Cinderella 2023

Now that I’ve had a few days to pretend like I’m recovering, I’m finally sitting down to type up the blog post for Cinderella.

We had one weekend of shows; a school show on Friday, an evening show on Saturday, and a matinee on Sunday with rehearsals at the theater peppered between.

There were many bits that were exhausting and overwhelming, but all things considered this show went substantially better than Nutcracker did this past December. Maybe because I’m more confident in what I’m doing, maybe because the cast is smaller, maybe because it’s only one weekend, maybe a combination of these things and others–who knows. All I know is I’m grateful.

I’m also extremely grateful for the dance parents who have been absolutely phenomenal in giving of their time and energy to help make this show run smoothly. I can guarantee that their efforts contributed to how smoothly these shows went, and how much less stressful it was for me personally. They’re rock stars and my gratitude knows no bounds.

These rehearsals were long, and many of the dancers are young and not used to it, yet they handled it with grace and endurance. Much of the time they ended up being released early, but even then it wasn’t something we could know until rehearsals got started and we knew what areas needed work and which looked good.

I was a “Wig Maker” in the show, helping one of the Step-sisters in the Dressing Scene by putting the wig on after two other dancers got her ball gown on. Roles like this are really fun for me as you get the opportunity to really make the role your own. With one of the step-sisters, we brainstormed little bits we could do to make it funnier, like getting giant tweezers and “tweezing her face” as well as filing her nails and such. I also brought a giant feather I had to act as a quill a la Lady Whistledown from Bridgerton. The whole scene lasted maybe three minutes or so, and they decided to let us bow at the end. This took me by surprise, as usually first act scenes don’t bow at the end of second act, especially a little bit part like this, but I can see why, given that if we didn’t we would literally be the only ones in the show not bowing.

I called my costume, affectionate, “The Potato” as it was this big brown thing. Mrs. Jane made me a really great bonnet to go with it and, coming in clutch, her husband Jim made me way better “tools” to use for the face plucking and nail filing. What I had before were long and sharp. How literally none of us recognized the danger these things posed is beyond me, but Mrs. Jane saved the day and have Mr. Jim make me big sparkly props that were absolutely fantastic–and in two hours, no less. I kept them, and am quite fond of them. Their entire family really means a lot to me, making sure I’m taken care of and informed, even walking me to my car after late shows since they know I’m alone. Little things that add up to a whole lot.

While I’m quite proud of the dancers as a whole, for their various personal triumphs and accomplishments, there’s two in particular I want to write about.

There were two sets of Step-sisters, the Saturday night set being a set of our Principal dancers, and the Sunday set being two of our soloists.

Jessica, in the green dress (the one I wigged up,) is a fellow adult ballerina, though she didn’t begin as an adult. She’s built her way up and when she and her husband moved to Corpus, she joined us here at CCB. I first met her last year when I wore a University of Kansas jacket and she came up and said, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk?” and I excitedly exclaimed, “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!” We’ve been friends ever since.

Last year I watched as she danced roles with some of the high school girls, having the best attitude and outlook on it all, lighting up the stage with her presence. I can’t even remember what her Nutcracker roles were, as some of the high school girls were no doubt cast above her, but when the cast list came out for Cinderella, I saw her name as a step sister and said, “oh, PERFECT.” Because it is. Casting Jessica as a step sister is absolutely perfect, which was only further confirmed with each rehearsal. The comedy she brought to the role often had me forgetting to go back to the office when I popped into the studio for something or another, instead being drawn in by her performance. So often in ballet, beautiful and talented dancers can end up overlooked for one reason or another, usually nothing personal though it can feel deeply as such, and seeing that happen can be really disheartening, let alone feeling it. But seeing Jessica completely nail this role so perfectly was extremely rewarding. She and Kaelin played off each other so well and you could tell they were having so much fun.

Speaking of Kaelin, she’s the other one I want to write about in this post. The step sister with the orange dress, she and I didn’t interact in our small scene, other than a quick glance in character, but watching her had me absolutely beaming with pride.

Kaelin was one of the little nuggets when I first started dancing at Munro. I remember waiting for my classes and peeking in through the window to watch their level II’s class when they first barely got their pointe shoes. She was a villager my first Spring show in Wizard of Oz and it was quickly evident what a delight she was (and is.) I watched as Kaelin looked up to the “big girls” as she danced, watched her recital dances through the years, watched her be called up as a back up understudy in my last role in which I was an understudy put in the very first rehearsal, watched her take on the roles I did, and watched as she surpassed my skillset. I watched her do Dew Drop on an injury, trying to find the tricky balance between enduring while risking further injury and taking a step back for recovery. Having the injury so close to shows, she endured, and thankfully the risk was worth it. And now I had the extreme honor of watching her take the challenge of such an advanced role, shared with one of our top Principal dancers, and completely rock it, making it look easy, even. I watched the little dancers watch her, one of the “big girls,” and see how their faces glow as she acknowledges them, some of them her students, others not. I heard their whispers of how cool they think she is and saw them trying to do the moves she did in the aisles.

When you have a young group of dancers, you have thoughts about what these kids could grow to be. You see their skills and drive, or lack thereof, and can sometimes guess which ones will continue on and which ones won’t. Kaelin has always had the drive, and she’s honed her skills over the years by paying attention and making the most of every opportunity. She’s not a kid anyone would have expected to just be handed these things, but worked her way up through the ranks, a normal dancer who had the endurance and self discipline to keep going, and now she gets to reap the rewards of her hard work. It’s been an absolute joy watching her as a step sister, and also seeing her as the Fairy Godmother during school shows, and even stepping up to cover Lead Star when Haeleigh hurt her foot the week of shows while working on recital in class. (:( my heart is sad for Haeleigh.) She has risen to the occasion and I couldn’t be more proud.

There’s loads of dancers I’m proud of who have taken great responsibility and really risen up this show, and some who have endured some really difficult things, dancing while their heart is breaking. I wish I could do more to reward them for their efforts.

After school show, we brought back a school whose teacher used to dance with us. It was so much fun seeing their reactions to the costumes and backdrops and props up close, and even more fun seeing Chrisi, our Cinderella that show who also knew Holly, the teacher, talk the kids through what it takes to make a production happen. Their eyes filled with wonder and Chrisi’s gentle instruction was a joy to behold, some of our dancers even being entranced by her explaining how she prepares her shoes to dance. The whole scene was so magical and heartwarming.

On Sunday, we had a big thunderstorm roll through, causing some localized flooding and the power to flicker before shows started. We were all on pins and needles, unsure of what might actually happen during the show and hoping against all hope the power would stay on and the audience would still show up. Thankfully, we didn’t have the orchestra, as the basement definitely flooded, and the power stayed on past the one flicker about an hour before curtain.

On Saturday, one of my favorite stories I’ll tell forever occurred.

James, who was our Step Mother, had his dressing room on the same floor as the stage. Around the corner, in fact. Somehow, the lock engaged on the handle, making him unable to get inside his dressing room after the ball scene to change back into his regular dress. We asked security if they could get someone to unlock it. They tracked down the lady with the keys and she came to unlock it, but didn’t have the correct keys. I asked James what he would do, and he had me hook his dress back up and said, “I’ll just make it work” in such a calm and composed manner. A true professional. I told him I’d wait for her to come back and bring his dress over. His cue, of course, was on the other side of the stage, and I had absolutely zero clue when he went back on, but tried not to worry about it. The lady got back and, about four or five tries later, got the right key and opened it. I thanked her, grabbed the dress, and looked around for anything else, spotting his wig/headpiece combo and grabbing it as well. Then, I ran, waving the wig so he’d see me coming, trying not to clomp backstage as I was in my character shoes. Tim, a hairdresser who was also the Head Wig Maker in the production (among other things) got his dress unhooked. James stepped into the costume, I shoved in his petticoat as Tim started working on switching out the wigs and headpieces. I got James’s skirt hooked and tried to start on the dress, my hands shaking, when someone behind me said, “start at the top!” And thankfully they did, my brain spaced and I hadn’t even thought of that. I told James I would keep going until his cue. Joe, our stage manager, came over with a flashlight and I went as fast as I could, taking about two tries on each of these bajillion hooks and eyes, feeling more hopeful with each one. As I got the last one fastened, I let James know I was done, and literally without a second to spare, he walked on in perfect timing for his cue. I looked at Tim, and said something like, “did we just pull that off?” then doubled over as the adrenaline coursed through my body.

I couldn’t recreate that if I tried. Had I stopped long enough to doubt or wonder if I’d have enough time, had I not ran, had she not had the right keys the second time, had I forgotten the headpiece–any of it and I’m sure loads more–it wouldn’t have worked, yet James sauntered on as if nothing happened out of the ordinary and the audience was none the wiser.

I have no doubt had James gone on in his ball dress he would have made it work, but I’m glad we were able to pull it off.

…and I just answered the phone at my courthouse job as “Corpus Christi Ballet,” so on that note, I’m gonna leave you with pictures and sign off. Please note, we got a good laugh at my mix-up.


Angel Begins.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but of course life sometimes makes that difficult.

I’m so grateful and so glad to be able to have my blog active again, yet my health junk–the fatigue in particular–can sometimes make it difficult to get words out the way I want them. Also, I have to be a little more careful and aware of what I’m writing since I work there now, but that’s not entirely difficult. (Just means some of my best stories I’m not allowed to share. Which is fair. How’s that for suspense? Hah!)

One that I am able to share happened about a month ago.

I teach private lessons to a few of the dance kids, most of them my former students. One sweet little nugget I began working with this season is my little ray of sunshine. She is a delight to work with as she loves dance so much and is very aware and astute in her observations during rehearsals.

After we started lessons, her mom, who I have developed a dear friendship with since this past Nutcracker, approached me with a question,

“Would you consider teaching an adult beginner?”

If you’ve been around a while or read any of my posts, you’ll know why this had me absolutely delighted. This is literally my entire ballet shtick. It’s how this blog is “a thing” and how I’ve managed to meet many of my dearest friends. My heart absolutely swelled knowing she was unknowingly asking me to also join this wonderful world of beginning ballet as an adult, learning to dance because your heart begs for it, and fulfilling that desire for the younger version of you that for whatever reason wasn’t allowed to.

The next week, we began.

It was an absolute thrill to work with Angel. To be on the other side of this; I was once the student, and now I’m the teacher. I was once the adult beginner, and now I’m teaching one. The full-circle moment is something beyond words, and something I truly cherish. Especially teaching someone like Angel, who is every bit what her name suggests. My life is already better having her in it, and now we get to share something that’s so sacred to me personally. It’s beautiful.

It was also interesting coming into it with the perspective I have; remembering what it felt like to be a complete beginner as a “grown up,” how your brain makes connections in different ways, but is capable of soaking up new information even if that stereotype is generally reserved for children.

We went through the positions of the arms and feet, separately then together. I explained that we mainly work out of first and fifth, that fourth and second are used more in center and choreography and in between movements of steps, and that for us personally we don’t use third much but it’s still important to learn so you know when someone asks for fifth, it’s not third. I explained how there’s different versions of third for your arms, depending on what you’re doing, but that we’d get into that later. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, and this was a lot of information, even if it’s literally the very basis. It’ll one day be second nature to her, but first it has to be introduced.

Then we went on to the basic steps I teach all my students: Plie, releve, tendu, pique, passe, soute, echappe. I talked through them and explained, giving different funny examples that helps my brain remember the details about them. She soaked it up like a sponge, making connections from what she’s witnessed in her daughters dancing and applying it to her own. It was really cool to get to watch.

From there we did some floor work. I mainly did this by asking what she’d like to work on and learn. We started with pique turns, which she picked up really well. We began the process by doing pique passe across the floor, getting used to the motion, thinking through making sure our knee is straight when we pique the standing leg and having a strong proper passe on the working leg. Then we added in the turning motion. Since Angel is an adult, I explained that it’s technically a 3/4 turn, showing how you prepare for the next turn by coming down at the right moment to place you where you need to be. By the end, she was rocking them.

We did a few other things, and ended with Grand Jete’s. I showed her the arm positions, showed how there’s different ways to get into them (as she’d witnessed with her daughter) and she went for it. She had beautiful height, straight knees, pointed toes even. Her arms were where they needed to be, all was going so well.

Then on the last one, she landed and we heard a pop.

Calmly, she hopped on the other foot, saying she thinks she rolled her ankle. We sat down and evaluated the situation, talked through what just happened, I told her she was doing the step properly and it looked really good. We told stories, she laughed, as casually as though we were sharing stories of flowers we’d seen in a field or something. She felt around on her foot, seeing if she could point it and such, then she said she felt something pop again.

One trip to urgent care later and turns out, she broke it. My friend Lillian had a similar injury a few years back when I was still dancing, and she managed it when she was doing an italian pas de chat–sort of similar in how the foot comes down and where.

Yet Angel is not deterred. This one set back isn’t going to stop her from pursuing what she desires. She’s not foolish enough to ignore the fact her body is telling her something, and we will change up our approach and what steps we will work on once her foot has healed, but she’s eager to get back to work once she’s cleared.

I admire her, both for her tenacity and for her honoring her body and limitations. So often people just exploit inspiration without considering stepping back is okay and sometimes what is wise. It doesn’t always mean you have to give up what you love, but it may mean it looks differently than before.

With my own health, it’s been difficult dealing with what I’m sure are well meaning comments from people, trying to tell me I could keep dancing if I just put my mind to it, expecting me to be driven enough to be like these “inspiring” people who fight through whatever and put their bodies through hell to achieve x, y, and z. While there’s no doubt I am driven, I also recognize that my body doesn’t give a crap about that. I have limits, and that’s okay. I’ve been lucky enough to manage to be given opportunities that keep me involved in the ballet in ways I never thought possible. They’re also ways that may have made past me sad to think about; being on the sidelines while I watch everyone do what I love. But from this vantage point, from the way my story played out, I can look back on the days I danced with gratitude and pride, being so grateful to past me that I started when I did, giving me time to do what I so badly desired before I was unknowingly approaching a time when I would be unable to. I look at where I am and realize what an absolute privilege it is to be where I am, that the path I took was a unique one, making me qualified and setting me up to fill this role in ways that aren’t typical.

Had I listened to the doubters, I would have been deprived of such a wonderful and arguably my favorite part of my life, not even knowing what I was sacrificing.

It’s not that the before was better, but that the entire story is a beautiful one. One I’m proud of.

The next time I saw Angel, I brought her one of my “Begin.” shirts I still have from when I was selling them. This is just the beginning for her. This part isn’t the end of her dance story, it’s just a chapter in it. It’s just one blog post of many as she continues on.

I’m so proud of her, and truly honored to get to be a part of it, thrilled to get to have a front row view of her progress.

Stay tuned.