I never used to talk about being sick. I kinda forgot how much I never talked about it until recently. Granted, I didn’t used to know as much as I know now, even though I feel like I’m still so very much in the dark about so much of what is causing all of this.
Since it’s been so many years now, I’m starting to see patterns with it, and able to understand and relay what’s happening better than before. I’m also starting to get more used to dealing with doctors and making appointments and figuring out insurance, even though I still get really nervous and a bit anxious when having to do it, and sometimes it still brings me to tears.
Why am I saying all this in a blog post that’s supposed to be about the shows and theater week and magic and excitement? I’ll get to that, I promise. But I’m gonna let y’all in on a secret I have yet to talk about here, though a few of my close friends know, and I disclosed it to some of my friends throughout shows this weekend.
Saturdays show in Beeville will be my last show.
Not just of Snow White, but, like, ever.
My dance teacher tells me to never say never. And it’s true. Who knows, I could end being in a show in some way, shape, or form. But as far as auditioning for a role, it seems my days are done.
I started realizing it during nutcracker, especially when I kept struggling with Snow. It wasn’t something I should have had that much difficulty with. I knew I could be better, so why wasn’t I being better?
We had auditions for Snow White earlier, so I was already committed to the show before I fully realized that I didn’t think this was something I’d come back from. It was way before I saw a specialist, and not long after the initial bloodwork testing. My body just isn’t keeping up. My muscles get weak far faster than they should. My body takes longer to recover from long rehearsals and shows. Add on the intensity at work and just life in general–it has been a rough start to the year.
I had hoped to post this blog post far earlier than I am, but I found myself in a sort of sense of grief after this weekend ended. We still have the one show Saturday, even, but it didn’t matter. I felt it. The reality that dancing at the local theater is over hit me, and it took me a bit to come back from. Thankfully, going to class yesterday helped, as did hearing from wonderful friends and basking in the memories of this weekend.
Let’s get into those memories, shall we?
Going into theater week, I found myself quite nervous. The last few weekends of rehearsals proved to take quite a toll on me, and I wasn’t sure how I’d do having long rehearsals every night after long days at work, not to mention over time to try and get everything done by our deadline on Friday. So much happening at once, I couldn’t let myself think about it in the slightest, because then I would start to feel it, and if I were to feel it I may fall apart, and I didn’t have time for that.
They ended up going really well, and it was so much fun to be around my friends so much. Rehearsals had me hopeful that maybe everything would be okay. That maybe shows happened to fall on a good weekend healthwise and it would be best case scenario, considering.
I was able to go to a sleepover at a friends house before the school show, even though I couldn’t go to the school show because of work. I was able to watch their rehearsal for school show, which made my heart swell seeing them do so well with this role we’ve worked so hard on. Especially Emma, who was the cover for the role and was doing my part since I’d be at work. She’d covered for so many other people that weren’t me, and in finale mine was different than every they girl since I was in line with the dwarves instead of with a fellow Hoffraulein (lady in waiting.) But she nailed it. She did so well, I was beaming with pride as if she were my own daughter or little sister or something.
It was so cool to see the dance from the audience, and I was hit with this surreal feeling. So often I was the spectator; I was in the audience watching, wishing I could be part of the show, dancing on stage and creating this image that made the audience feel things. But this time, i felt that sense of longing, only to remember that Emma was wearing a dress that was also mine. It had my name in it, too. I knew the choreography. I would get to dance that very dance I just watched twice this weekend and yet again next weekend. This was my reality.
The sleepover was a blast, being with my friends and laughing and carrying on. They were awake before I left for work, so that was nice too. I was so sad to miss school show, but so glad that it gave Emma an opportunity to do the dance. It’s such a rewarding feeling to be a cover and get to actually do the dance you’ve worked so hard on, not knowing if you’d ever get that chance.
Thursdays rehearsal went well, even though two girls in the hoffraulein dance had unexpected family emergencies and weren’t there. Our director pulled me, the cover, and another girl aside to let us know what was happening. She gave Emma the choice of if she wanted to be me, the role she’d be dancing for school show, or someone else that was missing. She was me, so I tried to be one of the missing girls, and the other girl was told to have her mom record be dance and learn it that night, just in case. I ended up messing up the placement of the girl I was covering, which was probably more harm than help, but it was hilarious. At one point I just didn’t come back on stage so I could stay out of the way, instead standing in the wings, laughing at how much I hosed it up. What fun memories 😂
Friday nights rehearsal went really well, though by this time we were all pretty tired. Our director decided to cancel our Saturday rehearsal before show, causing a good amount of the dancers to cry out of sheer joy. I was actually able to sleep in on Saturday. I honestly can’t remember the last time that’s happened.
I left my house early to meet up with a friend before warm up, where we stuffed Easter eggs to hide around the dressing room. Not that there are really any hiding places, but the girls got a kick out of it anyway. There were even three golden eggs, although no one found the one I had set out Saturday, so we did it again Sunday and added two more. They were finally found 😂 it was silly and fun.
I was pretty nervous for Saturdays show. It was very surreal that it was finally here and happening. I had to keep reminding myself to make sure I enjoyed it, to soak it all in because it would be over in mere moments. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Only left in my memories. This show seemed to be plagued by drama, frustration, and set backs, but the choice was up to each of us on if we’d let it dictate our experience, or if we’d choose to see past it and create memories we don’t cringe to look back on. I was also a bit unsure what my body would do, since during one of the rehearsals on Wednesday I almost couldn’t get up out of a kneel. My left quad locked and wouldn’t release to let me stand up. It was the weirdest sensation. Thankfully, that didn’t happen Saturday, though I did mess up a part in Weiss Frauen that involved some kneeling, but I don’t think it was all that noticeable, and I struggled in Hoffraulein with a part i struggled with in the downtown studio since we have a giant pole in the middle of the studio space downstage. But it could have been worse.
Overall, I was very glad with the performance, screw ups and all. It was way better than I expected myself to be able to do. Definitely a best case scenario type of thing. Two weeks before show, we had a long rehearsal that left me feeling so bad I couldn’t make it through rehearsal the next day. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do any better than that day, so I approached one of our directors and told her that was about the best I could do. I felt like it was way sub-par, and that everyone watching was silently judging me. That I stuck out as the least amongst my peers and shouldn’t really be doing the role. I asked her if what I was capable was enough or if I should give it to the cover, who is incredible. She told me she hadn’t even noticed I messed up at all, that I was really good about blending in with everyone else around me and that I definitely didn’t look sub-par. This really helped me to get out of my head, since I know this dance is a bit of a reach for me as it is, involved choreography that has all the elements I struggle with, and my body was working against me. She helped me see that even though I know all these things are happening, people can’t see it just by looking at me. Unless I really screw up huge or can’t get up or something, it all largely goes unnoticed. This also helped take a lot of the pressure off, so I tried to focus on what I could change and improve upon with the time I had left rather than the things I had to leave to chance.
My parents came to see me as well, knowing it would be my last show. It meant a lot to me that they were there and able to see it.
Sunday I did my best to really soak it all in. I took ridiculous pictures and videos at warm up, just to try and freeze these moments in time so I never forget them. Same with backstage.
There was a moment in each dance that really struck me. Moments where I realized where I was, what I was doing, and what it meant.
The first happened in our Weiss Frauen dance. There’s this part where we kneel in lines, reminiscent of Swan Lake, while Snow White and her mother, the Weiss Queen, dance. I was in the back corner, essentially, giving me a great perspective of what was happening, and it hit me. Here I was, on this stage, in this costume. I’m doing the thing that years ago I only dreamt of. The thing I longed to do for so much of my life. The thing that scared me to my core but I wanted so much I faced that fear anyway. The thing I began merely 5.5 years ago, and here I am. I’m on stage, in pointe shoes, surrounded by some of my very favorite people in the entire world. It hit me like a wave crashing over me, saturating every inch of my being. I was so very much there in that moment; more than I probably have ever been anywhere in my entire life.
This. This is why I fight through every day. This is what I work so hard for in every class. This is what I push through all the pain and crap and fear for. This is why I keep showing up even when my body is exhausted. This. This is all the things. This is everything I ever could have hoped or dreamed for. This is my reality. These are my memories I’m making. These are the stories I tell and in front of me are the people in it.
All this happened in about two minutes, before we were up and moving again. For a moment I completely forgot I was supposed to be thinking about the next step, as it was a hard one for me. I completely forgot that i was on stage and people were staring at us under the stage lights. I was entirely lost in the moment. A moment I can visit in my mind for years to come.
The second happened for hoffraulein beginning with the rehearsal I got to watch and continuing through to the performances. Realizing that I was that person I had just gotten to watch. That I was the one in the dress and shoes, actually able to do dance moves that I used to struggle with so much. I remembered my first pointe classes when 10 minutes felt like agony and my friend McKenna was there telling me if I kept working hard she promised it would get easier. I remembered my first performance en pointe on this very stage and the struggle it was which is laughable now. I remembered how far I’d come in such a short amount of time, and the people who helped me get there. I thought of some of those very people being in the audience, seeing me dance. I realized that I was there, doing the thing I once only dreamed and hoped I’d be able to one day do. Hoffraulein was the accomplishment to my ballet dreams–to be in the most advanced ballet dance. To belong there, and not just be there out of pity.
I was there. I belonged. I was wanted there. I mattered.
It wasn’t just a dream anymore. My dream became my reality.
People have told me all along that I was ridiculous. That I was chasing a childish fantasy long past my time of achieving it. I tried anyway. As I went along, I found that my body isn’t normal and has a lot of things wrong with it. I tried anyway. I found myself having to sit out more than I ever wanted to and having to give my teacher such ridiculous lists of ailments that even I struggled to believe them even though I was feeling them. I kept going anyway.
It’s a weird feeling, when dreams become reality and then on to memory. It makes me feel all the feels. And they’re wonderful feels. I realized I didn’t have any pictures of me dancing these roles–these final roles–but it didn’t way heavily on me like something of regret. I knew my memory wouldn’t let me soon forget.
These last few months have proven to be some of the most difficult I’ve ever had to endure in my entire life. No dramatization there at all. Some days just waking up in the morning was such a huge victory, let alone trying to get through the day. Not to mention all the responsibilities I have on me currently. To say there were some hard days is the understatement of the century. Even days when I had to call in to teaching and taking class. But you know what I found?
I had multiple people texting me to make sure I was okay since they didn’t see me. Updating me on my class since I wasn’t there to teach it. These sweet girls I dance with and moms of dancers at the studio checking in on me even though I’ve missed plenty of other days before. Almost as if they knew I needed the reassurance, but no one had told them. Messaging me to let me know how the kids did not even knowing the anxiety it had given me to have to not be there with them. Knowing they were okay and which ones remembered the dance and being able to use it as a different perspective to know where we needed to go from there.
Even just thinking back on this brings tears to my eyes.
These people are my family.
This is where I belong.
This is what life is about.
You go along, doing what you can to make it through each day, hoping against all hope it’s enough. Then you hit rough days where you just want to crawl into a hole and stay there because the world is just too much, only to see that it’s all enough. That you’re doing something right.
I don’t think I could thank the girls I dance with enough. They have been everything to me. I wish I could express to each of them what they truly mean to me, but it’s impossible. There aren’t words.
But there are memories. Ones filled with such happiness and fulfillment that I know if I were to die tomorrow it would be with a full heart of a life well lived. I’d have no regrets. I am content.
This feeling spilled over after the show ended when I got to go out and see my friends and family. When I was asked by strangers for my autographs and pictures, when though I’m not a principal dancer, but realizing I was one of the advanced dancers. I reached that level. It continued on in taking pictures with fellows dance friends in costume, both on a high of a show well done, knowing we were sharing in an emotion that can’t be described, only felt. This feeling stays with me as moments of the weekend resound in my mind, guiding me through the days of my “normal” life, giving me hope that looking ahead isn’t scary, but rather something to be hopeful about.
Monday was rough as the finality of it all began to hit me. I received a text from a dear friend of mine, saying “I might have been a creeper.” Followed by pictures. Of me. On stage. The first one being this
Which happens to be the exact moment I was referring to when I felt all those things and realizations of where I was and what I was doing. When I was completely lost in the moment. I didn’t even realize she was there, let alone that close, and as I found this to be only the first of many pictures she took, my eyes filled with tears.
She made the impossible happen. Here are pictures of me on the stage in my last show.
There are so many more things I wish I could say. So many things I could have said has I blogged as I went, but honestly, the words that needed to be out were put out there. Everything else is trivial.
My last show (as far as I know) is one that I will truly cherish forever. One that I will love to tell about well into old age. One that I am beyond proud of.
I’ll still be taking classes and teaching as well, and hopefully helping out with shows. I already have plans to see Giselle next year with a dear friend of mine, making it so much better on my heart as I make this transition. It still blows my mind to think about all I’ve done.
Two of my most pivotal teachers were in the audience this weekend, which means more than they’ll ever know.
We still have one more show on Saturday out of town, of which I’ll try and post about as well.
Here’s some pictures from this past week and weekend. You’re welcome 😂
(They posted in reverse order. Some are blurry and in the wrong orientation. But, oh well 🙂 )