Dueling ballet.

I didn’t expect to have something worth blogging here after a Harry Potter convention, but here I am, writing a blog about something that happened at a Harry Potter convention.

This past week was a whirlwind. I drove to Dallas to fly to Seattle for 13 hours so i could go to an Alison Sudol show, then back to Dallas for a convention called LeakyCon. (Think Leaky Cauldron.)

LeakyCon has easily become my favorite thing every year, coming together with hundreds of people who’s weirdest thing about them is the weirdest thing about you, knowing any references I throw into normal conversation will be completely understood. I come with friends and then make a bunch more, meet some of the actors, go to panels about literally everything, attend a wizard wrock concert and the Esther Earl ball and have all the fun.

This year, they brought in Paul Harris, who choreographed (for lack of better words) the dueling sequences for the movies. He’s a dancer originally, and director David Yeats tasked him with essentially creating the language of dueling.

We got to hear him talk of the background he pulled from, his favorite scenes, how he ended up staying longer and working more in depth than planned, and many fun behind the scenes stories.

He mentioned how since he is a dancer, he came at the task with the thought that if all of ballet is foundationally based from 5 position, why not dueling? He showed us the 5 defensive and 5 offensive positions it all originated from, which are the positions all new actors are taught when they learn how to duel.

As we were doing it, I found myself feeling like I was back in a dance class. Paying attention to the details of the movement, trying to make sure I’m facing the right direction, and true to form doing things opposite. (He corrected me, I laughed.) When Paul Harris made the comment, “okay, now, you do a plie in second” the girl behind me and I made a sound of understanding and realized we were both dancers. It was super fun.

He used me as an example at one point unexpectedly, which was super fun, then we split off into groups to create our own battle scene. He picked three groups to show theirs, including my new dancer friend who’s was my favorite.

At the end, my friend I came with and I went to get a picture with Paul Harris. As we thanked him and went to leave, he turns to me and says, “dance classes” before moving on to the next group for a photo, saying it in a tone that suggested he could tell I had a dance background.

I walked out of that room on cloud freaking nine.

The man who choreographed the Cheetah Girls could tell I was a dancer just from dueling. He had told me “good!” And “right!” A few times, like it were a dance class, and that alone made me feel super good, but that comment on the end meant more than he could ever know.

I haven’t taken a class in a year. I teach, but hardly do anything anymore and honestly, my days are numbered. But this man could tell that I danced. And he said something to let me know he could.

Being sick is hard. You go through various phases of grief and acceptance, then think you’ve got it down, then realize there’s about 30 more layers just to scratch the surface. Obviously one of the biggest parts of me that’s affected is my relationship to dance. This thing I fought for all these years essentially ripped from me in a slow fade over a matter of mere months. Realizing I don’t need to save up for my favorite dance skirt anymore because I can’t wear it, or having use for the custom leotards I had just received, not feeling that blissful exhaustion after a class that really challenged you, not being able to set goals in dance and work to achieve them.

It’s a process.

And oftentimes, it feels like something a part of my past.

But his comment made me realize that, even though I can’t take the classes anymore, I can’t physically do it, this is still a part of me. It’s a huge chunk of my story and it’s something that I’ll carry with me forever. I don’t have to prove that I am (or was) an adult dancer to anyone. It’s in me.

Thank you, Paul Harris.


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