I intended to write this post last month, but after 3.5 years of avoiding it covid hit me. I did better than I expected with it, for which i’m incredibly grateful and recognize my privilege in that. I think the avoidance for so long helped me personally so it was more mutated by the time I actually got it, but I know for some people that doesn’t matter. what a difficult time to live in and navigate.
In the in between of Nutcracker and auditions for Spring Show, I didn’t see many people, but a few people came by for various things. One raffle prize winner has a granddaughter that dances with us. When she arrived to pick up her prize, we got into conversation about the productions and the discipline that goes into it as well as the magic. I asked if she had ever been in the studio, she said only to drop her granddaughter off. I offered her a tour which she gladly accepted.
From the foyer of our studio, you walk through a costume room with tutus and character dresses and rat heads hanging from the ceiling and carefully stacked. Many times the dancers walk passed it without a second thought, used to the sight of of the stacks of fabric they pass by week after week, some pausing to comment on what animal they were as 7 year olds or the seemingly endless years of villager roles, but most rushing past to the studio without a second thought.
This lady gasped; she was in complete awe of the vastness of it. I pointed out a few costumes from recent ballets, talked about the fire we had in the 1990s and showed some of the costumes that survived that we still use and which ones we got from Louisville Ballet after that have held up so well over the last 30 years of constant use with who knows how many years of use before that.
From there I walked her through the break room and showed her the studio. A room we are so familiar with its easy to forget how impressive it is. A converted warehouse, there’s a weight-bearing support structure in the middle of the front of the floor, one each dancer is all too familiar with avoiding while rehearsing and having to adjust to its absence when we’re on stage.
There’s a wall of thick cubed windows, made in a way you can’t see through them but allow a beautiful amount of natural light to come in, and a back wall of mirrors with curtains pulled back and tucked behind the barres when not in use. The lady was so impressed, speaking to how awe inspiring it was to see the place where we work in the lead up to performances. We talked about the process and how things translate from there to stage, seeing the light in her eyes bringing a smile to my face.
It truly is magic.
It’s easy to forget when it’s something you’re so closely involved in, something you’re so used to dedicating so much of your time to, something you experience so often. If we allow ourselves to take a step back and notice the magic flowing all around us, remember the first time we were involved, remember how we felt the first time we put on a tutu, remember our excitement with goals we achieved—remember the magic—we can bring a little bit of that with us and translate it onto the stage. Sometimes we need to take a step back and realize how incredibly lucky and privileged we are to be involved in something like this at all, and for us specifically at our studio to be under the tutelage of such a legendary teacher.
Of course, there will be downs along with the ups, and there is cause to feel and process the not-so-magical parts of this world. There’s disappointment and difficulty and long, long days. There are things completely out of our control and things that feel personal but aren’t, some I remember all too well (aye swifties) from my own experiences. However, the conclusion I came to is I dance for me. Ballet is what I make it. For some people, that includes a change of some form, a move, an adjustment, a program elsewhere than their home studio, a shake up in their routine. For others, it’s a mentality shift, a step back, a perspective change.
What you bring to ballet is your legacy to it. And if you bring your best, if you work hard, if you do it for you, that’s a beautiful legacy to leave, and you should be proud of yourself on that.
Today as I go back to the studio for rehearsals, sitting at my desk in the office and flitting back and forth from the studio for various tasks, i’ll choose to remember the magic, to hold the memories of the days when my body let me move freely close, and appreciate the privilege it is to have involvement still even with my limitations.