Nutcracker 2016 Cast List 

I did something to my back last week, went to the chiropractor for it on Monday before my adult class, then managed to do something to it again on Wednesday while tying one of he baby ballerinas shoes, and again on Thursday while picking up something I dropped. 

We aren’t sure what the deal is, so I went back to the chiropractor today for another adjustment. I told him what was going on and we ruled out sciatic nerve, and he tried a few different things. I got home, and did the same thing again when putting on my shorts. 

What gives? How do I make this stop?! Ugh. 

Anyway, while I was at the chiropractor, my sweet Haeleigh text me that the cast list was up. We had been throwing around ideas of when we thought it would go up and she told me if it went up today she’d let me know what I got since I was skipping class. (I’m taking the week off dancing and only teaching, hoping it’ll help my back. Of course this happens before bailando. I seem to always be hurt during bailando.) 

I got Lilac and Snow! 

If you remember from last year’s nutcracker, (I don’t have it linked, my apologies I’m typing this on my phone and am frankly too tired from this muscle relaxer I took to attempt to find it and link it here. Womp womp. Bad blogger.) I really wanted to be Lilac and Snow. I knew it would be a bit of a far fetched hope, but I hoped it nonetheless. For some reason, this has been the role set I have most longed to be. Maybe because my friend Lillian was Lilac and Snow the year before I joined up and I felt like if she could do it, so could I. And I’ve fought to get to this point, rising up the ranks of the roles until finally I am here. I feel like this is proof that I am progressing, even if I don’t always see it or seem to be blinded by the setbacks my body throws my way. (Stomach seems to be doing a smidge better, so maybe I’m getting somewhere finally.) 

I’ve observed some role placements over the years, trying to figure out if there’s a method or like a formula to the casting of people in roles. I’ve seen new people thrown immediately into good roles, or started off at places higher than I began, even though they were less experienced at their beginning than I was at mine. I try to make sense of it, when really maybe there isn’t any sense to be made. Maybe it’s not as intentional as I make it out in my head to be. Maybe it’s just timing. Or something. 

I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really care. Not anymore. 

I’m proud of where I am and what it’s taken me to get here. (Is that a real sentence? Oh well. It is now.) I’m honestly glad they started me off where they did and I’ve risen to where I am now. It may not be conventional or anything necessarily envy-enducing, but it’s me. It’s something I never thought I’d get to do. I’ve been something new every year, and after this year will have five Nutcracker roles under my belt in three years. How cool is that? And at my age? How cool is it that i was even given the room to grow, instead of being put in one spot and left there? How cool is it that I’m counted among the other able dancers, and not just put as an adult role because that’s what i am? Like. This doesn’t even have to be where i am. If i were at countless other studios, i wouldn’t stand a chance. Yet here I am, in my third Nutcracker, moving up with my level every year. 

I’m grateful that they’ve put me where they’ve seen fit and not necessarily where I thought I fit. I appreciate it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been given a unique opportunity to learn and grow in more ways than one, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I owe so much of who I am to Ballet and even more so to the people who helped get me here. 

(It’s also 5 years from the day that I posted the Facebook status asking if anyone knew of any studios that would take a “rusty” beginner. That being the understatement of the century. I was terrible. But look at me now, five years later. Getting cast as the role I always wanted to be since I first learned this was even maybe a possibility. And what better year to have the role with the garlands we hold forever than the year after we just finished swan lake. If I can do those arms, I can do anything!)

I’m so grateful to have come to this studio the year I did, in the class level that I did. These girls took me in as one of their own, and we’ve all gotten to grow together and take on roles together. We’ve celebrated successes and encouraged each other in set backs. And now four of those girls are all getting to be Clara this year, and I couldn’t be more proud. 

Honestly, it made me choke up and even cry a bit when Haeleigh sent me over the list of who got Clara. I know they’ve worked so hard, I’ve seen their progress and their fights and their hard work. I’ve seen them never give up, even when they had every right to. I’ve seen them rise when they had every bit of reason to cower away and self preserve. I know there are loads of talented girls in our studio, especially right now. And I know this casting could have gone so many ways. But I am so incredibly proud that it went this way. That the cards fell the way they did and that these girls get this opportunity. 

I’m also excited for the up and coming girls, who are proving themselves in their own ways. And I’m so proud of their good attitudes and honest excitement at the roles they’ve been given. 

And I’m proud of the older girls who are encouraging each other and building each other up after another unpredictable cast list has gone up. Making the best of every moment and determining to enjoy this season. 

It’s up to us, really. We decide how this is gonna go, not what role we get. We decide if we’re going to enjoy ourselves. We decide if the memories will be sweet or bitter. 

I have the luxury of being older and understanding that time is short and nothing is guaranteed. That we never know which time in the studio will be our last. And I, personally, want to make the most of every second I still have. 

So here’s to Nutcracker. To costumes and rehearsals and events and laughter and lessons and memories made. Here’s to the golden years we’re living out. Here’s to writing this chapter in our future memoirs. Here’s to another year I choose to make incredible. 

Join me? 


It’s a balance. 

Yesterday was rather rough for me on many different levels. Literally the only thing that got me to eat and push through the day was the fact that I had ballet that evening. I hadn’t been to a Monday class in a while and I was really excited about it. 

Then as I was putting on my tights, I threw out my back. 

Because the fact I turn 28 Thursday decided it needed to remind me that I’m really 87 or something. 

I got dressed anyway. Somehow. And when I got in my car I called the chiropractor and headed that way. Thankfully his office isn’t far from the studio, and my class wasn’t until 8 so I wouldn’t be late. 

Even though there were many things that were hard and complicated and unfortunate, all was not lost. I could have gotten upset about my back, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good so I just went with it. And thankfully I have an incredible chiropractor and didn’t have to teach yesterday. 

The weight of the day hit me about half way there and I cried probably a solid 15 minutes or more, having to make myself calm down before walking into the building so I didn’t cause a huge ridiculous scene. I put on a brace face and walked in the door, signed in, and sat down. 

My chiropractor was walking around and saw me, concerned, he came over and asked if I was okay cause my face was red and it looked like I had been crying. (How sweet, right?) I told him I was okay, it was just a rough day and tried to maintain my composure. 

The therapy tech or whatever you want to call him came in to fetch me and hooked me up to the machine with the hot packs and all. Asked if I was okay as well and I told him I had a rough day. He asked if there was anything he could do to help and I told him there wasn’t but I appreciated it. He commented on how I was still smiling even though it was clear that I wasn’t really feeling very smiley. It’s just what I do I guess. 

As I lay there on the bed I couldn’t help but almost laugh at the fact that no one ever sees me cry, like ever, no one can really tell when I have, I’m used to and good at hiding it all and dealing with it later. It’s easier that way to not have to try and explain or appear to be weak or deal with well-meaning people telling me “it’ll get better” or “someone has it worse” just to say something which usually only makes them feel better. It was hard not to break down again laying there alone, but I managed. My back still hurt a bit but I knew I made the right decision by not ignoring it and coming in instead. 

When the tech put me in the exam room, he asked if I wanted him to pray for me. This meant so much to me that I almost couldn’t respond, and chokes me up even now. I said yes and he sat on the bed in front of me and held out his hand for mine and prayed for me. The chiropractor walked in in the middle of it and joined in as the tech kept going. 

How cool is that? Like. Usually I’m the one people will come to when they need something and I’m rather hesitant to ask for help or whatever in situations like this. Mostly because I’m sure there’s worse happening and it’s hard to explain the depth of things anyway. And especially in a situation where I know there’s nothing to be done. And here they both took a moment out of their busy day not just to say they’d pray for me, but to actually do it. And it may not change anything that I can see or anything right away, but it did fill my heart with a renewed hope. And that is invaluable. 

The chiropractor popped my back, and as he did I could feel and hear the huge pop that was the cause of the problem. It popped more after that and when I asked what he thought caused it, he said it sounds like I hold my stress in my back and that’ll do it. Makes sense. He asked if I would be interested in acupuncture, which I am, and so he did an acubalance on me to see if my organs are functioning well and where things might be off balance. 

Apparently my body is relatively well balanced, which I laughed about because my blood work comes back perfect as well, yet I’m still sick all the time. He asked me more about it and showed me some things we could try when I come in next time to help with it. Hopefully it helps. Honestly, I’m beginning to be convinced that the root of my problem is stress, which I can’t do too much more for that I haven’t already done. 

I went to the studio and even got there a little early. I was going to do pointe, but didn’t want to risk hurting myself. I was a bit nervous to not have my lift in my left shoe, so I took the one I had and cut it up to fit in my ballet slipper for class. 

It was definitely weird to feel my legs even while doing ballet, and to not have to bend my knee when doing rond de jambs. (I didn’t even check that spelling so forgive me if it’s wrong.) I’m not sure if the difference was exact, but it was enough to make a difference. It was hard breaking the habit of standing wrong to counteract the unevenness now that I had the lift in my shoe. 

Class went well and my back held up. I’ve been doing the pirouette challenge and felt a difference, though I started messing up towards the end. I’m really working on straightening my knee all the way and keeping it straight. I’ve gotten better at it, but still have a ways to go. 

My favorite part of class was when Mrs Alex, being as silly as ever yesterday, was telling us to do this one part at small, medium, and high heights in our elevé. She said, “lets call it “small, medium, and large. It reminds me of fries.” It made me laugh, which I really appreciated. 

I was glad I was still able to go to class. I think it did my heart and spirit well. My back still hurts a bit and I’m thinking sitting so much isn’t helping since my hips are uneven and with the curves in my back. It’s manageable, though, and I don’t have anything planned this afternoon so i can take it easy. 

Today has been increasingly difficult, but I’m doing the best I can to make it through. I really appreciate the people I have in my life, near and far, that care about me and encourage me in every facet of my life. 

I’ll get through this eventually. I don’t know how many more difficult days I’ll have until then, but I’ll make it. Something’s gotta give eventually, and I eagerly await that day. But I don’t want to just wish these days away, even though they’re tough. There’s much to be learned and shared and experiences, even in the darkest days. So I’ll push through and try to enjoy the good things I have. Who knows, this could remedy and I could lose something wonderful as well. And it would fall on me if I wasted the time I have to appreciate it just because things were difficult. 

Back at it. 

It had been about a week and a half since I had been in class, and boy was I feeling it. You would have thought I had been out an entire summer, not so few days as I was.
I missed taking three adult classes, teaching four classes, and Nutcracker auditions.
While I was off running through four different states and a different country, I found myself getting sick in different ways than I’m used to. I’m still unsure if it was due to an environment change, or just everything that was different. I was sleeping 9-11 hours a night, and still exhausted. There were even two days I didn’t leave the hotel room at all because I was feeling so sick. Now I’m home, and it’s like my body knew it because the same ol’ sick that I’m used to was seemingly waiting for my return.
So weird.
Since I was gone, my Wednesday class grew by about five kids. We had 13 in class yesterday, and that wasn’t even all of them. I was excited, because two of them were from my old studio. I can’t tell you the joy it brings me to see them again and get to teach them again. Plus it’s fun because they know all the old songs and rhymes we did there that I incorporate in.
I was pretty impressed because the girls were relatively well behaved. I mean, there’s thirteen little ones running around the class, but really, they weren’t running. The “worst” I had was the over-zealous girl who wanted to do her own thing instead of following along, but even then most of the time she stayed in her spot and once I called her out she’d shape up, so it wasn’t terrible. (Though she tends to cut in line, so I need to remedy that somehow. Maybe make a leader chart?) They’re a really fun group, and I can’t express enough how impressed I am with how well they did in class. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re surrounded by your friends doing repetitive things. They make it so fun.
I usually go around a circle in roll and have them say their name and favorite something. This week I did favorite number, and boy was it hilarious. They are so much fun. They’re creative and silly and so very full of life, it’s enough for anyone to learn from if they just let themselves do so. And I get to be the one that teaches them ballet steps and hopefully also instill a passion for it. And if for some reason they decide not to pursue ballet, hopefully they’ll still learn what it means to be passionate about something and to work hard.
When I was in New York, one of the girls told me of their Harry Potter themed Pep Rally coming up and asked if I had anything she could borrow for it. Boy, did I! I was so excited, and grabbed some of my favorite Harry Potter things for her to choose from, including the wand I got to make in July. I brought it into the foyer where we wait for class to begin, holding the want, and all the girls who go to that school were freaking out. I’m not gonna lie, it was freaking great. She picked out her favorites and has been sending me pictures, and I swear I’m as proud as if I were her mother, or at least a cool aunt or something.
I mean, how freaking cute is she in that Weasley sweater?! 
V’s class went well. I do feel like missing a few classes and coming back somehow helps me reset my thinking. I focus on the things that are important and seem to improve more, if that makes sense. A break up in the norm helps you remember corrections and what you need to be thinking about. I really love this class. It’s full as heck, but the instruction is great and I really feel like I learn a lot. 
I’m debating staying for the pointe after or continuing going into adult. I love the adult class, more than words can say, but I need to do pointe if I’m going to keep up for shows. I could do adult en pointe, but it’s complex, really. I guess part of it is i get into my own head and then mess up more. I feel like wearing the shoes in that class comes with a certain expectation. Yesterday’s class would have been fine, but sometimes some of my classmates can be pretty intimidating. (Though incredibly kind.) 
Ms Munro complimented me on my petite battement while we were doing the combination, then when we finished said, “Emilee has a really nice petit battement!” And continued, “but your hand looks like this” and she held her arm in fifth with the pointer finger all wonky. It was hilarious, and I’m glad she said it, because I need to be more aware of both what me feet and my hands are doing. She also corrected my arm in arabesque. I tend to sort of wing my hand to the side, which isn’t cute, let’s be real. I need to think more about putting my middle finger towards where I want it to go. It helps your balance, even , having it all lined up correctly (imagine that! Haha) 
I felt pretty sick throughout class, but pushed myself anyway. I even did the petit allegro in fives and adult, though i need to get past the fear of pliéing more because it’s holding me back. It cutting my jumps short so I don’t pointe my toes as much as I need to, which will look even worse in pointe shoes. I have arches, but I need to get them stronger. I also need to work on not rolling in, and not forcing my turn out. (Among a million other things!) plus if I could just straighten my dang knee, it makes everything easier, instead of bending it slightly and making everything harder on myself. 
Nutcracker casting should be out soon, which will be exciting to get all that rolling again. I have to remind myself that rehearsals won’t be as intense as Swan Lake was, though it’ll be intense as rehearsals always are. I’m so excited. I miss them! Plus we have new people this year which is so great and really adds to the experience. 

I got to FaceTime with one of my dance babies who moved away last night, too. It made me really happy. 

The north is nice and I definitely prefer its weather, but it’s good to be home. 

New Hampshire. 

We made it up here yesterday evening. 

Y’all, I had no idea a place could be this pretty. 

(That’s from a mountain we casually climbed.)

My Brother-in-Law is from here and we are visiting his parents. I had looked up adult ballet classes nearby but wasn’t sure if I would get to go or not (counting more on the not.) It’s not really a big deal, I just thought it would be cool to do if I had the opportunity since I’m in a new place. My one concern was going this long without a class. I’ve gone longer, and it’s not really a big deal, but sometimes if I go too long my stomach gives me issues. Plus I’m missing nutcracker auditions, so I feel I must do penance or something. 

This morning I woke up and headed downstairs to see if my sister was up. Instead I ran into Chad’s mom, Terri. She was heading to water aerobics and asked if I wanted to join. 

I said yes, having been told it’s great cross training, and easy on the joints, and knowing that my friend taught a class during the summer intensives and how much the girls said they loved it. I was excited to try it out. 

Now, if you had known me 5 years or so ago, I never would have tried something new like this. And if I managed to go, it would have been after much coaxing and I would have been nervous the entire time. I think choosing to go to ballet has really helped me become a better person, in many different ways, this being one of them. 

Terri is really great and confident. It seems to run off on you and makes you feel very safe and comfortable. We drove over to the place, which wasn’t very far from their house, and got right to it, putting our stuff in lockers and heading to the pool. (After showering off first, of course.) 

I opted not to do the hand weights, since I didn’t know what all this would do to me. I figured it wouldn’t do anything bad but I wasn’t feeling too hot yesterday with all the flying and travel and lack of sleep and just didn’t want to over exert myself. I probably could have managed, but I was glad that I was able to just focus on the different things they did instead of what to do with extra things. 

I met a few ladies as we were walking from the lockers to the pool, including the instructor Sharon. She was really nice. It’s funny, because people comment on how friendly Texans are, but really most Americans are friendly, just some in a different way than I guess what people expect. But these ladies welcomed me right in. 

It felt like ballet class, where we did different combinations, if you will. The instructor was really good about explaining the details of what to do, since I couldn’t see what she was doing due to being underwater. I found her giving general instructions that sounded rather much like ballet class: shoulders down, string up through your head, tucked rear, etc. I really felt like it was helping me with my ballet technique. 

Being in the water like that, you feel your muscles differently. It’s almost like everything my teachers tell me were better defined through the resistance of the water. Plus, having to have my feet flat on the ground stretched out my calves really nicely and helped me feel where my center of balance was as well as where I place my weight on my foot. I have a bad habit of rolling in and it’s effecting everything I do. This helped me really feel where it is and work to be better about it. 

Sharon used a lot of analogies that referenced winter sports. Terri made a comment that I’m from the south and wouldn’t know what she meant. We laughed about it and I told them I watched the Winter Olympics so knew generally what she meant, though I have never done any of them. It was funny. They said I was following along really well, which I completely thank ballet for that because it really helped me focus and understand and know how to take direction. 

We did a few bits at the edge of the pool, almost using it like a barre. I loved it. I loved being able to feel what I was doing in that different way to better identify if I was doing it correctly or holding my alignment the way I need to. When we got out of the water I felt like I weighed an extra 100 pounds! Just goes to show you how much of a difference all that resistance makes! 

Overall I really feel I benefitted from going, and I’m so grateful I got the spontaneous opportunity! 

After that, we went hiking on this mountain. It’s not too strenuous of a hike, and I was able to take my camera and get some incredible pictures! 

(Please don’t mine my technique errors. Hehe)

Then we went to Loon Lake, and I got in even though the water temperature is cold for a southerner like me. It was fun. They have a Newfoundland that is trained and would come and rescue you. So apparently he thought my feet splashes meant I needed rescuing and I grabbed his tail as he towed me back to shore. 

(Sorry the one is the wrong way.) 

It’s been great so far. I’m thoroughly wiped out and we still have more to go! 

Oh! And an update on classes before I left. 

Saturday’s 3-4 year old class over doubled. I only had two, so that didn’t take much, but I did have three new girls bringing the total to five. 

One of them didn’t pay a lick of attention, and wouldn’t listen to anything I said. Ms. M even had to come into the class a time or two to try and get her to pay attention. I tried to go on my way and still have class for those paying attention. It was a struggle. 

After class Ms M asked to speak with me. I was a little nervous that maybe I would get corrected on how I handled the class. Instead, she commended me on the way I handled it, saying I ignored her when I needed to and tried to include her when I needed to and dos the best that could be done for what I was handed. That felt so good to hear. 

Then she made a comment later, saying, “You’ve really improved a lot!” And even going on to recount a time in class she saw someone who had a straight knee on something  and she was curious as to who it was, and it was me. I felt really good, which was really nice considering how hard I’ve seemed to have been on myself lately. 

Things have been good and I’m grateful. 


According to this picture, this time last year I was also spacing out. 

This was the time I was so out of it I didn’t realize I walked out in my ballet shoes until halfway home. (A 40 minute drive.)

I find it interesting how these things seem to happen. How certain times of the year I’ll feel the same way, even though my circumstances are different. I’m not sure how this happens, but whatevs. 

Needless to says, I had a rough day again yesterday. It was still good, and classes were great (though my babies were a bit excited and loved to use loud voices) I just had a hard time personally. 

Parts were wonderful. The first class went better, I think, but maybe because I felt I could get lost in it since there were 22 of us. Even so, the teacher of that class still sees you (which I love.) she’s not one to sugar coat corrections to make us feel better, but she’s not harsh either. And when she corrects, she does it in a way to explain how to fix it instead of just telling us to fix it. I really appreciate this. 

I forewent (is that a word) the pointe shoes again, and by the end of class I was really glad I did. I found myself spacing out and my stomach has been a mess this week, but I’ve still been pushing it and engaging my core like I’m supposed to instead of letting up to try and give my stomach rest. 

Once again, there were things I should know better and be better at but for some reason my brain didn’t connect all the dots. I had to choke down more anxiety than Monday, but managed to keep it inside and powered through class. I absolutely refused to let my brain pick apart all the things I did wrong and scream at me all my faults. Instead I just shut my brain off and kept going. 

At the end of class, we did a turning combination, which I managed to control and spot, even doing decent chaines, which I’m notoriously terrible at. My balances were a bit off in an earlier combination, but I was able to rock my epaulment, which is a vast improvement to usual. I felt pretty good regardless. 

At the very end, we did grand jetes across the floor and in a zig zag. I ended up going first somehow, and knew Ms. M was watching. I felt a bit of pressure since this class is the last thing they’ll see of me before auditions, which I’m out of town for, and I wanted to show them improvement. As we did the Jetes, Ms M complimented me by name. Which has never happened before with jetes. I struggle with them a lot but I was just going for it. I know they’re nowhere near perfect, but improvement was all I was aiming for. I’ll continue to work on them. 

In the struggle, I tend to forget happy moments I have in class. Like on Monday when they started the music and in 3 seconds I knew it was a classical version of Taylor Swift, though it was hard to tell. I laughed to myself when it was confirmed, because as I heard everyone else’s guesses, I too thought they may be correct. The further we went into the combination–and song–the more I realized it was indeed Taylor and I laughed because of course I’m the nerd that can tell a Taylor song even when it doesn’t really sound like a Taylor song. 

I have to remind myself to relish the good moments when things are hard. Not to forget that they are also there. To push through and do my best. That things will get better. I have to hold to the hope that maybe one day things won’t be this way, and if they are, I have all these examples of times I’ve gotten through. If I’ve done it before, surely I can do it again.