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.
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.
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!
Started ballet late October of 2011 at the age of 23.
Began pointe training late August of 2013.