can’t do it at the end of audition, there’s no way you’ll make it through performing. We did a core bit where you had your leg in arabesque (really Giselle-y) then switched to three brushes forward, then switched legs, and back to the brushes. If that makes sense. It had a lot of specific head direction, and was required to have your leg at least 90 degrees (consistently) as well as keeping in time with the people in front of you. I actually found this quite fun, and my knee held up for it pretty well. I know I have vast room for improvement, but the point of audition is to show you’re capable where you are, not that you’re perfect.
We then broke into groups of four based on height and did the first part of cygnets.
Thankfully, I’m friends with girls my height, so it was fun to get to do this bit with them. I knew I wasn’t able to do it all, especially with all the pointe work it required and the speed it required it, but I didn’t want to hold them back because of my inabilities. I managed to be able to do what I was able to do well, and the things I wasn’t as good at, I was able to maintain the same height as the other girls as to not throw them off. In the end it was fun! And didn’t leave me hating myself after, so that was nice.

Overall, we survived. And I think it’s safe to say this is the best I’ve felt after an audition. I’m a bit nervous, but I know I did my best and showed them what I’m capable of. I’m not really worried.
Regardless, I’m very excited to be a part. I’m grateful to have wonderful friends by my side throughout this entire process, and excited for this season ahead. I know it’s going to be long, exhausting, and slightly overwhelming trying to balance this, recital, and work but I also know I will be sad when it is all overwith. This is what makes me feel alive.

For the first time in a long time, I love my life. I love everything about it. I wake up and don’t dread anything. There’s stress and complications and things that aren’t perfect, but it makes sense. It has a reason. I’m not afraid of being kicked, so to speak, for no reason or nervous at what the world may throw at me.
I have beautiful people in my life that make the things that aren’t perfect more bearable. I’ll have insurance again soon and hopefully can get back to the doctor to maybe run more tests to see what certain foods are hating me. I’m not afraid of that either, which is nice. I like where I am, and I’m so grateful to get to feel this way.

(post Swan Lake audition)
I missed my friends so much that I stayed for festival rehearsal even though I didn’t have to be there. I love them, and I love getting to be in this environment and among these people.

(Mrs. Alex watching the run through. She’s so incredibly gorgeous it kills me. How she stands there, so poised, then nonchalantly busts out these complex moves with such grace. Gah, I love her. She’s a wonderful human being. I love her heart and how she wants to see us succeed.)

Post Audition polaroid.

Small Studio

I may have mentioned before, but on Tuesdays–now that I stay through both hours of the VI’s class–I noticed that the small studio was open while Julie had the advanced Jazz class in the big studio. I asked Ms. Munro if I could use it to work on things when no one was in it. She was all for it.
So yesterday, Adrienne and I utilized this opportunity last night to work on some things we had seen and also some things we had never truly been shown.
(I don’t really want too many people to do this, because then it could become some kind of class, and therefore require payment for using the studio space. But having someone there to work with is beneficial.)

It was beneficial, too, because Ms. Munro kept popping in and out of the studio to get to the back storage closet, so we were able to ask her questions about the different steps we were working on, and she wanted to see our progress.

We worked on a tombe, coupe, jete step that neither of us had been taught. (Annika and Jessica had worked with me on showing it to me at Feast of Sharing, but I didn’t really know it enough to do it in class when it was one of the things we worked on yesterday.) Ms. Munro explained what we should think about (it’s one of her favorite steps) and a few pointers on it and let us go to town.
While working on this, I realized how terrible my jete’s really are. But now that I know, I can make an effort to work towards getting them better. I think part of the issue is being afraid to plie on my longer leg, since I got so used to it piercing in pain. It has been improving, now that I stay away from grande plies and jumps (which sucks, but if it helps I’ll do it.) (And also, I do them in pieces, so that’s good) but it’s still ingrained in me to be afraid. I have to break through that, and take the pain as it comes but not expect it.

Adrienne helped me tremendously on my chaine turns. I never properly learned them, and have trouble with spotting. We got substantial progress on these (Ms. M popped in and helped a bit as well) so now I don’t look like a fool as much. Honestly, confidence is half the work. If you can go forward without second guessing, you’re more likely to be successful. Now that I know what it’s supposed to feel like, I feel like I can more confidently approach them. (I need to truly get the feel en pointe, though, cause we worked in flat shoes.)

Adrienne worked on really getting the hang of fouette turns. She really didn’t have a struggle–the girl’s a natural. She tried them and succeeded first try, and I was able to film it and show her how they looked. Now she just needs to get nit-picky like the rest. I’m really proud of her. She’s really grown so much since I first met her. It’s as though everything is clicking and she’s really nailing these things. I’m especially glad we got the opportunity to work together yesterday. It helps to have someone there who will compliment you when you need it, and critique you when you need it.
And really, we all need to take a moment to remember where we started and how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.
I may get critical of myself and see how far I have to go, but Adrienne pointed out to me how far I’ve come just since being at Munro’s. We always have farther to go, more to learn, but we can’t forget to remember the progress hard work has brought us through.

Keep working hard, and you’ll get there.

(Oh. and we were working on the 6’s recital yesterday. We had to change a bit of the placement, so I ended up in the front. I half-expected Julie to switch me with Jessica or Adrienne, who were next to me, but she didn’t. In turn, I also ended up in a group of four with Annika, Alex, and Sean. WHAT IS LIFE. so, I really need to work on my jete’s, because I have to do them after the two girls and I don’t want to look like a derp. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get this opportunity. I’m really hoping I can rise to the expectations, and beyond grateful that she’s starting recital now so I can learn these things while I’m still here, before work takes over my life for a hot second.)