Nutcracker, 2022

My intentions were to write one post for each weekend, full of all the little details I love to remember and hate to forget so I could go back on them in the future and remember this year of shows, but clearly that didn’t happen.

In truth, I was a bit afraid there for a bit that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to write at all this year. That fact alone broke my heart to even consider. I decided, instead, not to force it and hope that time would relieve me of the block that was forming and allow me to have a post full of those happy little details, and one I actually want to look back on. Thankfully, that is what happened, and thankfully, that will be the majority of this post.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least reference what caused the shift in intentions last weekend. Turns out, it’s my own humanity. This is my first year actually working for the ballet, and while I had a general idea of much of what goes on, I didn’t fully know the execution. Most of it was fairly cut and dry on how to go about it all and make it happen, but there were a few things with which I didn’t really know what to expect.

Add into that mix the fact the internet went out the week things were beginning to come due, causing us to not have access to internet, phones, printing tickets, credit card machines, or our regular printer, all of which we eventually found clunky work-arounds to except for the phones, but not until I was already an entire weekend worth of turn ins behind and learning I put the wrong due date on a form.

Because of this, I put in extra hours to catch up, on occasion working nearly 80 hour weeks between my two jobs. If you’ve been here any length of time, you’ll know I’m chronically ill. If you’ve been here since the “before” times, you’ll know I had to quit my previous full time job because it was too much to handle with my health issues. Thankfully, I was able to manage decently enough health-wise, largely due to the help I had from volunteers, but I found myself heading home after long days with no memory of what I had done. I couldn’t recall the details, the brain fog settling so deeply I was basically going off muscle memory, relying on logs to keep the record my brain wasn’t able to do. It was frustrating and at times scary, not to mention setting off my newly diagnosed OCD since I felt I didn’t have the control over the situation considering I can’t do too much about what my body does when I’m pushing it to it’s limits.

And, of course, errors were made. They weren’t brought to my attention in ugly or hateful ways, the people were by and large extremely kind about it, or at least civil. By the point that happened on Saturday, I was at a breaking point I hadn’t even realized I was reaching. It wasn’t until I sat next to two of my friends who asked how I was that my throat tightened and my eyes betrayed me. I’m not one to cry, but once the dam broke I couldn’t seem to get it to stop. Then, my brain started to do a number on me, telling me all those things I was afraid of happening, happening, were because I was a failure, blah blah blah.

Thankfully, in all this, I’ve had wonderful people around me. I work for a company that doesn’t berate me or even blame me for what happened. Their concern is rectifying with apology and moving forward, learning from our mistakes and doing better next time. They understand we are humans and humans are flawed and that mistakes happen. I kept expecting to be chastised and verbally beat over the head like I had been at previous places of employment, but that never happened here.

When I first started teaching classes however many years ago, I was struck by how well I was treated there. It was teaching that showed me the standard I should hold for myself and gave me the boldness to leave former places of employment that weren’t at the level of how I deserve to be treated. And now, I’m finding the same is true on this side of things. To say I’m grateful is an understatement.

I also had an army of dance moms at my side, a choice few in an inner circle, gathering around me to support me and help pull me out of the spiral my brain began to take before it got too bad. Even as I was still allowing time to run it’s course and bring me back to the place of being “okay,” I was constantly floored by the kindness I was met with. The people we have here currently are gems, and I’m grateful to be among them.

Alright, so now that’s out of the way, lets get on to the many, many wonderful things this year brought. Considering this post is already this long, brace yourself for quite the lengthy continuation, though I’m sure some details will be forgotten since I waited. That’s okay.

When it came to school shows, I was working off a contact list that was from the “before times” of 2019. I did my best to update it, but wasn’t quite sure who to contact about reserving spots for the two performances. For a moment, there was even consideration to only have one show. However, the risk of having two shows proved worth it as the first was completely maxed out and the second was over half sold. The members of administration I worked with were absolutely lovely, making this learning experience a delightful one. They were also very understanding of all the complications with the prolonged internet outage.

School shows are my favorite, as they tend to be packed out, and the kids are so responsive, laughing and clapping and gasping at all the right times. Sometimes you’ll hear a comment from the audience that just makes your heart swell as you know they’re completely immersed in what’s happening on stage. Everyone danced so incredibly well, and starting out the season with such responsive audiences did much to boost our confidence and I stood back and watched as the kids in our scene came alive as we went through what we’ve rehearsed for countless hours at the studio over the weeks in the lead up. The two Clara’s danced beautifully, clearly enjoying every moment of their dreams being realized, dancing the role they’ve hoped they’d one day have the opportunity to embody.

The first Saturday’s show was a great full show kick off. Lauren, the youngest of the Clara’s, went on stage like a seasoned professional, hitting every step and giving such wonderful facial expressions and characterizations sometimes I forgot this is a role I’ve done and watched from this same spot for, what, six years now? She embodied the role in a way that set the tone for a fantastic run, truly becoming Clara and not just going through the motions of a role she’s been tasked with. It was a joy to watch.

The first Sunday’s show was also a knock out, extra impressive when you add in all the quirks that seemed to try and plague it. For starters, the air wasn’t set at the right temperature and backstage was absolutely sweltering, making the dancers make adjustments to handle it, causing particular issues with those dancers with asthma who navigated it all with grace and boldness to where no one was the wiser that anything could possible be amiss.

Sophia danced beautifully, even navigating an issue with the sleigh without skipping a beat where other dancers may let the unexpected change get the best of them. She opened second act on the sleigh, and as they brought it around something happened with the mechanics of it and she had to go back on without it, something they’ve never practiced or ran through, with about 15 seconds warning. You wouldn’t know if you didn’t know that anything was other than it should be. Sophia is a dancer I’ve known since she was a party girl, and gotten to know well since last year. I’m so proud of her for all she’s accomplished and all she’s endured to get to this point in her dancing, absolutely beaming backstage as I watched on second act like a proud aunt or something.

Second weekend of shows brings in the live orchestra, with only one of the two Clara’s being able to rehearse with them. McKenna, the one without the rehearsal, opened us up on Saturday with one of the best performances I’ve seen. Everyone seemed to be on their A-game, and the audience was the best show audience we’ve had in recent memory. They laughed, they gasped, they applauded at all the perfect times, boosting all of our confidences on stage. McKenna is a dancer I’ve known since she was itty bitty and a former assistant of mine when I was still teaching. Her older sister, Kaelin, was a Clara back, I believe, five years ago, and when Covid shut everything down in 2019 I was hopeful she wouldn’t get passed over. Then last year she found herself out with an injury and we all hoped taking the time to step back and recover would mean she would come back stronger. That’s exactly what she did, and watching her finally after so many delays and drawbacks dance this role she’s dreamed of was something that lead me to tears. She was so incredibly beautiful that I was covered in goosebumps any time I’d watch her in party scene, and absolutely speechless backstage during second act. Then, seeing her older sister Kaelin as lead Spanish, and her younger sister Cassidy as a Lilac, dancing with her and hugging her after the curtain drop, you’d be hard pressed to find a dry eye; their sibling bond one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. The entire family is absolutely lovely, and I’m so grateful to know them and watch the girls grow. To say I’m proud is an understatement.

Last night, at our last show, Kara was our Clara. Having recently moved from Austin to Corpus last year, she made the wise decision to audition for our spring show, Sleeping Beauty, where she could get a feel for how things run here and get to know some of the people. An absolute delight, we ended up being in scenes together and even next to each other for a big chunk of it, which I’m grateful for. I remember her asking about Nutcracker auditions and if it would be too late for her to try for Clara. I told her no, and to make sure she had great expression (which I had no doubt she would since she was so expressive in the spring show.) When cast list came out I was so thrilled for her, and even more so watching her dance her heart out this weekend. Orchestra weekend is often the most challenging since we usually rehearse to a recording and the timing difference of live music can throw some dancers off, however Kara handled it like a seasoned pro, giving the other dancers a great leader to follow in their dancing. She was absolutely beautiful, her dancing exquisite, and I’m so glad that she has joined our company as she truly is a wonderful human as well.

It wouldn’t be live “theater” without the occasional happenings to cause adjustment to make sure the show must go on. First weekend didn’t have too many, besides the sleigh mishap, but second weekend made up for it. First, our Clara’s Mother ended up testing positive for Covid on Friday, our first day back at rehearsals. She got it from her husband, who tested positive earlier in the week, so there wasn’t an immense risk to the company or the fear she picked it up from someone there and she’s recovering well. We did a bit of party parent cast shifting, as one Party Mom became Clara’s Mom, and we recruited one of our teachers whose done the role a few years ago. Then, our Auntie ended up sick, so her daughter, who was a Maid, jumped in to fill the role. On top of all the party scene changes, we had a Polichinelle end up sick, so my love Lilly, who was unable to audition due to an injury but has been recovering well, jumped in. It was, of course, the smallest Polichinelle, and thankfully Lilly, who is super tall, fit the costume, so it worked out well. Lilly is a Maid and she’s also the Nutcracker that salutes at the end, but being able to actually dance for a show was so fulfilling. I was incredibly proud of her. Jumping in to a role you haven’t done in a couple years, at the extreme last minute, and doing it so well is quite impressive. There was also a Mouse who,

We also had other dancers enduring unimaginable things, yet still finding the mental strength to endure through the shows, even when it was extremely difficult to do. I’m so proud of these dancers, more than I have words for.

I’ve done party scene for longer now than I danced in the corps de ballet, which is a wild concept. I only did three Nutcracker’s in the corps, but I have done four years as party parent. It would have been five had Covid not, ya know, done what it did. When I realized I had been a party mom so many years now, it blew my mind a bit. Time is wild, y’all.

This group of party kids were my favorite. Usually you have a mixed bag of kids that are super fun and kids that are more nervous or just stoic, but this year every single one of them was out there having the time of their lives. Our party kids brought their own characters into it, which made it easier and more fun to act alongside them for such a long scene, adding in little quips we’ve never thought to add before but I’m sure will carry on now. And, of course, we do the macarena during the overture to help with the nerves. Now we’ve gotten to the point where former party girls are Clara’s, so they joined in each night, as well as other dancers who were backstage. It’s my favorite tradition we do. McKenna even told me that joining in helped her keep the nerves at bay before her Clara night, which made me so happy. Last night we even had some of the Soldiers joining in on the other side of the stage, such a fun sight to see all of us connected in this thing across all the different roles and levels.

This was also the most fun I’ve had in party scene as a whole. I don’t even know what made it so much better this year, but I found myself genuinely laughing most of the time at one thing or another, enjoying every second we’re up there.

Behind the scenes, I got to help a lot more than usual. It brought an extra layer of joy to my heart, especially after the rocky start I had mentally, to be able to jump in and help this department or that department. When I started dancing eleven (goodness) years ago, I was nervous as heck, feeling like there wasn’t really a place for me. I fought that fear and kept going anyway, finding myself with opportunities I never expected, including dancing for a pre-professional company. Right as I was starting to feel like maybe I’d somehow found a place for myself, I had to give it up because of my health. Thankfully, able to do it in doses instead of all at once, I held on to doing The Nutcracker, partially out of stubbornness. Then, when our Drosselmeyer died, I was prepared to give it all up, until two of my “babies” convinced me (with a simple, “Are you going to do party parent this year?”) to keep going last year. And now, here I am, working for the ballet company that took me in those years ago and gave me a place to belong, working among such wonderful people, meeting such lovely dancers and dance parents, getting to be a part of this beautiful world I fell in love with so long ago and had been made to give up. I never would have guessed it would find a way to draw me back in, and especially not to this caliber, but I couldn’t be more grateful than I already am.

I’ve gotten to know a few of the dance moms really well this season, which has made my heart extremely happy. The kindness I have been met with has been overwhelming in the best way, I’m almost in a state of shock by it all, not entirely certain what to do with it. But even when I get awkward in my adjustment to such kindness, I’m met with more kindness. Who knew places like this existed?

I know there will be challenges along the way, as I’ve already seen, but I also know that those challenges are ones worth facing, and that I’m safe here.

Overall, this Nutcracker season has been one for the books. I hope I never forget the look of joy on the kids faces, the way the conductor looks when I peek out from the curtains, the way I feel when we’re all having so much fun on stage, the exhilaration of seeing former dancers visit while in town, the feel of the tiny arms wrapping around my middle in many, many hugs–especially as these dancers grow. This is my favorite part of the holiday season, and I’m so grateful to still get to be a part of it.

Advertisement

crunch time.

I had every intent of making posts far more regularly, however life had other plans.

Still, I want to make sure I get this post written before opening weekend when I’m sure to have far more stories to tell that will make the details of these begin to fade, and I want to make sure I remember them.

A few days after I officially returned, we got a really heavy rain which for our old building means a bit of flooding and internet issues. Usually, we’re out a day, maybe two, and then back up and running. This time, that wasn’t the case. When we called our provider they informed us the underground cable had to be completely replaced and they didn’t have a timeline for when that might be completed. Their best suggestion was to get a hot spot.

I had come in to the office that Monday, October 31, to send an email reminding of the Ad due date that weekend. The rain happened the next day, Tuesday, November 1. We found out Friday that they would have to replace the cable and began the scramble to find work-arounds until we could get back up and running.

And it wasn’t just internet that was out. We didn’t have access to our phones, we couldn’t print tickets, couldn’t run payments, and our printer works off WiFi, so we couldn’t send anything to print. We did have a backup that’s supposed to work even in extreme cases like hurricanes, but it didn’t work either.

First order of business was figuring out how to endure the weekend. Thankfully, I had copies of all of the forms we would need for the weekend already printed, and our printer still functioned as a copier, so I made a bunch of copies of each of the forms to help fill the gap of everything we couldn’t access. When the weekend arrived, it was full of apologies, while offering the temporary fixes which usually did the trick. The hiccup was the fact I had missed changing the date on one of the forms we sent out for when the Ads were due and didn’t know until that weekend. We, of course, accepted them when that incorrect date said since that was my mistake, but most were able to get them in by the 4th anyway, which was helpful, and the ones who couldn’t we knew to be expecting so we could leave the size space for them.

After we got through rehearsal weekend, we got a hotspot hooked up and I came in Monday to get as much caught up as possible from the weekend. During rehearsals, I usually don’t come in Mondays or Tuesdays since I’m there through the weekends, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I believe between the two jobs I work, that week I put in 75 hours. And after the first day of using the hotspot, it stopped working for some reason, so I used the one on my phone, which wasn’t my idea. My brain seemed to short circuit through all of this, but thankfully someone suggested it and it worked. One of the dance moms, Jackie, found a way to use the backup thing so the printer could scan to the computer even if it couldn’t print, which saved my butt with the Ads as we scan in many of them and send them over.

Then, I reached out via email to our ticketing liaison, Jeff, who is a legend. He got us set up at the actual box office so we could print tickets, which my friend Nicole powered through and got caught up so quickly it was incredible. She also had us caught up up until this outage fiasco, so we weren’t behind to start with, which was nice. The only thing we couldn’t find a work around for was the phones, so those just had to wait. I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do.

We were out of commission, using these patches for three weeks before it came up. They never notified us, I just happened to notice once that my hotspot wasn’t on but I could see the emails, looked at our internet tower thing and saw the green lights all on. A glorious day.

When I went to check the voicemails, we had 86. I wrote them all down and called back the ones who hadn’t emailed, getting hold of most of the people who we had missed. Thankfully, ballet patrons here are lovely and were completely understanding of our delay, most just happy to hear back from someone. I don’t like making phone calls, but obviously it’s part of the job. It’s made a little easier knowing what I’m talking about so I mentally prepare myself and hope for the best. Take that, anxiety.

In all of this, we have gotten the ads in and program produced, ticket orders in and printed, school shows reserved and seats assigned, raffle tickets logged and submitted, questions answered and studio running. Now, I’m thankfully at the point where it’s the lead up to opening weekend and I’m caught up, having double checked everything I had marked on emails while things were clunky to go back and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I’m going to triple check this week, just in case, but I don’t have as much on my plate as I expected. It appears as though we are through the worst of it and now its mostly just normal office management things I have on my to do list.

I have found the busier I am, the more difficult it becomes to manage my physical and mental health. During the covid shutdowns, I was seeing a psychologist (ironic timing) and diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, PTSD, Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety, and depression, though I have a good handle on them most days. This was the real first test in that and it yielded interesting results. About two of the three weeks of the internet outage, I found myself really struggling, having to pull myself out of mental spirals and fight compulsions in ways I hadn’t experienced since before I knew what these things were and how they happened. Truly, had it not been for friends, I’d be a lot more worse for wear, the biggest hurdle being actually letting anyone in and admitting I wasn’t okay. I struggle with the balance of what I show to whom still, since most of the time it is easier in the long run not to admit when I’m struggling as it leads to more exhausting explanations and situations than just pretending I’m fine and figuring it out later when I’m home and alone. But here, I have been blown away.

Ballet has been my safe space since I first dared to take up classes at the age of 23, eleven (!!) years ago this past October. It’s been where I’ve gone to process my grief and trauma, giving myself the hour or two to leave everything out the door and reset, allowing myself a clearer head to process it all through. From car wrecks to friends deaths to everything in between, the studio is where I’ve gone. This, of course, became extremely complicated to navigate when I found myself too sick to continue anymore, and I clung to teaching until I physically couldn’t handle it anymore, which is also ironically when the world shut down. Honestly, having had to scale back so much in doses helped me handle the changes covid brought as I didn’t lose everything all at once as so many did; I had been processing each loss slowly as they came and was already mentally preparing for the final loss of giving up teaching when covid took it from me prematurely. Still, that’s only one loss of ballet instead of many at once. And now I find myself back in this place I have loved for so long, that has offered me safety and comfort in uncertainty, where I’ve met lovely people and carved a space for myself, but I’m here in new ways I never expected.

I thought coming into this that I knew what to expect, and work wise, I’d say my assumptions were spot on. What I didn’t expect was the onslaught of kindness I have experienced. Compliments literally every day, from so many different types of peopled–dance moms, dancers, board members, the public, even from our studio owners/artistic directs–and often. I’m so used to working and being in spaces where my kindness is used and abused, where I’m only important if people can get something from me, and once I’m out of sight I’m completely out of mind. I’m not a pushover–I’ve learned over the years not to be–however I’ve been in many work and volunteer spaces where I struggled to feel like I belonged or was seen. I was invisible, out of sight out of mind, only considered when they had some role that needed filled and not in ways that benefited me but instead drained me or requiring me to do things I was clueless about with little to no training and zero support.

I’ve told Ms. Munro how I didn’t realize that the way many of my superiors had treated me throughout my life wasn’t the way I should be treated until I came to teach at the studio. I was paid fairly, never forced or pressured to do things I couldn’t or wasn’t comfortable doing, and was considered in every decision that involved me. As my health declined, they accommodated that, and still do, making sure I have enough volunteers to help me take on the task of running the ballet office during Nutcracker season, checking in on me throughout. It’s taught me what I deserve, and to not accept anything less, which has set me up to take big risks with jobs that have lead to me being taken care of in my places of employment, with so little stress and zero fear; a stark contrast to some previous experiences. As a whole, I’m better for it.

And as if that isn’t enough, then you have the dance parents. We’ve all heard horror stories of dance moms, being divas and demanding and treating people terribly, but on the whole I have found the complete opposite. They thank me and compliment me, something I’m not used to. I go full awkward potato about 87% of the time I’m there because I don’t quite know what to do with compliments. I’ve finally got saying, “thank you” down, but I haven’t quite broken my compulsion of feeling I need to explain that I’m actually not that great. I’m trying.

Not only are these moms expressing their gratitude with words, but some even go as far as to bring me food and gifts and hand written cards, which are my personal brand of love language. Handwriting something tangible is an enduring and personal expression, so deeply “you,” and something I cherish and keep forever. It’s all so kind. Some of the mom’s have offered to help me, volunteering where they can, being a listening ear, offering solutions in the chaos, and some just meeting needs without me even asking. Truly, without them I wouldn’t have made it through this season. I’m eternally grateful and completely moved by their kindness.

It’s also been really nice getting to know some of the dance moms. For so long, I’ve been “friends with the kids” and most of the moms I knew had moved away and a majority of them I knew their kids better. It’s a weird dynamic since I am an adult, but truly to most of the kids I’m more of a bonus aunt or something, which is nice. But now, I’ve been becoming friends with the moms and its nice to be around people more my age, and not being the oldest for once. Its as though I feel a weight lifted by being around people older than me again, even if our life paths aren’t the same. They don’t look down on me for that, they accept it no questions, which I didn’t realize wasn’t always the case before until I was here and can see the difference.

The exhaustion of the season is definitely kicking in, and I’m sure when it’s all said and done I’ll have a little mini crash of sorts, though it will likely be more emotional than physical. I’m so grateful to get to be a part of this community and this ballet company, to be surrounded by such incredible and supportive people, to be making these memories and filling the story of my life with tales I will want to retell and, a bonus, ones that aren’t full of sadness as so much of my life seems to be. (so dramatic, I know.)

Here we go; ready or not, it’s show week, and I for one am thrilled.

behind the scenes from program photos

“every ending is just a new beginning.”

My favorite movie has long been Uptown Girls, and when I tell people that most haven’t even heard it; but I stand by it. Even when it comes to a point I haven’t seen it in a while and I think to myself, “surely my love for this movie has waned a bit,” I’ll revisit in and sure enough in near tears and covered in goosebumps. Why? I don’t know if I could really tell you, but the fact remains.

Recently it has seemed to hold an additional meaning I never could have expected, on that is encompassed in the last line “Ray” says, which is where the title of this post comes from:

“Every ending is just a new beginning.”

When I wrote my last blog post, the world was a different place, let alone me being a different person. It was December 2019, most people hadn’t even heard of Covid-19, let alone had a clue what that would hold for our world as a whole–the loss, the fear, the confusion, the solitude, the suffering–and even in that, the positive things like the connections that were formed out of necessity and how many people started realizing the importance of caring for your fellow human. For me personally, it has meant a bit more research into the disease that has taken over my life from a post viral infection of the Epstein Barr Virus I got from the chicken pox I was intentionally exposed to as a child to “get it over with” which reactivated in me as an adult and is what has dictated much of my life since, including having to give up dancing ballet; something I had long fought for.

Of course in that, there are personal frustrations this pandemic has brought me, as well as continued fears for my safety as my health conditions aren’t fully understood. I’m not allowed to get a flu vaccine, does that mean I can’t get a covid vaccine? Do I have a weakened or heightened immune system? What will happen to me if I get covid, seeing as I live with the chicken pox equivalent of “long covid” as it is. I’ve made it this far, at times with near misses to direct exposure, without getting covid for which I am extremely grateful.

I didn’t get to have my last recital with my dancers as covid required many shut downs at the beginning, which included our ballet’s performances. I believe it was absolutely the right decision to keep people safe. It also was an inevitable one that left me feeling as though my close of this chapter of my life was one that ended more abruptly than I could have hoped–because it was. I still wrote notes to all my dancers and put them with their costumes to have when they picked up and hoped I’d have the opportunity to see them one day in the uncertain future. I had just told our artistic director the week before we shut down that I would for sure not be able to return to teaching, and was going to tell my students parents when we returned from spring break, but we never did.

I know it was the right decision for me, as teaching the next year, even with the safety precautions, would have been too big of a risk for me than I could afford to take. At least I was prepared mentally for that year to be my last, rather than having it forced upon me by a global pandemic. It helped ease the sting of ending this thing I love so dearly a smidge.

As it stood, I wasn’t sure if I would come back for Party Scene in The Nutcracker or not; so much of it would depend on things no one could predict until we got closer. Then, in August of 2020, our beloved Drosselmeyer passed away of a stroke.
My heart shattered. He was the heartbeat of our production, having done the role for the past 27 years, I believe, and still every performance was as magical as if it were the first time seeing it. I was devastated, his passing was such an unexpected thing in a world that was already so inundated with uncertainty. I swore I couldn’t do a Nutcracker without him–it would hurt too much; and, after all, I had already lost so much in the ballet world. I didn’t think I could face it.

And then:

I was dog sitting for one of my favorite ballet families. They returned home shortly before auditions, and I needed to drop something off to or pick something up from them, I can’t remember which. The easiest way to do this would be to meet them at the ballet building on audition day. I was nervous; I hadn’t seen so many of these people I loved since the world shut down. I didn’t know how my emotions could cope with it all. I walk in and two of my favorites, one of whom was the last of the original group of girls I danced with when I started at this studio and danced with the Corps, came up to me as soon as they saw me. They hugged me and asked, “are you doing Nutcracker this year?” and I looked at them, and I felt the love in that room, and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.

In that moment, Catherine and Macey reminded me of what a beautiful place the ballet is, that being there is exactly where I would need to be and especially in a time of such a loss we all felt so deeply. I decided then that yes, I would do Party Scene again, and began to fill with hope at the predictability of it as I was surrounded by other people who had also survived this pandemic so far and also grieved the loss of our beloved Xavier and also were filled with such gratitude to just be there doing the thing we loved. I told Mrs. Alex, our artistic director, to count me in for this year. She was elated which made me feel even better.

So often I have struggled with feeling like I belong anywhere. I’ve felt that, even when I give everything I have to give and try my best to offer everything I’m able to an experience, there still isn’t a place for me. Somehow, I’m seen just for what I can do for the place/situation/group/et cetera, and not for who I am as a person. I feel replaceable from the start; which of course everyone is replaceable, we all have to be, if not the world would not endure and that would be the end of it. But there’s something magical about when you find a place that gives back to you as much as you put in, and for a bit I wondered if the ballet would finally be that for me. It’s been my most enduring “relationship” to date and left me feeling so fulfilled in ways I’d searched for in so many places that always came up short or left me with enough stories to make my therapist cry when I recount them. And as soon as I was sure I had finally found my place, it was taken from me by the cruelty of chronic illness, and once again I’m back at square one trying to find something in this world that doesn’t make me feel like I solely exist in the world to fill needs for other people, screw what I may need, right?

I gave it up.
I said my goodbyes.
I left it all, save for the one private lesson I taught by zoom during covid because I’m extremely stubborn and it helped me feel like I had a purpose; that all those years of fighting wasn’t wasted, and I’d hold on as long as I could. She was old enough to be instructed just by explaining so I wasn’t worn out from showing all the different things.
I made peace with the fact that life isn’t fair and no matter how hard we try, we really don’t have control over anything, even if we’re stubborn, even if we hold on with a vice grip–life doesn’t care. There’s no quota of loss you somehow reach and then have sunshine and roses forever. You can always lose more; this fact weighed heavily on me, and I sat with it and came to a point of acceptance.

During the shutdowns, my herniated disks in my lower back became unstable and hit my nerve, causing immense pain. I had to wait seven months to get in to see the doctor since I was new to insurance (bless my former boss who fought for me to be a permanent position and to have two extra hours so I could get benefits, including insurance–this kicked in February 2020.) and as soon as we got the MRI he referred me to an orthopedic specialist. Getting scheduled for surgery took another two months, and I was nervous because I’ve been told by doctors and friends and precious old ladies at water aerobics that doctors here make things worse rather than better for back hernias. I took a risk, seeing as I can’t afford, financially and physically, to travel and ended up with a wonderful competent Doctor who didn’t even have to take the whole disk and was determined not to put hardware into my back, which I appreciate. Of course, this would mean if I hadn’t already given up dance I would have had to, which I’m not surprised about. I also found out I have scoliosis, which makes things make a lot of sense. We’ve also done MRI’s on my shoulder and I’m told it’s sprained. All the issues I was having are still around, and it started from taking off my jacket incorrectly which dislocated my shoulder and put it back in, irritating all the ligaments or whatever it is in my shoulder. Of course, this is aggravated by port de bras and everything else vital to ballet. Between the two, even just doing a simple barre myself is risky and likely to make things worse.

While I haven’t been formally diagnosed by a doctor, a good friend of mine, Krista, showed me how you can take your raw data from Ancestry DNA and search for EDS markers in it to see if you have EDS. I figured it was worth a shot before paying for genetic testing, and I wrote down the markers I had. Dear reader, it would have been easier to write down the markers I didn’t have, and I have found I actually have three different types: Classical Type, Kyphoscoliotic Type, and Dermatosparaxis Type. I do still need to get formally tested, but that requires energy and money and time I do not currently have. I feel satisfied in this for now, though I do hope to one day further pursue formal diagnosis. My current Primary Care doctor has told me he is open to referring me to anywhere I want to go for it, so that is on the table, which I’m grateful for. All of this would also mean that my stomach issues this whole time have been due to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome–basically your body is sensitive to histamines and treats certain foods as allergens. I had found this at the suggestion of someone in a support group I’m in on Facebook and tried out the FODMAP way of eating to see if it would help and, wouldn’t you know it? I can go days, weeks, even months without getting sick. I wish I had known this before my gallbladder came out. I wish many things, but especially that as it seems to have been the source of many of my issues, possibly including the re-occurance of EBV, leading to my ME/CFS (the fatigue bit.) If you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll know just how life changing all of this information is for me. I have been able to learn how to eat in ways that don’t cause me stress, though I’ll forever have disordered eating to a degree. I’ve also, during the shut down, seen a lovely local Psychologist and been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and Sensory Processing Disorder, which made my life make a lot of sense and thus gave me the ability to extend myself grace in all these places I was told I was “wrong” or needed to “fix.”

To say it’s been a life altering few years would be an understatement.

Now that I’ve said all that, why the heck am I posting a blog post? We thought I was done with this, right?

I thought the same, however, back in August I was doing one of my private lessons. We moved it in person, as schedule and safety finally allowed it and my sweet nugget has gotten her pointe shoes. (cue tears because time is wild.) While there, Ms. Munro–our Artistic Director and studio owner–was in the office of the teaching studio we were using since it was registration time for classes. She pops her head out and asks if I’m sure I’m not able to teach any classes. I confirm that I’m just not physically able to commit to that as it’s too much for me to handle. She asks how my job is treating me and I tell her it’s going well and I have been able to find a good balance on maintaining my energy levels and everything. She’s pleased to hear it, which makes me feel good.

The next day I get a call from our ballet board president, offering me a part time gig at the company studio working in the office. I listened to her describe some of the responsibilities I would have, all things I could hear and understand immediately on what would need to be done. She told me to think about it over the weekend and get back to her Monday, but that she thought I would be a perfect fit if I wanted to join.

I was shocked. I sat on my friends couch, as I was dog sitting, and thought it through, evaluating my energy levels and if I could take on an extra 20 hours a week on top of my 30 at the court house. I thought through all the possible scenarios I could come up with, people I would be working with and for, potential stress triggers, et cetera, then I called a good friend of mine and asked her to tell me honestly if she thought I could handle it.

“Oh, definitely.”

On Monday, I called and let them know I was interested, and I started the next week. It’s been two full months and so far the worst thing I’ve messed up is forgetting to attach a document on an email–in other words, it’s going great.

TL;DR, in a wild turn of events, I have found myself back in the ballet world in the most perfect way for me. I’m thrilled and loving it and will be back to the blog, writing about my adventures from this side of things. My hands have been shaking typing this, whether out of nerves or excitement I’m not entirely sure. So much has changed and yet so much remains.

If you’re a nosey-nancy and wondering if I will be dishing out deep dark secrets of behind the scenes things I’m privy to–that’s a hard no. Find that gossip elsewhere because it won’t be here. But if you’d like to read about my adventures and experiences and the good feelings I’ve had so far, please do stick around.

I’m excited to have a reason to be posting again, as I have missed you all so dearly. Thank you for coming back and coming along for this new ride. I look forward to sharing it with you ❤

In the words of Taylor Swift, lets watch it begin again.

empty studio space

The end.

Much has happened since my last post.

I traveled to England and had the opportunity to meet and spend time with many dear friends I’ve gotten to know through this blog and corresponding instagram page.

I’ve taught many classes (though many have also had to be subbed unexpectedly to attend funerals)

Nutcracker has come and gone.

And also, I’ve had the beginnings of a conversation with our artistic director about realities I’ve been trying to pretend aren’t realities.

I don’t ignore the fact I’m sick, but I’ve been trying to act like the extremities of it don’t exist. If I don’t have a solid diagnosis, a solid reason for this, then surely it’s not actually happening, right? Surely it’ll go away at some point, won’t it?

The answer to that is, “No.”

I’ve been sick since high school, which is now more than half my life. I don’t know what it feels like to be well or “normal” and it’s infuriating, but for much of my experience with it, I’ve been able to handle life miraging as a functioning human being. Once I got it into my head that I can do things if I set my mind to do so I didn’t want to limit myself, so I began ballet at 23, was given permission to begin pointe at 25, and managed to end up part of a pre-professional company even dancing in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. These were things I never even dared to dream, and I did them.

I tried to soak up every moment of it all, from the swish of tulle to the pressure of pointe shoes to the pull of your hair in a bun for hours, tried to memorize the emotions that came with just getting to experience these things simply because that’s how my life was going–it’s where I ended up. I tried to relish the fact I got paid to teach tiny humans this incredibly exciting thing that is ballet and watch them learn to love it as much as I did. I watched their progress and marveled at their triumphs, I teared up hugging them at the end of the year and hoped I’d see them either in classes the next year or at rehearsals the next season. It helped the goodbyes not hurt so much.

I’ve tried to deny most of my life that I’m a “feeler” but turns out its a very deep and innate part of who I am. I’m learning to love it, but it can make goodbyes complicated to process.

This year as the weeks rolled on, I realized it will be my last year teaching–the last main tether holding me to the ballet world. One of the first rehearsals for party scene of The Nutcracker I let our artistic director know that my body officially can’t hold up anymore. She replied with, “I was afraid you’d say that.”

They don’t want to see me go, either, which I appreciate so much, but they also are aware that there are things out of our control. They have been so kind and considerate of the fact that I have limitations, and have done everything possible to accommodate me with them. Ultimately, it’s up to me to decide when it’s too much to push through anymore, and this year has proven I am at my limit.

I’ve developed a pain in my right shoulder that caused me to have to teach 2.5 out of 4 classes with an ice pack on it for two weeks. Along with the herniated disks in my lower back that are hitting a nerve, arthritis in my knee and neck, and the chronic fatigue I believe I have reached my limit. It simultaneously breaks my heart to know I have to leave this thing I love and also makes it swell to see how much has happened and how many people fill it due to ballet.

As of how it stands currently, I’ll still be on call to sub classes, and still do Nutcracker if they’ll have me, but even so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to manage that. Still, I’m going to hold on to it as long as I can.

I’m getting ready to choreograph my last ballet recitals for the spring recital. I probably won’t write a blog post about it, so as it stands this will serve as the stagnant post to greet people who wonder where I’ve been or want some sort of closure to my story. (that’s a bold statement but I’m leaving it.)

I’m going to keep the blog up and keep my instagram page live for posterity and for whoever can benefit from the posts that have come out of these past 8 years. Hopefully some of you can find comfort or solace or encouragement in their words even if they’re not new.

I appreciate you guys for your support and love and kindness to me. Your friendships have been a lifeline to me and I value them more than words could ever express. While this all is incredibly difficult to let go of, I’m grateful beyond words that it was ever possible at all.

Enjoy every moment you’re given, soak it up while you have it, hold the people you love close, take the dang picture, and remember how valuable you truly are.

 

Start of the new school year.

This week marked the first week back at classes at our studio.

I’m only teaching Saturdays this year, so today was my first day.

I was a bit nervous because we added a 5-6 year old class, giving me 4 classes in a row, and a fairly consistent private after that, putting me at the studio teaching from 10-2. Now, if you’ve been following along, you’ll remember I’m chronically ill and don’t have, ya know, energy.

This is a huge risk for me, but my hope is since I’m pretty consistent during the week that I’ll be able to have enough energy for saturdays to make it through.

I was excited to find that so many of the names on my roster were ones I recognized, whether I taught the kids or had subbed their classes.

Classes are supposed to cap at 18, but my first class I believe ended up with 20. Already. First day. I’m not really worried because a good amount of them won’t show up, or at least not consistently, and the class seems to be full of kids that actually want to be there. It makes the classes function so much better, especially giant classes, if the kids actually care enough to be there. I have no clue how I’ll do recital, but if they keep up how they did today, I’ll be able to do fun stuff with them.

I think we’re gonna move a few of the 4-5 year olds to the 5-6, since the last class is rather empty and a few of them are on the older side of things anyway. I’m hopeful the 5-6 class will do better with more kids in it, but they’re good kids as it is. The 3-4 class doesn’t have many in it either, but I’m hoping once I learn all their names it’ll be a pretty decent class.

I had a truly mind blowing experience in my 4-5 year old class. If you’ve followed my story, you’ll know I danced briefly when I was a kid (six and seven, then ten and eleven) before my mom pulled me out. I came back to ballet when I was 23 because the pull of the dream of dancing was too big to ignore. This summer, I had one of my friends from high school enroll her daughter. She did so well and seemed to love it so much, I was pumped to see her back in class today. Then, my mind blew when behind her was the daughter of one of the girls I used to dance with, and probably haven’t seen since. We ended up at the same high school, but I didn’t have any classes with her.

Her daughter was a bit nervous, so she sat in with her this first class to see if we could get her warmed up, and it was so wild that a girl who was with me at my very beginnings when we were kids was now watching me teach. Me. Teaching. Teaching her kid. I don’t think anyone would have seen this coming. I wasn’t ever good at ballet, I never looked like a dancer, it’s still a new thing if someone can ever recognize my dancing background off of me. (And part of why Paul harris’ comment last blog post meant so much to me)

Time is weird.

I made it through the classes well enough. I’m exhausted, as expected, and my heart feels kind of weird and my head just started hurting, but that’s alright. I’m taking things slowly.

I’m hopeful for these classes. I didn’t realize how good it would feel to be surrounded by a bunch of tiny humans I know and love. These past couple weeks have been pretty intense and jarring, but being with all these kids made me feel so good and truly helped my heart.

Ballet is magical.

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.

End of summer 2019.

As quickly as summer classes began, they have ended.

I ended up with such a great group of classes this summer, I’m sad that it’s already over!

The last class this past Saturday had some brand new kids. They did really well, and honestly I’m hopeful they’ll come back in the fall. It also has some of my kids from the last year that struggled, but seeing them thrive in a different class environment was very exciting. Give kids a chance, they’re growing and learning and maturing more every day. If you keep pouring into them, they may just surprise you. (I mean, obviously some just need to wait and come back later but you get the sentiment.)

My assistants this summer were such rockstars. Even if they had other plans, they made sure they were in class to help, which really was huge for me. May was pretty intense and honestly I over did things, so June was a lot of catch up and careful planning to hope I didn’t make things worse than they were. These girls were so vital to me. I hope I have them again in the fall!

I accidentally ate chick peas the other day, which put me out for about 5 days. Thankfully it was four of the five days where I’m not at the office, but teaching was rather difficult that weekend. (The girls helped LOADS) I wasn’t sure what caused it at first, uncertain if it was the chick peas or if I didn’t sleep enough or did too much the day before or if I was getting “normal people sick” or something else. When it finally lifted Monday evening, I traced it back to the chick peas I accidentally ate Wednesday night. Literally three peas before i realized what they were. So obnoxious.

I’m coming up on the start of a lot of traveling. Mostly short trips, but some will be testing my boundaries. I’m cautiously excited, and trying to define my lines in hopes of not crossing them any chance I get, and if I happen to then I’ll know what I need to do to recuperate faster. It’ll be a learning experience, but hopefully I’m not gonna screw myself over with it all.

I don’t have any classes to teach until mid August when the studio opens for the fall. The older dancers/adults have continuing classes, which I used to attend. Sometimes it’s still weird remembering everything I used to be able to do without even giving it a second thought and now would seem like climbing Everest. Life is weird.

I did have a friend of mine suggest trying a different way of eating that she had seen to be beneficial for patients she used to treat that had ME/CFS when she used to work at that practice, and so far it’s been mind blowing. I haven’t seen a difference in the fatigue yet, but I’ve been able to eat without pain which literally left me speechless. Is this what you guys experience every day? Because holy moly it seems fake. Like, there’s no way this is reality. So much of my stomach pain was a continuous dull roar that having nothing hurt at all…I literally can’t explain it. I’m hopeful that this can be a continuous thing and that I can get more familiar with it and learn how to incorporate it into my daily life with better ease. (Especially since, ya know, cooking takes energy, which is exhausting.) so far, so good though.

(For those wondering, it’s the FODMAP thing.)

I hope y’all are doing well. I hope you’re dancing this summer however and wherever you can and that it leaves you feeling so fulfilled and alive.

Love you all ❤️

Summer classes have begun

Some days you wake up feeling rough, but excited about teaching summer classes.

Some days you lay in bed crying your eyes out because “I f*cking hate being sick.”

Some days those days are the same day.

Today started the summer classes at the studio. I have officially dialed it down to only teaching saturdays, which makes my heart super sad but is also something I know I need to do. Still, I’m grateful. Saturdays were quite enjoyable this last year and tend to be a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere at the studio.

My classes were only registered with 6 in each class, but I ended up with a few more than that who registered this morning, so that was exciting. My 6-8 year old class only has 2 kids I’ve had before–everyone else is new, which is super exciting. My 3-5 had all kids I had taught before except one, who was my friends daughter. She was the youngest of the ones there but, holy moly, she’s a natural. A few of the kids on my roll that didn’t show were ones I don’t know, hopefully they show up next week!

In my 6-8, I got to teach my first boys! I was so excited. They’re brothers and they seemed to have a blast with it. Since only two of the kids had danced before, I kept it pretty simple. We only have four weeks (so, four classes) with them but I’m hopeful we can still learn and do a lot in this short amount of time. It’s easier, too, in such a smaller class to get to teach them what they need to know, compared to having 16 in the fall classes this past year.

In my 3-5 year old class, it was a mix of all my classes. I don’t think any of my previous students had been in class together, so it was like having a representative from each class I taught, which was fun. They all did really well and focused well and we got to do a lot with them. The one new student, my friends daughter, kept up really well with the rest of the kids and has already stolen my heart. So there’s that.

I’m excited to be excited about teaching this summer. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to only have one day. I’m still getting used to the things I have to do for the betterment of my health or whatever, and I must admit it’s frustrating.

I’m still used to having a mindset of being able to be all in on this. I’m still kicking myself for being sick. I’m still angry at all the things I’m missing out on because of something completely out of my control and working on not blaming myself. I’m also working on finding where my limits are and sticking to them. There isn’t much known about ME/CFS and there isn’t much research being done on it since funding is limited since doctors struggle to believe it (which is half the issue, but I’ll put my soapbox away) so it’s not a definite “I’ll never get better” but it’s not likely I will. It’s been hard to tell so far if I’m getting worse or just learning more, but I do think there’s a decline now that I’ve been able to strip away responsibilities and try and define some of the lines.

Guys. It sucks.

It’s like having to sit out from being injured, but the injury never heals. So you keep hoping you’ll somehow get better and be able to go back, but you honestly don’t know if you will. There’s the pain of having to compromise so much on something you love so deeply, but being too stubborn to completely give it up.

I don’t know if I should still be teaching at all, but I figure one very strategic day a week should be manageable as long as I keep up on everything else as well and don’t overdo it. May threw me off with having to work more at the office (where I am super part time doing really simple work) and the length of it really took its toll. I’m hoping I can come back from it and that I didn’t make myself worse pushing through the whole month, or maybe it’s this ridiculous Texas heat making me feel worse, I don’t know. But it’s hard. I’ve made so many wonderful memories and met so many incredible people through this art form. I’ve learned so much about myself. And I’m so afraid if I have to give it up completely that I’ll be forgotten. That the busyness of what it takes to be involved will push me from the minds of these people I love and regard as family simply because I’m not there, so it’s not easy to keep up with. And not that some wouldn’t try, but being that I am indeed sick, and I live in the country, away from people, it makes it harder. And then I blame myself since keeping up with my ballet Instagram is more difficult while trying to sort through all these emotions, so I’m missing out on my friends achievements and accomplishments. So maybe I’m just bringing it all on myself. Maybe this is all on me.

I’m really struggling lately with all this. They say being sick with a chronic illness is like continuously having to start the grieving process over again. I’ve tried to fill the hole of ballet with other interests, and I’m grateful for what that has brought me, but I just don’t want this part of my life to end, ya know?

Stay tuned for further summer stories. This seems like a really good group and I’m super grateful for them already.

Love you guys.

Recital 2019

Classes wrapped up for the year the week before last, and recital was this past weekend. I was hoping to get this blog post written sooner then I am, but less than a week isn’t too bad, honestly.

This was the first year I was actually pretty nervous going into it. I had hoped to get the classes a little further along than I did over the course of the year, but that just wasn’t the case for most of them. I didn’t get to rehearse many of the little details that go into recital, like walking on the stage to our spots and the bow at the end and walking off, I had to change things up on them a few weeks before recital (keep in mind they’re all ages 3-8) with a one kid not showing up to rehearsal but coming to show day (after missing the last week of classes and having spotty attendance before that), one not showing up at all, and one getting sick the day of the show. Of course all of these are in the front line, so I ended up with a back line of 11 and a front line of 8. This was the class that I already had to combine last minute since the classes that were supposed to be separated into separate dances on separate days weren’t, so they were already rather thrown off. My young ones were full of talkers (though they’re stinking cute) and I wasn’t sure how they would all do on stage. My class of littles that were my rockstars had one that panicked on stage and two that kept arguing during rehearsal, and none of my Friday show kids got to practice with the black light.

Nervous is saying the least.

Friday just felt like a tense day overall. It seemed that all the little things that could go wrong did, and staying on top of everything and positive about it all was quite a challenge. Thankfully I had assistants that are TOTAL rock stars and the volunteers we had that day were so on top of it. There’s no way it would have gone as well as it did without them.

We have what we call “runner sheets”, which are papers that have all the dancers names and where they enter, any music cues, lighting cues, costume specifics, etc that are used by the teachers, volunteers, green room quick changes, Lights, sound, curtain–literally everyone. I was working the dancer check in when I noticed my first class that evening, the second dance, was missing. This was my biggest class with the talkers, and I was just super grateful I had my notebook that has where everyone stands with me. When sign in calmed down, I asked Ms. Munro about it. They were aware it was missing and she said my assistants were up there with them and asked if I could check in on them. (This was a good 15 minutes before we start bringing the kids down, so we had plenty of time.)

I go up there, and two of my assistants have them all in a row, in their order, waiting up against the wall. I had forgotten I had sent them the recital order in case a few forgot to switch lines they could know who is supposed to go to the back line and run on stage in costume and fix them really quickly. I literally let out a sigh of relief when I walked upstairs to see it was all in order. These girls are seriously the best.

A few of my kids got a little scared and started crying. As I bent down to hug them and help calm them down, I remembered bending down isn’t such a good idea. When we got them calm (You’re wearing momma’s magic mascara! We don’t want to cry and make it all go away!) (it worked, y’all) I stood up and within about three second had to hold on to the nearest person so I wouldn’t fall over. Thankfully it was a friend and fellow teacher walking by and I was able to grab her shoulder and steady myself for about 30 seconds until it passed.

Hair pieces were lost and borrowed from other classes with similar looking ones, bathroom breaks were done in time to not hold up the show, lines weren’t switched on the one dance but that’s okay because everyone danced the best they’ve done all year and I was so proud. I even laughed because backstage we have them “put a bubble in your mouth!” to help keep them from being tempted to talk. A few of them kept it even on stage, so instead of smiling, they’re dancing around with puffed up cheeks the entire time. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw it; there’s nothing I could do and also I was proud of them for being so determined to follow the rules when it truly mattered.

One of my older girls got scared of the dark while waiting back stage and as I held her there until the lights came up I was a bit nervous I wouldn’t be able to function when I needed upon standing. Thankfully, the lights came up a little early so I was able to gather myself in time.

Overall, Friday went over really well. It was the best the kids had done, my Monday class didn’t panic like had happened at rehearsal, and everyone danced great and had a good reaction from the audience.

Saturday felt calmer for me from the start. Maybe it was the peace that comes with familiarity of having successfully completed the day before, maybe it was that these classes had my kids all from one day, I don’t know but I wasn’t complaining.

I had all three of my Saturday dances within the first five numbers. I was a bit nervous about this, but once again my assistants for these classes are rock stars. (One even was just a fill in and she offered to help which ended up making a huge difference for me.)

My brain did space out at a couple points where the kids ended up on stage in an inverted order to what they were supposed to. One of them even tried to tell me, but I didn’t understand what she meant until she literally walked on stage. *Face Palm* Thankfully, these kids are all so on top of it that no one would know if you didn’t know. They danced so well and I was so very proud of them. My favorite is seeing them comes off stage after with giant smiles on their faces, clearly proud of themselves and living their best lives. They worked so hard and faced their nerves to really knock it out of the park.

Saturday feels more like a blur since they were all literally back to back. I do vividly remember my 4-5 Saturday class doing it so well that it messed me up (but they had it right.) I was so incredibly proud of them that I was bursting. Everyone remembered where they were supposed to go and did everything correctly even when my brain spaced. My 3-4 year olds on Saturday were on top of everything so much my jaw literally dropped. They nailed the entire thing and seemed to be having the time of their lives.

During check in on Saturday, a grandparent of a dancer came up and asked if I was Emilee and that she had a question. I met her on the other side of the table so we were out of the way and she told me, “I saw your dances last night and was really impressed with your choreography. You can tell that your kids know what they’re doing and know the steps and that you truly care about them!” At this point, I’m thinking, are you sure it’s me and not the other Emily? Then she pulls out her program and says “I marked your dances because I wanted to make sure I found you. I want my granddaughter in your class next year.” This blew my mind. She was seeing the dances I was so nervous about and beating myself up over. (Not because of the dancers, but because of myself. ps.) I am so bad about comparing myself to other people or to other versions of myself whenever I have to realize that reality may not be comparable to that. The circumstances I’m faced with can be completely different from what I had before or what others may have. Everything is constantly changing and evolving and we have to be open to that. This woman’s comments made me feel like I’m doing something right.

I also had many of my former students ask me what I’ll be teaching so they can get their kids in my class, and others asking about private lessons with me. It was reaffirming in ways I am beyond grateful for. My relationship with dance has changed so much since it began. So much of it feels and is a loss, but I am increasingly grateful for and amazed by what I still do have. I still have these kids. I can still teach. And from what I’m seeing, these kids still love ballet.

I’m also very proud of my “kids” I used to dance with that are all growing up and blowing my mind. The advanced dances were so beautiful and honestly if I looked at any one dancer I would cry. I had to watch them as a whole to keep from losing it. They are all just growing and doing so well and it makes me so proud to see them sticking with this and working so hard at something they love. They are the proof of the passage of time and I know they’ll be graduating and going off soon, but until then I’m going to savor every moment with them.

I wanted to have this posted on Sunday, and in reality having it posted Wednesday isn’t that bad, but recital took more out of me than I expected. I’m grateful I didn’t pass out, but often I wouldn’t realize how weak my body was until those moments or until I got home and the weight of it all came crashing down on me. Sunday and Monday I was effectively worthless, I’m still not sure how I got through Monday’s work day. I’m doing my best to take care of myself these coming days, while also trying not to fall behind on things I can’t avoid. My body has been having new pains and things happening which is a bit alarming, but it’s hard to say if it’s just a flair up or a new normal.

Summer classes start up for me June 8th, and from here on I’ll only be teaching Saturday’s. It’s too difficult to try and do more than one thing in a day consistently now that I’m working part time, and I really need to try and make this my main focus, but I am so grateful to still have my hand in teaching and hopeful that it will be fulfilling and something that endures.

In September, Allie and I will make our way over to London, so if you’re in the area and haven’t reached out yet, please do! We’ll post more details as plans get more concrete, but I’m very excited to be able to do this, even if I’m not sure how my body will react, haha!

 

Please enjoy some behind the scenes pictures from this weekend 🙂

 

 

 

Last week of classes 2019

When we start class, especially at the beginning of the year, we go around and say our name, age, and favorite whatever I decide for that week. This typically becomes “color” or “princess” for my little ones since they have ready answers for those. (Plus It’s easier to remember when I’m unprepared, as per usual.)

This week I’ve asked what their favorite thing about ballet is.

Their answers vary from “making pizza” referring to a stretching exercise we do, to actual ballet terms they remember (specifically passé and plié), to one naming a specific assistant of mine 😂

When It gets to my turn, I tell them my favorite is teaching all of them–and it truly is.

There’s this quote that’s constantly in the back of my mind since I’ve had to stop dancing, “those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” Since first hearing this quote, I’ve resented it, but at this point in my life I am so grateful to be able to teach.

It’s slowing down, it’s becoming more and more minimal, but it’s still possible. And for that I am immensely grateful.

This year I’ve experienced my first true problematic parents. There’s really nothing else we could do to help the situation, so I’m trying not to beat myself up about it and instead try and learn from it. Still, every time I get to that class I find myself tensing up, knowing that the parents will be watching through the window (which at this point most don’t.) I feel pressure. It’s not my favorite. It’s the first time I’ve had a few months where I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, actually looking forward to the years end. Obviously, I’m not looking forward to everything ending, but the bits that make me feel like this.

I wrote out cards to each of my kids, like I do every year, and planned to get lollipops for them. A simple way to end the year. When I was their ages, teachers meant a lot to me. I still keep in touch with my second grade teacher, as well as many from high school. Their opinion of me was something I held in high regard, and how they made me feel is a sort of guide point I use in hopes to teach these kids the way I was privileged to be treated and hopefully they can feel the way I did. I want them to like coming to ballet, to feel safe in my class, to know someone cares about them. I want this to be a positive experience for them, whether they stick with it or not.

This week, as I handed out candy and cards to each of my kids, making sure I bring extra lollipops for siblings, a couple of the moms thanked me and the kids came running up hugging me and telling me they love me (which, honestly, melt.) one of the moms of one of my 4 year olds was asking me about recital details between classes and a lady next to her asked me if I would be teaching in the summer and next fall. I told her I would only be teaching saturdays (this was during the week) since I have ME and have to slow it down a bit and asked how old her dancer was. She said one daughter already dances but she has a 4 year old she wants to put in. I told her I have a 4-5 year old class that if she can make I’d love to have her. She responded, “these kids all love you so much, I want my daughter to have you as a teacher. What’s your name?”

She was the second person that day who didn’t know me, encountered me around other dancers, and asked who I was so their child could be in my class.

And honestly, I feel pretty crappy quite a bit. Especially as I’m still learning to accept the changes being sick has brought on. I’m having to give up more than I ever wanted and missing out on stuff I had hoped to be a part of. So to have these two simple reminders at the end of such a long year full of so many challenges and changes really meant a lot to me. It felt like I’m still doing something right. That even though a few classes didn’t rise to where I had hoped they would by the end, that it wasn’t a waste to try anyway. That the time we spent together was still valuable, even if most of it was spent correcting the things I had already corrected 7 times in the last 10 minutes. (And all the moms and mom figures say “amen.”)