Giselle.

As I sit on my bed, Giselle now behind me and the post-show-blues clearly evident, I figured now is as good a time as any to post a show recap.

Buckle in, kids, this one is going to be all over the place.

This was my first spring show not being able to dance in the corps. Nutcracker was my first show with this new chapter, so naturally i thought the worst of it was over since I had already been through a round of all the emotions that comes from such a drastic, uncontrollable change. Boy was I wrong.

The role of the Wilis is one I’ve always wanted to dance. I’m rather morbid, and being a dead spirit was always appealing to me. (Explaining this would take far longer than the attention span of a blog post. If you want that, you’ll have to meet me for coffee or something.) Getting to do such a deep and meaningful role was a dream, one that I realistically won’t have the opportunity to do again. I never thought when I started this whole Ballet thing that I would ever even have the opportunity, but I did, and my health made it a different story.

I can put all the optimistic spins on it I want, but what it comes down to is: this sucks. Having something completely out of my control come in and slowly start taking things from me isn’t my favorite thing. I try to stay positive and look at the bright side, until it gets so drastic that my life isn’t even one I recognize anymore. Starkly different from what it was even a year ago, I now find myself not being surprised by the impairments I’m dealing with. Not having full answers to go with my awkward explanations of why I’m “not really dancing” in the ballet and going from my students seeming me dance roles they could aspire to, to ones that don’t even require dance shoes. It brings on waves of emotions that one doesn’t really expect until you find yourself trying to navigate them, often with some well-meaning person staring at you as you mumble through.

But.

What I have also found is a slew of positive things I didn’t expect, and ones I may not have had if I had been the roles I most likely would have been if I weren’t sick.

I was able to watch one of the most beautiful and gripping scenes in all of Ballet, portrayed by incredibly talented friends of mine. It perfectly displayed what it was that drew me to Ballet in the first place, gripping my heart and making me want to do whatever it took to express things like I was seeing. This is what Ballet is all about. This is why we do what we do. This.

I was able to capture moments of friends of mine I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Nothing fancy, nothing extreme. Just simple, off guard moments that you want to hold on to after a show becomes a memory.

I was able to get to know some of my friends better, something that has meant more to my heart than I have words for.

I was able to help some of these dear friends in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible, and by doing so, meet a need that otherwise would have been left unmet.

One of the most difficult things of being sick is not being able to help. I have to slow myself down and instead be the one accepting help from others, or worse, asking for it. It’s infuriating. But with this show, I was able to do simple things, and I mean sometimes it was super simple, to help these people I love so much.

I am so ridiculously grateful to have been able to be a part of this show, and in such a fun way. My role was that of the Huntspeople, where we came on with dogs in Act I. Having those dogs lightened everything around us, and the handlers were really nice.

Being surrounded by such incredible people, especially when this all could have so easily been snatched from me completely, is something I cherish. My directors are truly one of a kind women that I aspire to be like in my own life. I’ll never know how I managed to end up involved in such a wonderful company, but I’ll try my hardest to never take it for granted. Not to mention the friends I’ve made through Ballet. Incredible people I’m honored to call friends, and so many of them. Who am I to find myself in a place where I know I will feel so incredibly loved any time I step foot there? People go their entire lives trying to find a place like this, and here I’ve found it so early on.

Grateful doesn’t begin to cut it.

And now, here are a few of my favorite pictures of all the Giselle shenanigans, as well as a few of my favorite people.

I always think I’m taking SO MANY PICTURES but then show ends and there’s so many I missed. Sigh. But I am incredibly grateful for the ones I have, and for the people I have in my life.

Beautiful Grief.

Grief is a powerful, confusing, painful emotion to have to endure. Unrelenting, it shows up uninvited at the most inopportune times possible, leaving the bearer to have to figure out how to navigate around it.

It doesn’t care if it’s show week, you’re out of understudies, surrounded by scores of well-intending people. It will hit you square in the jaw, shatter your world to pieces, and leave you to figure out how to put it back together again. What’s more, it keeps some of those pieces, so your picture is never truly whole again.

You eventually mend, learn to avoid the holes left where the pieces once fit, and find a way to love your picture just as it is. But you still remember those places where things used to be different, where people used to be.

But there’s a beauty in it.

And if you’ve never seen someone who was dancing through grief, you’ve never witnessed that beauty.

It’s show week, we’re doing Giselle, and a dear friend of mine just lost one of the closest people in her life. Yet, she’s here. She’s dancing. She’s living.

It may seem unfair. Why is she alive while her friend is not? Why does her story get to have more chapters when her friends ended so quickly after beginning? How does she figure out her life and her story with such a giant piece of it now gone?

But, here’s the thing, her friends story isn’t over. Not truly. It carries on in my friend. It carries on in her memories of her, in things she does in her honor, in stories she tells and pictures she has. As long as she is living, a part of her friend does, too.

If you’ve never seen someone dancing through their grief, you’ve never seen beauty.

Maybe part of it is the irony of the Ballet we’re performing this week, one of love and loss, but watching my friend in warm up yesterday and on stage today, I find it hard to explain. The raw passion; a passion for living, one that has every nerve exposed, one that hurts like hell right now, it doesn’t display the pain and the suffering expectantly happening inside my friend–it shows hope. It shows me that even when the loss is insurmountable, when the pain is too much, when the world as you know it is gone, life carries on. The things that sit at the core of your being come to the surface, and that is where your beauty is found.

My friend, she is the epitome of beauty. My life is better having her in it. She is kindness and light. She’s the type of person that makes you feel better just by being around her, and seeing her grieving reminds me that I still have her light and kindness in my life, undoubtedly carrying pieces of her friend in her heart as I do pieces of her in mine.

When everything in your life seems to be crumbling around you, remember the darkness can’t last forever. Find the light and cling to it.

You are so very loved.

Together.

It was recently the birthday of a friend of mine I met when I first began dancing. I text her birthday wishes after going through my TimeHop app and seeing all the many birthday greetings throughout the 7 years (woah) that I’ve known her.

I told her I was glad she was born, she replied with, “…I’m glad you were born too, and that we both took ballet.”

That got me thinking.

About life and the last 7.5 (how) years since I threw caution to the wind and took that first ballet class. About how many people I met through dance that are still in my life. How many are among my dearest friends. About opportunities I’ve had in my personal life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

So. Many. Things.

When I made the decision to take that first class, I wasn’t merely beginning ballet classes. I was unknowingly setting myself up to be on the greatest life path I could have asked for, surrounded by some of the most incredible people.

I was giving myself the basis I needed to be able to compare the progression of my illness day-to-day.

I was making connections I never would have pursued otherwise.

When I think of my inner circle of friends, all but maybe 4 of them are from dance. Especially now that my illnesses are progressing, the kindness of my dance friends has been astronomical, filling voids I didn’t know I even had. Even being an ambassador for LIVE wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t for my dance friends. And that is currently pretty detrimental in my life course right now. (More on that later.)

I’ve learned more about myself in the last 7.5 years than I ever thought possible.

My life may be unconventional, but it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

And the students.

The students I’ve gotten to meet and teach have changed my life in was I never imagined.

A friend of mine made a comment (hey, Emily) that even if I’m having the worst day imaginable going in to the studio to teach–you know, those days when it’s so bad that it’s written all over my face–I always leave looking like someone breathed fresh life into me. These kids give me life. They put air back in my lungs and blood in my veins. They remind me why I’m here. They inspire me.

One of my kids in my first class today was celebrating her ninth birthday. She was apologizing to me for having to leave early last class because of her head hurting (precious little nugget, apologizing for being sick) and how she had been crying before class, but she couldn’t remember why. She didn’t think it was because of her mom, but whatever the reason she had been crying, which made her stomach hurt, so she thought the headache was from that. Turns out she ended up getting really sick, fever and all.

And it made me realize something I can forget when I get wrapped up in the selfishness of my own world. These kids are living their own lives, they’re facing their own struggles. There are things that make them feel happy or sad, and sometimes they can happen right before class. Sometimes they make them feel things deeply, and sometimes they don’t always show when it’s bothering them. As this little one told me of her health issues from that weekend in a way most nine year olds wouldn’t know (she’s had more than her share of illnesses) I realized the depth these kids souls are capable of having. I realized the power of influence we as teachers truly hold, and how it’s up to us to use it to leave them feeling better or worse.

When one of my kids in my last class was exceptionally quiet, sitting a little closer to me than usual at the beginning circle, I held her four-year-old hand as the other kids went around the circle sharing about their Easter holiday, hoping that she would associate that place with safety, that something so simple would help soothe whatever in her little heart was battling to surface.

These kids mean the world to me. I love them more than I have words to express. I didn’t get to where I am alone. I got here due to the people I’ve met since I’ve danced. I got here from the people in my life who’ve believed in me. People who’ve held my hand as I struggled to simply remain. People who have set the example for me to follow of how to love simply and love well. I stay here because of the assistants in my class who help me avoid things that make my body hurt worse than normal.

We’re in this together.

And I am so grateful.

(Here’s some pictures of Annabelle and I. Happy birthday (week) friend, I’m glad to know you.)

One year.

One year.

That’s how long it’s been since my feet have danced in pointe shoes.

One year since the last performance of our spring show of 2017.

Deep down, I was aware that it would be my last. That I would have to dial back and slow it down. I knew I wouldn’t be in pointe shoes again for a while, or dance in the corps, or have warm up on stage.

I didn’t realize that I would essentially have to stop dancing all together. That my back would get more messed up than it already was. That I would be so tired that I can’t really do anything outside of what is absolutely necessary. (Don’t assume what you think is necessary is the same as what I’m able to do. Dishes? Putting laundry away? Cooking, let alone eating 3 times a day? None of these are necessity right now. I digress.)

One year ago I pushed through all the pain and exhaustion and made it through my last show of Snow White which ended up having some of my favorite roles I’ve ever done. I don’t think there’s words to describe how it left me feeling, or what the memories of dancing in that show mean to me. Or even dancing at all. To think, I almost didn’t begin dancing. Fear tried to hold me back until I wanted it more than i was afraid of it. Until sheer determination and lots of hope lead me to figuring out how to begin.

Remembering the feeling of my hair pulled back right into a bun, or in this case braided into a crown around my head by my friend Lauren. The costume fastened tight around my torso like I like it, the sound the costume makes when you’re walking backstage, or trying to keep your pointe shoes quiet while also trying to get to the other side of the stage in time. The rush before your music cue, and the cheers after the curtain closes. Smiling so hard your cheeks hurt. The fake eyelashes that never seemed to stay on properly, largely because I suck at putting them on. The preparation and last-ditch-effort prayers that go in to putting on pointe shoes, hoping you’ve wrapped or taped or padded your toes enough. The split toenails. Moreso, that liberating feeling taking your shoes off. Hearing your friends next to you gasping for breath as much as you are, and watching the rise and fall of their chest in the moments of stillness, pretending like everything we just did was super easy and casual.

One of our regulars came in to work today and asked if we did anything for Easter with Ballet. We didn’t, and I told her about Giselle coming up. She asked if I was dancing, and I said not really. That I’m involved but not dancing. She made a comment of how I must be facing the burn out, which happens to all of us.

But that’s the thing, I’m not. I’d be out there if I could. And while it’s nice to have weekends without extensive rehearsals, I miss feeling that sense of purpose.

My life is slowing down, and I hope to utilize it as much as possible. There’s much still up in the air and things I’ll be weighing out in the near future, but it’s not anything I can say yet.

Amazing the difference a year can make.

Ironically, it’s also been 3 years since I first had to go to the chiropractor and found out about all my back issues. (Here’s the blog post.)

It’s also 4 years since my house fell, which ended up being a good thing so we could build it stronger, and probably why it was able to withstand the hurricane.

It’s also my sisters birthday

A day for reflection.

Here’s some of my favorite pictures from last year’s performances

(Last picture compliments of Alex Treviño)

(Second and third picture compliments of my dear Elizabeth.)

(Also. Apparently I had ooooone more show, which was at a different location. But for all intents and purposes this was my last “real” show. I don’t wanna re write this post. 😂)