Nutcracker 2017: Week Two

I’m living in denial that Nutcracker is already over for this year.

I’ve learned and grown in ways I never expected, and for which I am so beyond grateful.

I got to dance among legends from our company, counted among their fold. I got to hear incredible stories of the days when our guest artists included people like Julie Kent,  Paloma Herrera, and Li Cunxin. For once, I wasn’t the oldest in the group. I was the youngest, which is what I was used to growing up and which I didn’t realize I craved. Not necessarily to be the youngest, but to have someone older there to take cues from. I was around women who were also dealing with chronic illnesses. I heard stories of their experiences and was able to apply them to my own life. I was shown 9 different personifications of confidence, and realize that it’s okay to be unashamedly who you are. I laughed, genuinely, more than I ever thought I would and told my own stories to people who cared to listen to them. And not listen to reply, but listen to learn more about me, to retain the information.

We had such a good time on stage. Making each other genuinely laugh to keep the smiles real the entire scene, making inside jokes, truly enjoying ourselves throughout this entire production.

While waiting in the wings, the Party Girls started doing a little dance in time to the interlude music. It was stinking cute, so I decided to join in. They loved it, and I loved getting to have fun with them. It melts your heart, knowing these girls are having the time of their lives. They’re committed and truly enjoyed every moment they had in this role, hearts full of dreams for what their future can hold. Telling each other stories of which Clara was their favorite, and how they were somehow connected to one or another or related to one from years before. It was so precious.

Kids are my favorite. They’re innocent and pure and see life through lenses that are all their own. No one has told them who they can or cannot be yet. They love with their whole hearts and don’t apologize for it. Being with kids is healing for my heart, especially ones like these sweet girls.

I got to do the Nutcracker pass-off, which is where someone sneaks the Nutcracker to Drosselmeyer so it appears to appear out of nowhere. It was a bit of a struggle since my costume wasn’t as big as it needed to be, but I don’t think we did too badly. It was fun, too, and Drosselmeyer was so encouraging. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to mess up that hand off, and he’s really good about playing off mistakes, but I didn’t want to be the cause of one.

I also got to see some of my students in between acts, as they were Cherubs and Angels. It made me so proud to see them perform, even if their role was simple or short. They had so much fun and were so happy to be there. Seeing their passionate little spirits light up their faces brought a warmth to my heart I don’t think I could ever find words for.

On Sunday night, I got to be the Nutcracker at the end. For our show, it closes with Clara being woken up by her parents and walked off to bed, while the Nutcracker doll stays center stage and the life size nutcracker salutes in the back. It’s a simple thing, but has become somewhat iconic with the dancers. It symbolizes the very end of the show and is one that most of the dancers mimic. You don’t realize what a rush it’s going to be until you’re walking out there, by yourself, hitting these marks just right, knowing everyone is looking at just you, copying you in the wings, and that you’re closing out this magical show. It’s such a simple part, but it holds so much. My students got a kick out of the fact that it was me the one night, which made me happy.

After the show, I went out to the lobby where dancers are allowed to go out in costume. It’s one of my favorite things, but something I haven’t gotten to do this year. I made one kid cry, but the rest of the feedback was positive, haha! I took pictures with tons of people I didn’t know, and a few I did. It was cool to hear stories of mom’s bringing their daughters for the first time and hearing how much it meant to them, stories of now-elderly dancers-turned-teachers and what ballet means to her and how important it is to stay in the ballet world, even after your body doesn’t let you dance like it used to. I heard one lady say how she has come for so many years, always wanting a picture with the Nutcracker, and now she finally got one. I had Mom’s of past students recognize it was me (how??) and I got to hug my students and take pictures and just make their day. I gave out autographs, which was kinda hard because I’m not too great at signing things other than my name, and I’m really bad at cursive “n”‘s. But it was so fun.

And here we are, at the end of yet another season. My future very uncertain.

My cardiologist said my heart is just fine, but that I do have POTS ever so mildly, which tells me I can push through my heart weirdness in confidence that at least one organ won’t give out. I have to settle for that being enough, at least for now. I’m out of time until after tax season is over.

I’m nervous, but trying not to dwell on how I’m going to get through the spring. I have to just stay on top of myself and do what I need to make sure I’m the best I can be in my current state. It’s frustrating and so stupid that it’s come to this, but here I am. I have to do what’s best for me.

My heart is so full from this year’s performances. I miss my friends already, even more since I don’t really get to see them in classes. I’m excited to get to choreographing over Christmas break for my baby ballet recital pieces. (and my not-so-baby’s.) I’m hoping I have time to get them all completed before we go back. January signals the beginning of the madness, and I don’t want something like this to get pushed to the side.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday’s, whatever it is you celebrate. I hope you are surrounded by people you love, and that you know how much you matter in this world.

Thanks for keeping up with me and my stories. Please remember that your story matters and is ever so important to tell. No one else has your story, and no one can tell it like you do.

I don’t have as many pictures to post as I would like, but here are a few anyway.

I took far fewer pictures than I thought, and those I did have people in them, and I don’t want to throw them on to a blog without permission.

(I took the liberty of including the Clara’s since their moms read the blog 😊)

(Hi y’all, love you guys)

Nutcracker 2017: Week One.

Things are always changing; progressing.

I know this. I’ve known this for a long time. But knowing it doesn’t necessarily mean you understand fully what all you will face in the progression, namely on the emotional side.

In the years past that I’ve done nutcracker, I’ve been in roles dancing alongside the company dancers that in the level classes I took. In all but one year, I was in two roles, typically one in each act. I attended warm up, strapped on pointe shoes, made sure my bun was sprayed down, tucked my ribbons, put on my tutu, and went out there and did the best I could.

This year everything is different, and I’m finding it to be rather bitter sweet. Some of it I expected, some of it I didn’t.

The Bitter:

As we began theater week, it started to sink in how different it really is. I already wasn’t at many rehearsals, I was out of the loop of the inner workings of the company and everything going on, and it actually took me by surprise when show weekend arrived since it didn’t feel I’d done enough yet.

I got to rehearsal anyway, and realized I didn’t need to be there yet since I didn’t do warm up. I mean, I could have done warm up, but if you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you’ll know why I can’t and why I’m not dancing “normal roles” with my friends.

I did my scene in Act 1, and sat and watched the rest. I realized I didn’t even really need to be there, but it felt odd to not stay.

I watched my friends dance the roles I would have danced, and some I had hoped to one day achieve the ability to dance. That’s when the most intense bit of bitterness really sunk in–I’m not dancing. If I’m not dancing, it means I’m not progressing. It means that my dance story has written as much as it is able. It means that dreaming of being any better than I was last season is more than likely a dream that won’t happen. It means I can’t watch my friends and tell myself if I just keep at it I can get there and know it to be true. Because I can’t keep at it. I’m at a completely stand still. My days of knowing the feel of walking backstage in pointe shoes, pressing my tutu down to fit through spaces it wasn’t made for, watching from the side in anticipation of my entrance, being out of breath after completing the roll, feet sore, calves burning, are done. At least, as far as I can see. I hold to the tiny glimmer of hope that maybe I can dance again, but that isn’t very realistic. Doctors don’t know what got me here, and they aren’t very keen on trying to figure out why. They tell me I just have to get used to this being my new normal but they can’t tell me how I got here. It’s infuriating.

The girls will grow on without me. They’ll grow up and graduate, and the little ones will become the big ones. And I’ll stand by and watch them, support them, offer encouragement like the cool Aunt, all while trying to process what my road is and how to walk it.

I’ve known there’s no way to eventually get to the level of those my age. That’s literally impossible. It’s never bothered me before. I guess I just realized how I don’t truly fit in anywhere, not easily anyway, so I’ve sort of carved out my own space. I’ve been accepted. I appreciate that. But all these feelings nag at me, and times like this they become difficult to ignore.

One of my favorite parts of doing the show was going out after in costume. Seeing the looks on the kids faces, especially during school show, lighting up in amazement and wonder of the ballerina in pointe shoes. They didn’t care that I wasn’t a prima ballerina, to them I was something to envy. I miss that. I realized I don’t even have to stay to the end of the show. I’m done after Act 1 Scene 1. I could literally go home. I don’t have anyone coming to see me dance, I’m not really even dancing. Not much, anyway. It’s character, not ballet. Something I could do in a play. I’m not the ballerina in the pointe shoes anymore.

The Sweet:

Even though I’m not an auditioned role, I’m not in the official company, I still get to be a part. I’m a Party Parent, which seems simple enough, but has been fulfilling in ways I never imagined it could be. These ladies have been so welcoming and inclusive to me, the newbie. Many of them have been doing this over 20 years, veterans of the trade by far. They tell stories in the dressing room of when we had Julie Kent and Paloma as guest artists, days I wish so much i could have known myself. They help me out by making sure I have all the flashy accessories I need for the role, and make sure my costume is fastened properly, even in all its complexities.

They make it fun. They make it hilarious. The smiles on stage are real because we’re all making each other laugh so much. They help me make sure I know what I’m doing and help me with things I struggle with grasping. They want to help me be my best, even as I stumble through something they could do in their sleep.

My sweet party girls are absolute dreams. I have two, and I’ve known them for a bit before the show, which made me excited to get to be their “mom” but I never realized how good it would be for my heart.

One of my sweet girls came up to me the first rehearsal in costume and told me how beautiful I looked. She told me my costume was her favorite and looked at me with eyes of wonder. I realized that I don’t have to be the “ballerina in pointe shoes” to be something of wonder. That in that moment, her eyes weren’t alight looking at the Sugar Plum Fairy, or one of the company girls. She was looking at me. It’s not my dancing that does that, it’s my example.

For so long it made my heart hurt that I didn’t get to be involved in the girls lives as much. They mean so much to me, and being there for them makes me feel like I have some sort of purpose. But in that moment I realized I still have that, just in a different way. A way that was very much so unexpected.

I may not fit in anywhere, I may be somewhat of an odd duck, I may be different, but I still matter. I’m still important. Me being there still matters, and if I weren’t there it’d be felt.

I have a lot to learn, but I’m grateful for where I am.

I hope you realize that for yourself, as well.

A few other things from this week:

We had snow on Friday! For those of you who don’t know, I live in South Texas, and snow isn’t something we see. There was one freak snow storm in 2004, which was the first time in 100 years. I never thought I’d see it again in my lifetime, let alone after only 13 years. I happened to be at a sleepover with 9 other dancers when it snowed, which made it so much fun. We thought it would all be melted by morning, but we woke up to a nice blanket covering the neighborhood. It was incredible.

We had our school performances Friday morning, but due to the snow the first one got cancelled. I was grateful for the extra time to play in this “winter” miracle, but also glad we had the second show. How incredible to get to walk through snow to get to our nutcracker performance? That’s something I never thought I’d have.

The Clara’s this weekend we’re incredible. I’m so proud of all their hard work they’ve put in. There were moments when I caught myself near tears, watching from the balcony or from backstage, so overwhelmed with pride for how much these girls have worked for this and how well they executed it all. You could tell they were absolutely having the best day of their lives. I wish I could have captured that moment and bottled it up so I could revisit it later.

We have one more weekend of shows. I don’t know if I’m ready for it to be over. Even in its differences and oddities this year, being involved fills a void in me.

Life is changing. It’s complex. It’s unclear and very often painful. But these moments where life feels sweet are coveted. I want to hold on to them while they’re here.

Here’s some pictures!

First class since July.

I told y’all I’d have a post of the class I took last week, and here I am just now getting to write it

My apologies.

Safe to say life has been a little hectic, but better late than never I suppose.

My back decides last Wednesday was the perfect day to hurt more than it ever has. It was so bad that I had to actually utilize the stool during my 5-6 year old class and sit while my assistants did the brunt of the demonstrating. I felt bad since they’ve been rehearsing so hard and are dealing with injuries of their own. I literally couldn’t teach without them, which is becoming increasingly clearer as each class goes by.

The kids were well behaved considering, so that was nice. Only a few kept talking, but overall they’re working so hard to be better. It’s such a big class, making it a challenge from the start. But I love them so much. They make my days better.

My friend who was supposed to take her first class that day didn’t show. I could have gone home, I had every excuse to do so, but I didn’t. Largely because I said on Instagram that I was going. I figured I had to at least try.

I did better than I expected, especially considering mental clarity wasn’t the best. It was so great to be back among my fellow adult ballet friends. I don’t think I let myself fully feel how much I miss being there. I excuse it away with optimism instead of letting myself fully feel everything that comes along with these changes. One of my dearest dance friends was next to me at the barre, like old times at our old studio. It felt so right.

I only made it through barre, and part of it I had to alter to what I was able to do. (Grand bettements on the left side didn’t exist.) My teacher was more than okay with that.

Being at the barre, going brought these fluid motions I have work hard to try and perfect for the last six years, hearing these classical renditions of show tunes and hearing my dance teacher telling us corrections in her British accent, it’s everything I never want to lose. It felt so good.

I only made it through barre, though i still managed a compliment from the teacher. I sat in and watched a bit of center, but realized my mental clarity fading in increasing measure the more I sat there. I struggled to focus, and being a full class the studio was limited on space anyway.

I sat outside in the foyer for a bit, spoke to some of the parents I hadn’t seen in so long, gave my brain a rest so I could focus enough to drive home.

I miss it, y’all. I’m grateful to still get to teach, and to pop in when I’m able, but dang I miss it.