Summer Guest Teacher

Typically, at least once a summer, we’ll have a guest teacher come in to teach either during the studio’s intensive, or in the continuing classes between intensive and classes starting back up again.

This summer, we had Lindsi Dec from Pacific Northwest Ballet come in to teach class on Wednesday. She and her husband, Karel, were here two summers ago to teach classes, but it was in the morning intensive classes when I had to work so I missed them. I was so bummed. When I heard she was coming back this week, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have any random health complications like last week to keep me from being as fully present as I’m able to be.

Thankfully, my body kept it together, and I was able to attend.

I was a bit nervous going into it, as I tend to be with all new teachers. I find myself torn on if I should tell them that I’m impaired, for lack of better word, or if I should just roll with it and hope for the best. Recent days have taken away any of the guesswork on if I should say something, but part of me still wishes I could just pretend I’m “normal” and do my best and if I struggle maybe they’ll just assume I’m just not that great of a dancer and move on with life. *hah* More often then not, it’s the debate of how much I let on. Thankfully, friends of mine know Mrs. Lindsi and told me how kind and wonderful she is, so I felt enough confidence to shove aside the anxiety of it all and go. (Yesterday was a day full of facing these silly little anxiety induced things I avoid that hold me back from things I love, including going to a fun new coffee shop alone successfully, but more on that later I’m sure.)

There were already a few dancers there when I arrived about 15 minutes early. My friend and I assumed it would be a pretty big class since there was a guest teacher, and I was glad she suggested arriving with enough time to get a good spot at the barre because she was right. I decided to approach Mrs. Lindsi before class and just sort of get to the point of it. I think what I ended up saying was something to the effect of, “just wanted to let you know that I have a list of various impairments I don’t want to bore you with, but I’ll just be doing barre. So don’t be alarmed if I sit out center.” Of course, she was absolutely cool about it and even told me to modify whatever I needed to. It made me feel far more at ease about even being there, for which I was grateful.

I often find myself wishing I was a naturally confident person, that I didn’t second guess nearly everything or let anxiety try to whisper in my ear worries I never would have considered on my own, but that’s not me. My reality is that I deal with these things, I fight them, and sometimes they win, but that’s okay. I’m grateful for the days the battle falls in my favor, and super grateful for times when people are naturally kind in ways that sets my inner battle at ease. This was one of those times.

The next silly concern in my head was wondering if, in saying something, I would cause her to write me off as someone to pay attention in class. I didn’t take her to be someone who would do this, but often with teachers, especially in a big class, they’ll focus more on the ones that they feel or see will use the correction, or ones that are doing this for more than just funsies. I almost forgot to wonder this one, which is a weird sentence to type but makes sense in my head. Not that I wanted to wonder it, but I was sort of proud that I cared enough to wonder it, even though I’m slowly remembering that I don’t really have anything to strive for past my own drive to be better. There aren’t any roles to try for or anything to prove, really. I’m having to relearn where I belong in the world of dance, and it’s a multi layered thing I’m still discovering every day.

Like in Kansas, I was grateful I decided to do barre full out and sit out center, even though center is my favorite part. The way she did barre made me feel just as alive as center usually does, and didn’t have many if any of the steps or combinations that can stress me out with all the ways I have to compromise and modify. I was able, for the first time in a while, to simply do barre and mostly just worry about my performance and how much I was giving to it, rather than about what hurt or was cracking. Don’t get me wrong, my heart was flittering and my brain was deciding it was a good time to go dizzy and my lungs were not seeming to get enough air despite making sure I was breathing through the exercises (which I’m usually terrible at) but I don’t feel I focused on these as much as I usually do. My brain was clear enough to retain the combinations like I used to, leaving me feel confident enough to focus on my body’s abilities. It was refreshing.

I was excited when I noticed that Mrs. Lindsi was focusing on each dancer in turn throughout the combination. More than just a fleeting glance, she was correcting little things, and staying with the dancer until the correction was understood and implemented, being honest if it was close to correct but not quite there, while also making us all feel like we were freaking rock stars when we did things correctly. It was the perfect balance of correction and praise, leaving us striving to want to do more and learn more and try more, while also not feeling like we don’t have something to offer or like it all was too difficult to even try to strive for. I respected that.

There was a combination I was a bit concerned for that involved fondu’s. Typically, these are problematic for me with my uneven legs/hips/etc, causing pain in my knees and making things complex. I had just gotten a new shoe lift before class that I was trying out, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it significantly helped in fondu’s specifically, giving me a more even platform to plie from and helping me start with even hips and build from there. Once I noticed this, I became less nervous about the combination as a whole, even though it was the one that contained a few parts I was less than confident in throughout due to said long list of ailments. Mrs. Lindsi walked by at that point and I noticed her look from the dancer in front of me, on to me. When she did so, she said, “Good! Nice!” and carried on. It wasn’t in a general way, I know she saw me and analyzed what I was doing before saying it. It made me feel so good, a sort of reward for facing all the anxieties today and giving my heart the little ballet burst it has been searching for for a while. I got another “good!” during a balance I didn’t think I would actually hold but did. I struggled more with balances since the shoe lift doesn’t go through to the ball of my foot, therefore leaving me to have to readjust things and figure it all out to stay stable, but also lifted.

We had an hour long barre, and I managed to make it through the entire thing. My back was hurting by the end of it, I’m sure largely in part to getting used to the new shoe lift as is common, and my heart was do it’s palpitating it likes to do, and my hands were shaking a bit, but overall I still had a minimal brain fog which I was grateful for. I stayed in class to watch center, which made me so wish I could be out there trying all the corrections she was saying, but also grateful to get to sit in and hear them, as well as see them implemented by my friends. Seeing the light in their eyes as they take a correction, apply it, and see positive results is something I cherish, knowing they are so proud of themselves in that moment and seeing their confidence build a notch. I’m proud of these little nuggets.

I hope to make at least one more class, maybe two, before fall starts up. I don’t know that I’ll be able to take classes then since they’ll start later, putting me home after 10pm, but I’m trying to find different alternatives. One of my dear instagram friends suggested a good barre video that’s lowkey on ailments but good on the body and heart that I want to get (once I have income again) so hopefully that will yield positive results.

I hope you all are doing really well and are striving to be the best version of yourself, wherever that finds you. You’re worth it.

It comes and goes in waves.

Today was the first class I’ve attempted to take since being in Kansas last month.

I was looking forward to it, grateful to know I still have some summer classes left to make it to before fall kicks in and they start too late for me to make.

I feel like every time I write these days, it’s after having a particularly difficult week. This week is no different. I’ve struggled with health stuff in ways I haven’t known in quite a long time, been dealt a new load of grief, and had to dig up some old emotions to let things heal. It’s been painful. All I could think about was just getting to class and being okay. Feeling the familiar rush that comes with flowing through Ballet and forgetting everything bothering me in the real world.

Except I forget that I don’t have that luxury like I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m truly grateful I can even step foot into a studio still. I don’t want to ever take that for granted. But today was another wave of the grief of adjusting to all this health crap that’s holding me back.

Those of you who don’t know me may not know I’ve known a lot of people to die in my life, and since I started dancing 6.5 years ago, the one thing to make me feel like something makes sense after the grief begins all over again is getting into a studio, recentering myself, and letting myself feel and express and lose myself to the music and movement. I lost someone else I love on Sunday, and not only am I learning how to actually let myself grieve, but I had the harsh reality that I can’t even make it through class right now slap me in the face. I went anyway, knowing I’ve felt terribly this week, knowing I wouldn’t be able to make it through the entire thing, knowing it might wear me out even more than I’ve already been fighting through this week, but I had to go–I had to try.

I was grateful. I was at the barre with some of my absolute favorite people, some I hadn’t seen in a while, some who are moving away, and some whom I’ve never actually danced with since they met me after I got too sick.

I had a few pretty rough waves of emotion during barre. Where I realized again that I’m not who I was even a year ago. That my body doesn’t let me do what I used to be able to do. That I can’t push through like I used to. That it’s not a matter of mind over matter. I hated knowing that his is probably as good as I’ll get now. I was angry at my heart for feeling like someone had a vice grip on it, at my back for the herniated disks hitting the nerves even in low arabesque, at my stomach for feeling so incredibly nauseous, at my muscles for screaming at me, at my hands for shaking, at my mind for not being able to hold focus long enough to retain the combinations I used to be so good at remembering.

I miss who I used to be. I miss being able to get through class with only my knees hurting. I miss the days when the only thing holding me back was my own determination

Then I look around me and see these wonderful friends Ballet has brought me. These kind people who love me exactly where I am, not for who I used to be. Friends who go deeper. I think of my friends in Kansas who I cherish. I think of all the wonderful things Ballet still gives me, even if I’m not who I used to be, even if I never will be that person again.

I miss Ballet as I used to know it. I miss the release it provided, I miss getting lost in it all. I’m a blubbering mess even writing this damn blog post. But that’s okay. It’s healthy, even. It’s something I need to learn to let myself be okay with.

A piece of me is missing, and I have to learn how to adjust to what life is like without it.

I’m hoping this will be easier once classes start up again and I’m teaching my babies. Just being around them makes me feel better, but also makes me feel like all isn’t lost. It’s a part of me I still have, and I’m grateful for that. I want to make the most of it while I still have it.

Okay, hopefully I have happier things to write soon. Thanks for coming along for the ride, even when it’s dark and not fun or whatever. There is a potential bright spot in the health field. I may have found a doctor that could actually hear me out and help me. We’ll see where it goes and of course I’ll keep you updated.