The sky was clapping.

This weekends classes have been so wonderful.

Yesterday was one of the best classes I’ve had with them, and only 3 were missing. We got so much done I didn’t know what to do with the extra time. It made me so excited for their recital piece, which says a lot since they have one of two pieces I really want to do justice. I left feeling so good, which is always a good thing.

Today I had many of the girls that have been absent, whether sick or deaths in the family. A few of them in that class aren’t motivated, which makes learning recital complex. I’m trying to find ways to explain it so they’ll grasp it, but the ones you can tell want to be there don’t have trouble learning it. Well take it as it comes and get it figured out. I love them so much, though. They are so sweet and most of them are excited and so eager to learn. I still have to make some changes on their dance since the numbers have changed, but that’s okay.

My assistant was back today, which was heaven. The kids were SO pumped it was adorable. I don’t know how long we’ll have her due to rehearsals, but any class is a good class with her. Thankfully, I have a back up on standby in the event rehearsals take her again, but still. You can tell she loves being there and the kids absolutely love her.

We had a pretty good sized 3-4 class considering a rainstorm blew in during the class before it. A few of them were scared, but my assistant and I tried to keep them distracted and calm. About mid-class, a HUGE thunder clapped when we were all by the window. I looked at them as they all stared at me and said, “how cool! The sky is clapping for us!” And started clapping. Most of them bought it, and one even said later “dear sky, will you please clap for us again?” It was so sweet. A few were still pretty scared so we kept them close. They made it through the class, though, so I’m pretty proud of them. I would have been terrified as a kid. They handled it like champs. I also told another one that the blinds on the window were magic and keep us safe from the storm outside. Sometimes having a vivid imagination on the fly can come in pretty darn handy.

At the start of the class, one of my students came up to me and handed me this,

And said, “thanks for being my teacher!”

My heart melted. These kids are so dang sweet.

Our studio owner was asking about all my medical stuff. I told her how much these kids mean to me and how much they help with all of it. They truly do. I don’t know what I’d do without Ballet.

Today was a reminder that when things get scary, you can change your perspective on it and find a way to face your fear. Is there thunder in your life? That’s just the sky applauding your progress. Take a bow and keep on going. ❤️

Kids say the darndest things.

Last Saturday was the auditions for our company’s spring show. This year we’re doing Giselle, which I’ve never seen. I’m really excited about it.

Because it was auditions, I was left with no assistants. Normally this isn’t more than a minor inconvenience, but as the days go on it gets a little more problematic. (Me being the problem.)

The classes went great. My older girls really love to be there, which is so very exciting. I don’t ever have everyone there, so it’s making recital difficult, especially for the ones that have been missing class since catching up will be difficult. I’m not going to worry until I have reason to, though.

I got two new girls in class, sisters. They’ve danced there before but hadn’t been in a while. They held their own really nicely and I so appreciated the older sister’s work ethic. Home girl gets it, and it’s a joy to witness.

One of my dancers came up to me at the beginning of class and handed me two thin mint cookies. She said, “You get two, because you’re the teacher.” Obviously, this made everyone else ask her for one as well, but I said, “Nope! I’m the teacher, I win, go back to the barre.” and it was just a funny moment. You may not care, but I write it hear because I want to remember it.

Many of my 3-4 year olds were missing, which actually ended up working out quite well since I was alone. Bending over to tie ballet shoes makes me dizzy, and having the smaller number made it easier to keep them all in line. They’re really good kids, too, so I typically don’t have much of an issue with them, but herding 9 cats instead of 15 was nice.

The teacher for the class in between mine got caught in traffic on the way, so I took roll and started doing some stretches with them until she got there. I’m not sure if it was that or if it was the strain of the classes themselves that did it, but by the end of teaching I noticed a new pain on the right side of my lower back, as well as moments of numbness. So far, I haven’t had numbness from the bulging-disk-hitting-nerves thing yet, and this wasn’t numbness over the entire leg. It was in sections; part on my lower back, part on my hip, and part on my inner thigh. I found this odd, and asked my chiropractor about it on Tuesday. He showed me a diagram of what parts of the body are affected by the nerves being hit, and it made sense. We’re watching it to see if it progresses or mellows out before we get too concerned. I just really don’t want to end up with permanent nerve damage.

When I first began dancing and fought through all the things that tried to hold me back, I remember saying I could keep dancing even if they had to cut off my legs. I’d find a way to work with a prosthetic to at least do some bits. I never thought the thing to plague me would be fatigue, keeping me from having the energy to attend class, and now the (in worst case, dramatic scenario) the thought of “what if I end up with paralysis?” Obviously, that’s not where I am now, and obviously, we are doing our best to avoid that, but still. The fact it’s even a slim possibility can make you nervous.

Now I’m going through different ways I can alter my teaching to put even less stress on my body. (Doing Soute’s makes the numb feeling come back.) Hopefully it’ll work and I won’t have issues, because even having the most incredible assistants ever, I don’t like not being able to show the kids myself how to do things. But we’ll work with what we’ve got.

Last night, I had a new girl in my 5-6 year old class, so I spent a little extra time going over terms of steps we’re learning and the specifications with them. When I asked what shape your legs are supposed to make in a plie, they all shout back, “a diamond!” Then you hear this one little voice say, “Actually, I’m gonna call it a rhombus.” I looked at Kara, my assistant, and we both laughed because it was the greatest thing. Things like that truly make my day.

I love that ballet is part of my story, even if it isn’t as much of the plot as it used to be. I’m grateful for the little moments I do still get and am hopeful that this isn’t all for me. Just because things seem to be in a constant, albeit subtle, decline doesn’t mean they’ll always be that way.

Rest, don’t quit.

Work has really been picking up, and will likely be steady from here until May. It’s really rough on me and my body hasn’t been responding in ways that make it any easier. I’ll spare you details.

Needless to say, I’ve been a little nervous about my classes. They’re all either at or almost at capacity, which if you have ever tried to get 15 3 year olds to focus on anything, you know it can be exhausting. I also seem to be getting new kids nearly every week, which isn’t a bad thing, but can make it more difficult.

It’s all these little things that you never really notice until you’re forced to. Before, you just figure you’ll find a way to handle it and you make lemonade out of lemons. They’re virtually non-issues, rather just a tiny smudge of heightened “stress” solely for the fact that it wasn’t expected and you have to rearrange a bit. Life goes on.

But then you get sick and even these little non-issues become taxing. You take them as they come and try to stay positive. What other choice do you have?

But then you find the absolute joy in the little things as well. Like when your class that was problematic at the beginning of the year starts to maintain focus and actually make progress. Or when the brand new 3 year old that doesn’t speak the same language as you ends up being the best in the class by far. (My personal theory is that she focuses more than the other kids out of necessity. Since we can’t speak the same language, she learns by observation. It’s incredible to watch.) Or when you have the kids tell you how much they love their recital piece already, and how much they love their costume. Or when their personalities just fill you with more joy than you know what to do with.

At the end of the class for my youngers, we do this song called Slippery Fish. It’s essentially a silly song that tells a silly story that has ballet moves attached to it. We used it at my old studio, so my friend and I brought it over to this studio and the kids love it. One of my 6 year olds, in the middle of class says, “Ms. Emilee! Over Christmas” and I thought about stopping her because it didn’t seem to be a ballet related story, but she talked over me and said, “I was at my grandmas house and I said, “Alexa, play Slippery Fish” and she did!”

My heart melted. I asked if she did all the moves with it, and she said she did. This just made me so happy. You don’t realize how much they soak up until you hear little things like this. They’ll give you little glimpses if you look for them, occasionally, and it’s my favorite thing when they do.

I remember one of my 3 year olds saying something absolutely hilarious, but I can’t remember what it was for the life of me. I do know she’s inclined to say and do hilarious things just our of her personality. It brightens my day. She doesn’t even realize she does it.

These things make me so happy, and remind me why I fight to still get to teach. It’s still odd to think that a year ago I was teaching as many classes while also taking 3 classes and having rehearsals twice a week. (All while working full time) and this year I’m in bed by 8:30, having to take a day to do absolutely nothing because even showering is becoming exhausting. And it’s only January.

I’m trying to take it all day by day, and taking the time to notice these little moments that become balm to my soul.

A good adult ballet friend of mine just posted in a Facebook group about her progress and made the comment, “when you get tired, learn to rest, not quit!” Which really helped me. Such a simple concept, but so often all this makes me feel like I’ve been forced to quit, when truth is we don’t know what’s causing me to be sick. We don’t know what the future holds. I could get worse but I could also get better; we won’t know til we get there. So it’s not quitting, I’m taking the time required to rest.

(Thanks for that, Brittany)

Recital Prep.

This week was our first week back at the studio since Christmas break.

Honestly, I was nervous. I quickly got used to having my evenings and weekends far more free than than they are during the dance season. Balancing everything is a big struggle for me, but I really don’t want to cut out anymore than I’ve already had to, and the cuts have been extensive. But that’s a big downer so I won’t get into it in this post.

I was nervous about my Wednesday class. They haven’t gotten into a groove like last years class did and I found it rather disheartening. Wednesday’s class only had 9 kids (out of 16) but it was an absolute dream. It was the most focused I have ever seen them, which really helped us get through more things than usual. I hadn’t choreographed their dance yet, so I was able to try things on them in order to know what they’re capable of and get their dance knocked out today. It made me so happy, and I hope it set a tone for the rest of the semester. We’ll see how it goes when everyone is back in class.

Fridays class was a bit more complex. I forgot that I had gotten so many new kids, and they weren’t having it at all. It’s was beyond frustrating. They wouldn’t focus and didn’t seem to care to be there at all. I wanted to be like, okay cool bye, but you can’t really do that. I’ll just have to prepare more with that in mind and take away the special things they were getting since the class started out so wonderfully. Now it’s causing too much of a distraction. Their recital is done and if they’re going to be able to do it, it’s going to take a lot of work.

Obviously, I can’t expect every class to be perfect, but it takes more energy than I have when they don’t focus in class.

I have my assistants back, which is so stinking wonderful except for Saturday’s. Found out they had rehearsal, so I scrambled to find a solution. Thankfully, one of my assistants little sisters has been helping out during the week, so I asked her mom if she could help on Saturdays and she was totally on board. I also had another friend who is in the older class but not in the rehearsals help with my 6-8 year olds. It was an answer to prayer, honestly. Work is already intense and I’m feeling the strain and it’s only January. If I’m going to endure the next five months, I have to pace myself and use all the help I can get.

My 6-8 year olds were so great today it gave my heart so much hope. I started working with them on their recital dance, and the feedback I got was so wonderful. They’re excited and I really think it’s going to be great. Once again, half the class wasn’t there, but it made it to where we were able to get more done. I was able to sort of work out the bumps in the piece and should be able to have it all set for next week. Hopefully more of the kids will be there so we can get rolling with the dance.

My 3-4 year old class had two new girls, one of whom didn’t speak English. She was super precious, though, and kept up really well. I’m excited for her. I was extra glad to have the help I had today since I had 11 kids, and it wasn’t even all of them. They remained relatively focused, which was impressive, and we were able to get through quite a bit. One of the little ones asked me to tie her shoe, as often happens. She asked me if they were going to have a costume for recital. I told her yes. She asked if they were going to have a dance, and i told her yes, that i was going to put it together for them. That they would learn it and perform in May and be beautiful. She said, “thank you so much! You’re the best teacher ever!” And gave me a huge hug.

It’s moments like that that remind you why you love doing this. Moments like that are worth the added exhaustion that comes so easily these days. It’s worth taking the tiny baby classes no one else seems to favor. The kids are so sweet and they love love. It does so much gold for your soul.

This is only my second year doing recital dances. I still get rather nervous and intimidated. I want my pieces to do justice. I want the dancers to look good, but also for it not to be too easy and lame.

Last year I employed the help of a couple friends, one also being my assistant. It helped me to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to brainstorm with when I knew what shape I wanted but couldn’t figure out what step. We were able to churn my three dances out in a matter of an hour and a half.

This year is quite different. I have an older class, which means it’s more of a challenge. It’s the age where you want to start doing more movement with them on stage, which takes more brain power.

I decided to start with my most complex dance and work my way down. That way, if I didn’t get to them all, it would be easier to get done the ones I would have left. My 6-8 year olds are dancing to “Once Upon a December” from Anastasia, and I’m so obsessed with it. The class today really made me so hopeful that this dance will look good and make the girls feel good, instead of looking like a sad attempt at something cool. We make some fun shapes and work our way around the stage. So far I’ve only just done it in my room, and really just marking it, so hopefully it works out when it’s all put together.

This level is still pretty new to me, so to open my mind to new ideas of what I should incorporate and what is age appropriate without making it too complex or too simple, I employed the help of YouTube. There were some really great pieces on there that were realistic and also made the girls look good. I took some notes from about 5 or so different videos (after watching many more than that) and then put the version of the song we’re using in repeat. I closed my eyes and tried to get a visual of the song. Showing the bits to the girls today really made me hopeful.

This is the costume they’ll be wearing

Which I absolutely love. I’m so excited.

I did some fine tuning to the dance after class today, and also got my Wednesday 5/6 year old class piece done. I found that one a little more difficult since I went from more complex to less complex. It’s also part of why I took some time in between before trying to get it done. I wanted to see the girls, get a feel for the class again, and then take it fresh. They’ll be wearing this costume

And dancing to a song called “The Axiom” from Wall-e. They’re going to be so precious. I’m excited.

My Friday 5/6 year olds are dancing to the Overture from Beauty and the Beast and wearing

Which I’m still pretty excited for, even considering how this past class left me feeling. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get them to be more focused in the future and that we’ll be able to get this one to look nice too.

My Saturday tiny ones are dancing to a Winnie the Pooh suite and wearing

I haven’t done their piece yet, since I don’t start the young ones as early. This is a good thing, considering I got the two new ones today, but I still want to get it choreographed soon so it’ll be on paper and one less thing to do.

Another, more subliminal, reason I do them early like this is in case anything happens to me, whoever would take over the class would have good notes on the piece, and hopefully the girls would see it enough time to be able to guide them through it. I would hope this doesn’t happen, but each year I seem to get a little worse and I don’t want to take any chances.

I’m already getting overtime at work and the new year has hardly begun. My hope is to be able to stay on top of things there–January is my most difficult month, which things being tense and stressful through May. (If you don’t know, I do taxes. I also live in an area effected by Hurricane Harvey which threw us off majorly.) Between working 40+ hours a week, teaching four ballet classes, (with an 80 minute commute) chiropractor appointments every other week, all while being chronically ill (and for reasons doctors still can’t explain) it’s quite a bit to handle. Not to mention the fact I live alone, and therefore have to handle all household everything myself. It’s exhausting. Every free moment is spent lying down to try and save up any and every extra bit of energy, because I already needed it weeks ago.

Pray for me, y’all. I’m determined, but this won’t be easy.

Still, I’m very happy to be able to have these classes and teach these students. I’m grateful for the overtime to hopefully get all my medical stuff paid off. That’s my main goal this season. I have a good life. Maybe one day I won’t be sick and I can get back to actually dancing myself. Until then, I’ll take what I can get.

Hope y’all are doing really well. Thank you again, so much, to you who have been encouraging me, whether it’s here or on instagram. I appreciate it more than I have words to express and you often bring me to tears with your kindness. I hope you feel the same kindness in your life. You clearly deserve it.

❤️

2018

Days leading up to the new year has had me sort of taking stock and evaluating the year ahead of me. To do so, i look at the years behind me and sort of gauge what I might be able to expect, and what things I’d like to change.

This is normal, right?

This last year really did a number on me, and I don’t know that I let myself fully process or feel any of it. Maybe that’s what makes New Year’s Day so difficult.

As I sit back and evaluate, I try to get myself in the best form of preparation for work. Our busy season begins in January, with it being one of the most difficult months, at least for me. Maybe it won’t be as difficult once I really get the hang for all the yearly reports and things, but it’s still complex. This year, everything is made more complicated because of the hurricane, and next year the laws are going to change. I try to do what I can in advance to make sure I’m the most on top of my game as possible, including choreographing the recital pieces Im responsible for during break, even if I don’t start teaching my students yet. It’s one less things for me to have to worry about getting done when I don’t have any extra time to spare.

Looking ahead to this year was weird for me. It’s the first year that i know going into it that I’m not currently dancing. Yes, I’m still teaching, but depending on how the busy season goes I may or may not have it in me to keep going ahead like I am.

Not being able to dance is the most disheartening thing. Expression is my way of handling how crappy life can be, and dance had become my main avenue for that. I haven’t painted in years, even if I wanted to I can’t sit for that long any more. I write, but I don’t have the time nor the brain power to do so as much as I would like. Before, I would just push through and endure and make the most of things by filling my life with things that made me happy and surrounding myself with people who made me happy, but this past year has made that far more difficult than I ever expected.

It makes me not want to speak, to write. It makes me feel I should stay silent because all I ever do is complain about the same things over and over again. That I don’t have anything to write in a blog post since I’m not even dancing, and things aren’t getting any better or more hopeful, they’re actually getting worse.

But I don’t want to stop this blog. I don’t want to stop my dance story. I may not be able to actively participate currently, but it’s still so much a part of me. It’s in my blood.

I was excited last night to find a favorite online store of mine had a ballet shoe sweater and ballet dancer blouse and dress on sale, so I bought them for myself. It helped me feel a little more connected, even if it is in such a silly way. That maybe this isn’t my end. Maybe I’m not becoming entirely irrelevant. And maybe this year won’t be full of hopeless anti-progression.

We’ll see.

Until then, I’ll do my best to do my best and keep moving forward.