During warmup at rehearsal on Saturday, Ms. Munro made a comment.
It is clear that learning a part as complex as the Swan corps is way more difficult as a cover than as an actual swan. I sometimes find myself wondering if the girls know how lucky they truly are to have their place set and sure, not having to worry about what the other groups are doing.
I was Abarrane for part of the rehearsal Saturday since she had ACT testing in the morning. It wasn’t too difficult, since she was the opposite of Adrienne, except for the bits I couldn’t remember. Oops.
But that’s okay. We got it fixed and worked out and all is well.
When Abarrane got there, I tried to watch for the people I know will be out coming up, and it got complicated. They are each something different. Then I come to the realization that even being this proactive won’t guarantee I’ll get the spot if someone drops. It could be a matter of height. These other covers are dedicated to learning it as well.
Instead of being overcome by bitterness, fear, and jealousy, I approached the girls with an idea: Let’s for some kind of group as the covers to make sure we enjoy this instead of just sitting on the sidelines sad. “Let’s be so cool the other girls wished they were us.” Haha.
Catherine and Maddie came up with a clever name–The Ugly Ducklings.
In the story, the ugly duckling tries so hard to be like the swans he sees, but just can’t be. (Until he grows up and realizes he was a wan all along, just needed a little growth.)
We want to make shirts. It’s gonna be great.
The girls are excited about it, as am I. We even have a fun little hand sign thing.
It still stings a bit to not be a swan. Seeing and hearing the other girls get so excited for costume fittings and photo day and all, knowing I just have to watch from the sidelines again. But it is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about it.
Instead, I had Ms. Heidi look at my shoes, and asked her what she thought. I’ve been told I don’t pull out of my shoe, but I don’t know what else to do to be better about that. She was able to explain what I need to think about, and give me some things to try at home to help me get better. It’ll take time, but if I start now it’ll be very beneficial.
In her Jazz/Lyrical class, we had a new girl, Valerie. She paired her with me since my partner wasn’t there to work on recital. I taught her our bit and we did it side by side instead of mirrored. I had no idea that the only dance training she had was dance class in high school. She took the adult ballet and said it was really fast, but she wanted to dance so she’s gonna stick with it. She really liked the Lyrical class, which was good. She picked things up really well and was able to just go with it, even though she didn’t know what half the stuff was. I was really impressed. She told me how she wished she would have started dancing younger, but was excited to start now. She’s from Austin, and down here for school. She seems like a great person, and it was fun to actually have someone in the class understand my cultural references from when I was a kid. (Lookin’ at you, Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century.)
Valerie is going to do recital, so Heidi was trying to think of how to work with the new numbers. She might have Valerie take my spot, and teach me a new thing entirely, thinking it may be easier to learn since I won’t be here a lot from work coming up. Which is exciting, but also a bit nerve wracking.
It was refreshing having Valerie in class. It reminded me of what I felt when I first started–that bit that can get lost in all the striving and stress. I still have a ways to go, and loads to learn, but I’ve come so far from that first anxiety-ridden day. And it’s not all about hitting one certain goal, it’s about the process. It’s about every day, working hard–not just one show or role. It’s about being better today than I was yesterday. If I can do that, I am successful.
(Repeat to myself when I’m starting to feel the sting again.)
Yesterday’s advanced class was…something.
It wasn’t bad, it was just super crowded (we were only missing one person. That never happens.) and there were some complex things given to us, and that’s when Ms. Munro thought it would be a great time to watch us all. I feel this innate pressure to prove myself, and having her watching made me so nervous. I felt like it was just screaming that I didn’t belong there.
I shook it off. It is what it is.
The good thing about classes this week, is that they are challenging me and really helping me push out of my comfort zone and work the areas that I really need help in. So that’s been nice.
Downside, the Gaynor’s flopped so I’m back to square one.
Although, I believe the main root of my problem is the lack of strength in my hips (I struggle to maintain turnout on one leg) and the fact that I’ve been sick for so long, hesitating on engaging my core has sadly become second nature. Learning to push out of that, while not pushing too hard–it’s a struggle.
After class, I was able to go in the small studio with Adrienne and show her what we learned in Swan rehearsal Saturday so she’d be ready this weekend. She picked it up pretty well, which is great. She took pictures of my notes after so that way if she forgot something, she could reference it.
When I got home, I was trying to mentally prepare myself for not dancing that part this weekend. To open my mind to the fact that I’d be at a different place in line, a different place in formations, following different people and at some points doing different steps. Thinking about it beforehand helps me remain calm and open in the situation itself.
As I did, I thought about who all I know will be out and has asked me to learn their part. Abarrane will be late this weekend, which is good cause she’s opposite Adrienne. The next weekend, Jessica is out, which isn’t too far from what I’ve learned since she’s next to Adrienne in formations. She said she’d teach me their different part this Saturday. Lauren will be out for drill team two weeks, so I need to learn her part as well, but she isn’t too too different either, since she’s in that same last section.
I realized after this month, covering just these people, I’ll know every part. At least for what we’ve learned so far.
How cool is that?
All Adrienne has to concern herself with is her part; what I’ve shown her and what she’ll learn moving forward. She won’t learn what I learn; at least she isn’t required to.
So even though I may learn all of this and not get to dance the role, it’s pretty cool that I will essentially know this part better than anyone else. And should the need arise, be there to step in in a heartbeat.
Yesterday, a friend I’ve known since Instep made a comment.
She said she was talking to a girl who was part of her dance group at the local university (I took pictures of them back when they were still in school) around Nutcracker and how impressed she was when she told her I was the Rat Queen.
You see, these girls knew me when I was first starting out.
They were in those classes where everything was hard and I was struggling.
To hear that she saw the improvement and was impressed, and even proud, made me feel so good.
I was looking at my blog today, and saw how they auto-filter spam comments, so decided to look through and see if anything exciting showed up.
Turns out I had a new comment from a post in September that I had somehow missed.
And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
I went back to the post and re-read it. Of course, it was the one where I really stopped to remember how far I had come in the last four years. As much as I hate to accept that this is only as far as I am, I can’t let myself believe that this is nothing.
I was really quite terrible in the beginning, but I kept working on it, and never gave up even when I really wanted to. Something in me wouldn’t let me throw in the towel.
And here I am, finding myself in one of those situations again where throwing in the towel seems easier–less embarrassing.
I couldn’t let myself if I tried.
Even with the thought of “I should just quit,” there is a fear in the back of my mind of the day that will inevitably come when I have to hang up my pointe shoes and stop dancing. I don’t want that day to come. I don’t want to just work and go home. I don’t want to ever not have a studio to go to.
I don’t want to stop dancing.
When favor falls on the opposite side of my fence, and when the bar is just a bit too far from my reach, I have to keep myself going. I’m more than a role or a label or a certain level.
I dance for me.
And really, thank you, dear readers, for your comments of encouragement. They do more for me than I could ever express.
In our V’s class yesterday, we did barre a little differently.
Typically, we do combinations that are quick or complex. Instead, Mrs. Alex had us do simple combinations with a lot of repetition. She had us focus on proper technique, rather than just trying to get through the combination and move on. I really enjoyed this approach, and I think we all benefited from it. It was great to take the time to really think about what we were doing and how we are to properly execute each movement.
I don’t remember exactly what the entire combination was, but there was one where we ended in a low arabesque on releve. I tend to struggle with this kind of thing–once I’m on releve on one leg, my turn out goes out the window. But as I held this arabesque on my shorter, weaker leg, Mrs. Alex came by and said, “Good, Emilee! Great turn out on that standing leg, nice straight knees, good!”
I think I made a face, because I couldn’t really believe she was actually saying these things to me. I looked down to see what it looked like, then tried to see it in the mirror. It felt right, but I didn’t expect it to look that right. I wasn’t really thinking specifically about achieving these things, as I usually do. I was shocked, and very pleased.
I got frustrated as we moved to the center and en dedan turns were there. I wanted to try them, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t know if I psyched myself out, or what. When we were going through, working on recital, there were a few moments when I was away from the others, so I tried them. Sure enough, I couldn’t get up. So I held the barre and tried the preparation. Okay, I could do that. So I tried the preparation away from the barre. I can do that. I tried the turn, nope.
I’m not sure if it’s because these shoes are already dead, or if it’s something else, but the struggle is real. I put it on the back burner, knowing at least I can do the preparation and work on it from there, and that I’m getting around in my pirouettes now. Most of the time at least. They could still use work, but that’s what class is for.
We did a few chaines, too, which weren’t as good as I was hoping, but somewhat better than before.
I’ll take it.
Cast lists should be out soon. I wish I could see it for myself without anyone telling me and no one watching me. This won’t happen. So whatever. It’s possible they could even come out today when I don’t have class, so we’ll see.
Swan Lake auditions are now behind us.
(we survived, thank God.)
Friday night, Annika and I stayed at the Munro studio after the class I assist to work on a project she has for school, as well as a few things for auditions. She helped me with my chaines and jetes and the darn tombe, coupe, jete which I despise. Most of what I have to work on will take thought and time. She helped me get the feel, which is the biggest hurdle.
Saturday began back at the Munro studio to work the front desk during classes before my audition since everyone else was downtown for the first audition group. I think it ended up being good for me, so I wasn’t just sitting in my house drowning in nerves, waiting for it to be late enough for me to justify being early.
(The struggle is real)
We got there, registered, got our audition numbers, and the madness began.
We did a quick barre in our number order, then put on pointe shoes immediately for the rest of the two hours we had for the audition. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the first group, but I don’t know if that was really a good thing. Our group was pretty level in ability, which meant that there wasn’t really any advanced girls, which seemed to be what it was favoring. (I mean, obviously, it’s Swan Lake.) I think of all the groups, we probably looked to be the least together and able, but that’s going up against some hard hitters, so I don’t think it really worked too much against us as a whole.
There were a few things that were out of my depths, and even things they would have understood had I not tried. And I didn’t think I was going to on two specific things. One was really overwhelming for me in the moment and I got permission to sit it out, which was tough for me to even ask. But I was near tears and knew I was capable of the different steps, my brain just wasn’t wrapping around putting them together for some reason. But, thankfully, Mari is a doll and took a second to help me understand what was happening and I did it on demi-pointe to at least put forth effort. The other part was at the end and my toes were so dead I was afraid to try what they were asking would make me roll my ankle. (Keeping in mind the last time I rolled my ankle was when I pushed it at the end of an audition.) So instead of sitting it out all together, I did it on demi-pointe as well and didn’t beat myself over it.
We started with the different variations. They were pretty fun and actually not excruciatingly difficult. I mean, I couldn’t up and perform them right then and there, but I know I could learn them and be capable of doing them, which left me feeling really good. We had some bits that had turns I couldn’t do, which was really frustrating for me personally. I still tried, and did demi-pointe if I couldn’t manage, but it was definitely frustrating to be incapable when I know I should be able to do it. They were in two different variations, and the very last one, I said, “Screw it, I can’t do it, just do everything else well” and made myself include the sous-sous after the turn in that. Low and behold, the very last time, I got the turn. It was when we repeated it a second time, so I had just done the sous-sous and went in to do the turn again and managed to do it. So I left that segment feeling pretty okay.
I started hearing complaints that they were saving the swan parts for last, in a “how dare they, what are they thinking?” kind of way, but really it made sense. Swans takes a ton of endurance, and if you can’t do it at the end of audition, there’s no way you’ll make it through performing. We did a core bit where you had your leg in arabesque (really Giselle-y) then switched to three brushes forward, then switched legs, and back to the brushes. If that makes sense. It had a lot of specific head direction, and was required to have your leg at least 90 degrees (consistently) as well as keeping in time with the people in front of you. I actually found this quite fun, and my knee held up for it pretty well. I know I have vast room for improvement, but the point of audition is to show you’re capable where you are, not that you’re perfect.
We then broke into groups of four based on height and did the first part of cygnets.
Thankfully, I’m friends with girls my height, so it was fun to get to do this bit with them. I knew I wasn’t able to do it all, especially with all the pointe work it required and the speed it required it, but I didn’t want to hold them back because of my inabilities. I managed to be able to do what I was able to do well, and the things I wasn’t as good at, I was able to maintain the same height as the other girls as to not throw them off. In the end it was fun! And didn’t leave me hating myself after, so that was nice.
Overall, we survived. And I think it’s safe to say this is the best I’ve felt after an audition. I’m a bit nervous, but I know I did my best and showed them what I’m capable of. I’m not really worried.
Regardless, I’m very excited to be a part. I’m grateful to have wonderful friends by my side throughout this entire process, and excited for this season ahead. I know it’s going to be long, exhausting, and slightly overwhelming trying to balance this, recital, and work but I also know I will be sad when it is all overwith. This is what makes me feel alive.
For the first time in a long time, I love my life. I love everything about it. I wake up and don’t dread anything. There’s stress and complications and things that aren’t perfect, but it makes sense. It has a reason. I’m not afraid of being kicked, so to speak, for no reason or nervous at what the world may throw at me.
I have beautiful people in my life that make the things that aren’t perfect more bearable. I’ll have insurance again soon and hopefully can get back to the doctor to maybe run more tests to see what certain foods are hating me. I’m not afraid of that either, which is nice. I like where I am, and I’m so grateful to get to feel this way.
Classes have started back up for the new semester.
Our first class, the V’s class, was taught by Ms. Munro since our normal teacher wasn’t there.
I really liked this. I love a good Ms. M class.
She didn’t go easy on us, which was good. She corrected my arm placement, which I’ve now been trying to be conscious about. It also made me feel good to know I’m seen. That something subtle and slight is noticed and fixed. Now it’s my job to make sure she doesn’t have to correct it again.
We did pointe, which had a few elements that I normally would get nervous over or avoid. I was unable to do some of them, but not without trying first. Partially was because my shoes are nearing death, so I didn’t want to risk the rolled ankle before auditions. I didn’t walk away from it afraid of these steps, though, so that is a big step for me.
Also, when it came to doing pirouettes, I was actually able to get around. Ms. M wanted doubles, but I was very satisfied in my solid single for now. It can do with improvement, and I definitely need to spot my head more, and get a better plie, but it’s a vast improvement from what I am typically capable of. I will take it, and work harder to make it better.
I seemed to mess up many things that shouldn’t have been difficult, but I just brushed it off. No sense getting worked up over something I know that I can do. It’s whatever.
Ms. Heidi’s class felt really good. We started working with some ideas she’s playing with for recital, and I was excited to see what she’s got going. I was nervous, but I think it has a lot of potential. I wish it could just be the girls that were in class on Monday–the ones who are always there. The piece would look so clean that way. But I know that’s out of our control.
It felt good to let go and try new things. That’s my favorite; when I can let go and just dance. Not think about specifics or how technical it is or if I’m enough. Just dancing because I like to do it. And not being judged on how bad or good I am. I don’t have anyone to impress or anything to prove.
Yesterday’s VI’s class went fairly well, too. My stomach is doing it’s typical hating me ritual, which really puts a damper on things. I tried to push through anyway, and thankfully didn’t have to sit anything more out than I usually would because of my knees. And even so, I’m able to watch those things and mark them and try to sort them out in my head so if I ever do have to do them, I can at least have some grasp of it to be able to attempt.
We started working on recital, which is super exciting. It’s a bit of a stretch for me, as I typically screw up a lot in the beginning of things. But once I have it down, I nail it. So I did my best, wrote down what we learned, and plan to go over it until I have it on the right count and my lines look good.
(I am so excited to be in this piece.)
Instead of working in the small studio, I watched the Advanced Jazz class. It was really cool to get to see them work on something that isn’t so technical. The girls in that class have a lot of talent, some I never really noticed before. But gosh, is it evident now. It made me want to just take a million pictures and capture what I see.
It was cool as well to watch Julie as she came up with all of this. Seeing her mind process and these sections of the dance come to life. Watching a master at work.
I sat there, watching and thinking, “I wish I could do that.” And it was then that I realized, “This is exactly what I do with words.” Whether its words people ever see or not, it’s the same process. My grammar may not always be perfect and sometimes I really like run-on sentences, but the concept is the same.
Words are my dance.
I’ve been thinking about Swan Lake.
Doing little conditioning things that are actually feasible for me and aren’t so overwhelming that I avoid them. Making certain choices that will help me in the long run. Releve-ing at work while I prep for tax season.
My goal is to be a Swan.
Not some watered down version of a Swan, but a real one.
I was a little anxious thinking about it, because I didn’t know if this was even a logical goal. What if it’s just the older girls, ya know? I know I’m not at their level yet. I’m on my way, but these things take time.
I was thinking about it in church this morning. About dance and why I do it and what it does for me.
I thought about how much easier life would be without the dance schedule. I immediately thought of how sad I would be not having said schedule. Dance makes me happy, it makes me feel alive.
Then I thought of how I’ve seemed to have more bad days than good lately. I thought of how reasonably it has been my body holding me back in one way or another. I thought of all the times I’ve panicked. I thought of the defeat I’ve felt.
I thought of Nutcracker, and how there were times I felt like I was just falling short. That I just barely wasn’t good enough for what my heart wanted. That the mark was just out of reach.
Then I thought of that last Sunday show; how everything seemed to align for me perfectly. I thought of how alive I felt. I didn’t think of how bad my feet hurt that day, or the fact that I was so sad the show was over, or my shoe falling off. I thought of how Rat Queen went the best it ever has. How I hit all the corrections Ms. Munro gave me and was able to grab the cannon ball in a stealth way to get it out of everyone’s way. I thought of Flowers and how I hit all the marks on that as well. I thought of Finale, and hitting the timing perfectly with the conductor. I thought of how I felt standing there, looking into the audience, the most alive I’ve ever felt.
And I wondered what the difference was. What made that day special? Was it the cape I got to wear? Or was it what having the cape made me feel?
That there was no pressure. That cape reminded me of how fun Nutcracker can be. That it’s not just about doing a series of moves and hoping not to fall, but it’s more than that. It’s about coming alive in ways that makes the audience feel something. Sure it’s awesome if you can do 32 fouette’s en pointe, but ya know what? That’s nothing if there’s no heart behind it. The difference is clear. You can be the most technical dancer with absolutely perfectly gorgeous lines, but if you’re hearts not in it, it falls flat.
(This is how it is for life in general, as well. Are you just passing the days, or are you truly living?)
As I was standing there, on the front row, God reminded me of how far I’ve come. He reminded me of what I felt when the idea of dancing ballet was just a longing–an unreachable goal. He reminded me of how much I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. Then He asked me, “By whose standards are you falling short?”
It was then I realized that it was only by my standards that I wasn’t hitting the mark.
I know I’m never gonna be prima ballerina or anything remotely close. Even if my body could handle it, chances are life will cause me to back away from ballet as I know it now–it already has. The mark should always simply be to do the best I can and make the most of every day I get to dance. By all means, I shouldn’t even be able to. I’ve dodged many-a-bullet with how accident prone I seem to be, yet I can still dance.
God also reminded me of what fuels my passion–what the heart is behind my dancing. It’s not about gaining anything, it’s not about hitting a certain mark, it’s all about shining His light in my life. It’s about the freedom I feel which allows me to move and live and breathe. It’s not about me.
So whatever happens with auditions, whether I suck or succeed, I will be content in being able to participate at all. I will be happy because I am doing the very thing I love that seemed impossible not too long ago. I will remember what I felt before this was my reality.
I’ll channel those moments I find myself realizing that these are my pointe shoes and I dance in them. That this isn’t a dream or a fabricated, colorful mis-telling I’m trying to pass off as true. This is reality. This is me. This is what I get to do.
How freaking cool is that?
Now that I’ve officially embarked on eating my weight in junk food–which is totally logical since we don’t have class for a few weeks–I figured I’d take a second to give y’all an update.
Today we had a promotional event called Feast of Sharing. It’s an annual event here locally put on by H.E.B., a grocery store chain pretty big in Texas, every Christmas Eve to provide a holiday dinner to anyone in the community. They make it a huge event with arts and crafts, kids zone, and performances by locals. It’s not just in our area; HEB hosts this event all over the state. Members of the company go and do a few parts of Nutcracker. I’ve never gone before, but went this year. It was a lot of fun! We actually had a good amount of dancers able to make it, so the whole thing worked out pretty slick!
Sunday marked our final show of The Nutcracker for our 2015 season.
For some reason, after Saturday’s show, I felt so good about going into Sunday. I didn’t know why, but my confidence was soaring. I guess maybe I finally felt confident in what I was doing–possibly because I had done it before already?–or maybe it was because it was the last show. I don’t know.
At warm up, the day started off well when I saw my favorite teacher, Ms. Lori. She moved to Austin and teaches up there, but came down to see us on Saturday and Sunday. She is so freaking wonderful; the type of person you can hope to be. She really teaches in a way where you learn something every class, and meets you where you are but doesn’t leave you there. You’re better after being with her.
Warm-up also started off really well, particularly due to the freaking awesome Rat Queen/Maid presents a la Andie.