Bailando International Dance Festival. 

My first dance teacher, Jilissa, puts on an international dance festival annually. It’s hosted at our local university, growing and improving every year.

They have three nights of performances, Thursday’s and Friday’s being adjudicated for the gala performance on Saturday. Companies come in from all over to perform as well, and the adjudicated performances are for the choreographers, making it an exciting weekend of dance. We also have all types of dance styles, from the typical to the traditional to fusions of everything in between.

On Friday and Saturday there are master classes available for many of the different dance types. It’s a good time to try new things and to get great corrections in your favorite styles.

The whole experience is incredible. Hands down one of my favorite weekends of the year. It’s so fun getting to see friends you’ve made from years before, and to get to make new ones.

Jilissa lets me help throughout the weekend, which I think makes it even more fun. Getting back with the girls from the studio makes me so happy; Bailando feels like home.

It’s important to remember where you came from, to not neglect beginnings. The first steps can often times be the most important, and just as often can be forgotten down the road. But I don’t forget. Jilissa’s kindness and patience with me is something I’ll always remember. She taught me more than she’ll ever know, and the wisdom gleaned from her classes was actually what inspired me to start this blog. It used to be titled “everything I need to know about life I learned in ballet class” and was largely posts about things Jilissa would say that also played important roles outside of the ballet world. Jilissa is from whom I learned about how to teach baby classes. She also inadvertently taught me about how to handle people, how to be respectful, how to be bold, how to take charge, how to balance with compassion, and to remember why it is you do this, all without even realizing it. Her life speaks more than her words. Which is saying something. Because, I mean, her words inspired this blog. So.

I was only able to attend the performances on Thursday and Friday, and only help with Friday’s master classes, but I was so glad to get to help for those bits. Surrounded by other people who love dance—old faces and new, beginners and seasoned vets—it’s so good for the soul.

I was so sad to not be able to take the classes, but I’m grateful that helping allows me to be able to sit in on them. I was able to watch bits of the beginner/intermediate ballet class with Anna from Ad Deum out of Houston (my favorite company that comes every year.)

Even just sitting in her class made me feel like everything was going to be alright, even though there isn’t much in my world currently that could be categorized as such. She encompasses an inner peace that radiates off of her. I’ve missed being around this. It reminded me of when I was at Bible school, and I’m sure that’s no coincidence. As Deum is a Christian company, and their pieces are always top quality. There were a few combos I saw and took mental notes on in hopes to try them on my own on a day I’m feeling okay enough. Her class is the type that makes you want to dance. That feeling is next to none.

There was a moment when Jilissa was talking to someone who I didn’t recognize, but you could tell knew Jilissa well. She had hugged on one of the teacher/choreographers that came out of her studio and told the lady, “she’s one of mine.” It made me smile because you could see the pride in her face, and she should be proud. Alexis is incredible. Not long after, she hugged on me and said the same thing, “This is Emilee, she’s one of mine.” With the same beaming look on her face. It really meant a lot to me. I came into this late, I’ve never been the best or even near the top. I’m not anyone particularly notable, yet she still wants people to know I’m one of hers. She’s still proud of the fact that I am. And honestly, it’s an honor. I could never thank Jilissa for everything she’s done for me, and most of it she wouldn’t even know.

It was also a sweet reminder of how God views His children. I’m a Christian, and try my hardest to live my life in a way that doesn’t make being so cause other people to cringe. My goal is to live life the way it was intended when calling oneself that. I try not to judge, but also hold myself to a certain moral standard. I struggle. I’m human. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen bits of that I’m sure. If you know me, you know the truth of it even more. But that moment reminded me of how God views us, how He puts his arm around us, and tells anyone who will listen, “she’s one of mine.” Flaws and all. Right where we are.

I’m really sad to be missing today’s classes and performances, but so glad to have been able to be there for at least a few parts. And I’m extremely grateful for this beautiful family I have found myself a part of.


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