Lovely Things

Just a post of some things that have happened this week that I want to remember.

  • Sitting on the floor trying to untangle my yarn to continue to crochet. One of the younger dancers strikes an interest. I show her the stitch and she picks it up immediately
  • Another younger dancer tells me she’s good at untying knots and asks if I would like her help. Turns out she was extremely good at untying knots and got me over the hurdle I was at for a while. The two worked on different sections to master most of the knot.
  • Ayla balling up the other end of the yarn to help avoid knots and get more of the giant knot undone.
  • One of the mom’s saying to me, “You’re a person who always does what they say they’re going to do.” I wish I could remember what we were talking about, but this made me feel like I was the type of person worth being. This is a good feeling
  • Joss being absolutely silly and reminding me of myself at her age.
  • Mrs. Julie saying I am more than welcome to do the VI’s ballet recital piece if I would like to. (The costume is epic. I am so excited.) (Also, I’ll be doing it on flat so I’m more comfortable. She is all for it.)
  • Seeing Ms. Nancy for the first time in 3 weeks
  • Hugging her. (she cried.)
  • Reese remember who Cheyanne and I are, that we played cars, and asking to play with us again.
  • Reese and Cheyanne walking on my back. (There is a polaroid. I’ll post if I can.)
  • Reese jumping up and down when she says our names. (Oh my gosh melt.)
  • Reese cuddling up as I read her a book, leaving before it was finished, but finishing it anyway as I had a good sized group of advanced dancers around me listening.
  • A butterfly named Arthur.
  • Ileana telling me with wide eyes, “You did so good on Monday!! I was so proud like, “aww, go Emilee!” This means a lot since Monday’s lyrical class is new to me, and also the type of class I deep down want to be able to do. 
  • Catherine’s genuine smile and laugh when something is funny or she’s really excited.
  • Mariela being the genuine joy and support that she is. To say I value having her in my life is a vast understatement. 
  • Jazz hands.
  • Walking into the office and having to walk through Mia’s class. I wait until they finish the phrase and try to be invisible, as per usual, when I hear, “*gasp* it’s Ms. Emilee!” and turn to see Ayla with a giant smile on her face. I snuck a wave and snuck into the office, my heart officially a puddle.
  • Everything about the entire Rowland family.
  • Seeing Judy channel all the SYTYCD dancers in Tap class, then take a correction from the teacher and completely nail it.
  • Mariela telling me, “When you lifted it, oh my gosh, it was beautiful.” (After being corrected. Oops I was doing tendus instead of degages.)
  • Elizabeth and Abby always being there with advice and encouragement be it about pointe shoes, sore muscles, or problems in my personal life. Especially when it includes videos of cats or corgis.
  • My baby dancers (okay, they’re not babies at all. But they’re my babies, you understand) hugging me and high fiving and just generally loving the fact that I’m there.
  • Having such understanding and supportive teachers to learn from and help me to grow. 
  • Having such caring friends in class, looking out for me and helping me when I need it.
  • Getting to use the smaller studio on my own after ballet
  • Knowing, at the end of the day, even though the struggles seem insurmountable, I’m in a great place that wants nothing more than to see me succeed.

First Flowers Rehearsal

I managed to luck out, I guess, and not have rehearsal until yesterday giving me an extra weekend to do things I needed to.
I was expecting Flowers to be really chaotic and stressful. I had heard that it was always a bit of madness and confusion. This made me nervous, especially since I’m pretty burned out as it is. I didn’t know how quickly I’d break or how much I’d be able to take.

During warm up, we started off with push-ups. I am absolutely terrible at them, to the point where I typically avoid them out of embarrassment. I didn’t even remember this was a thing for a while, until I started noticing the pattern. Then I remembered being teased as a kid. I remembered my shortcomings. I remembered how my hardest has never been enough.
I remembered.
But as we began yesterday, I didn’t think twice about doing them until I was 2 push-ups in. And I realized I was actually doing them. And I remembered how I’m not sick anymore, and how much more my body has been able to do already. So I tried to do them all, and as my face got closer to the floor, right before I pushed it back up with the rest of my body, I thought, “I’m so grateful I can do push-ups.” The girls next to me were giving up, pretending to do them on their knees. They’re fully capable if they apply themselves. Their bodies are well. And then I remembered that mine is too, now, for the most part. That I should do these things since I am able. How precious something as simple and complex as a push-up is. What a privilege it is that I can even do these.
And I did them.
Every last one of them.
And I feel it this morning and it makes me so happy.

As we proceeded to the barre, I noticed my brain being sort of spaced. Not in the typical cloudy way, but in a way that there was just nothing there. I also noticed that I held my balances in places I usually can’t and longer in other places. So that was nice.

There were a few changes in casting. A person dropped here, another injured there. After the dust settled, Ileana got moved up to Lilacs (!!!!!!!!) and Catherine, Isabel, and Maddie didn’t have to share anymore. (I don’t think Sheridan was sharing before? If she was, she isn’t either.) I can’t express how proud I am of these girls. They work so hard and it’s showing. Ileana has that “it” that comes together to form the ideal dancer. I love getting to be there to watch her as she grows class after class. She is so elegant without even trying–it’s just in her. So to see her get moved up, my heart about exploded.
Same for the girls that don’t have to share anymore. They really proved themselves. These are also the girls who pay attention in class and work hard every day. They’re the ones that go home and practice and give it their all when they’re here. They’re on the verge of greatness, and I’m so excited for them! My babies are growing up!

They started with Roses, since they come out first, then us Petite Fleurs. When they worked with us, Jolene helped with the specifics of it. She was a Petite Fleur last year and remembered it really well. It was really nice having her there to help. She was able to answer my questions on details and helped me feel more confident about what I was doing rather than just fumbling around. I think this was pivotal in helping me not panic. We picked it up fairly decently and were able to learn quite a bit. I really like it and am excited the more we learn. It’s not out of my depth, so I can do everything without fear. (Though I almost rolled my ankle twice yesterday? whatever.) I even get to be in the front for this back cambre thing we do. Not that we’ll be seen all that well, but it’s exciting nonetheless.

I’m excited, too, because this music is easy to count. Although, there was a point or two where Ms. M said I was the only one on the counts. Abarrane saw it, too, and tole me I was the only one who looked like they knew what they were doing. Not sure why this tends to happen, but I’m confident the girls will do just fine when they’ve had a little more practice.
Annika said some really nice things to me afterwards.

So that made me feel really good…
I may not be where I want to be yet, but I’m on my way.
I really need to sew my new pointe shoes, but I don’t know when I’m going to have time. I should have brought them today, but I didn’t think about it. Emerson said she could sew them since she can’t dance with the boot and she’s so bored. I told her I’d trade her head shots for it. So if I can get them to her, that would be great.
I’m excited for class tonight, even with my dead shoes and stupid longer leg. 
I got the email telling about company head shots and jackets (finally!) so that’s exciting. We have program pictures next week, but I’m not sure what times I’m to be there yet.
I really need to re-find my camera cards from Europe so I can clean them off and have them available for shoots… I can’t wait until I’m not perpetually moving in anymore. Slowly but surely, I guess.
My right leg is all sorts of sore this morning. Which is great, except that it’s the leg that’s already stronger anyway. I guess I really engaged my muscles during rehearsal yesterday, haha!
I think I’m going to drop Thursday’s class and stay the extra class on Tuesday’s. That way I have a day of the week to hopefully get stuff done since I don’t have Friday’s now. Plus I seem to be gone on Thursdays pretty often. Meh. 

Hey, remember that one time? (SYTYCD)

If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll remember my obsession with So You Think You Can Dance last year.
You’ll remember how I last minute got to go to the tour in San Antonio and accidentally happened to meet them.
I grew up in a small town that’s only now starting to grow a bit to where some artists will stop there. And even then, some find it still too small and will cancel shows because of it. Houston and Dallas were just to far of a drive for my parents to justify so we never had the opportunity to go to things like this.
Last year, I made it a point to do all the things I never got to do and had found myself making excuses about in the name of adult responsibility.
(Pro tip: Screw that.)
I filled my year with incredible experiences and adventure, beginning with winning the pointe shoe fitting contest that literally changed my dancing “career,” followed by last year’s SYTYCD tour, and rounding out in July with a trip to Europe (that I’m still paying off but oh my gosh worth it.) (Guys. Harry Potter Studio Tour.)
(anyway)
Things got pretty overwhelmingly busy in my life, and I wasn’t able to follow this season as closely as I wanted to. Jackie (my best friend) would DVR them for me, so I got to see two episodes one day when I was able to drive the 45 minutes to see her, but the rest of them time was too tight. (sad. day.)
I figured maybe it was a good thing–I wouldn’t get emotionally attached to this season and be sad when I wouldn’t be able to go to the tour because really how would that ever happen twice, right?
Still, I followed along on social media: following my favorites from last season that made it through this season, looking up the social media accounts of the dancers everyone was buzzing about, a dance clip here and there when I had a spare minute.

Fast forward to last week.

This is Judy. She is one of the sweet 12-year-olds I met last year’s Nutcracker when she was an 11-year-old. It was my first season with this new studio attached to this company and I wasn’t hip to the groove with the older kids (yes, hi, I talk like a grandpa sometimes) but I love the younger ones anyway so it was a great time. We took a few classes together this summer when they combined levels and I found it to be very encouraging. (Why would I be afraid when the 11-year-old next to me wasn’t, right?) I’ve really seen her grow a lot here recently, especially this summer, and she shows so much promise for the future. Her love for dance is really developing and she’s dedicating herself more than ever before.
Her Mom is a sweet lady who helps me unknot my yarn when it gets crazy while I’m crocheting (I’m 87 I swear) and is overall a kind lady. She’s invited me along to pointe shoe fittings (which sadly I wasn’t able to attend) and overall very inclusive, which I find to be so very kind and wonderful.
For Judy’s birthday, her Mom wanted to take her to a concert she had been dying to see. Unfortunately, Mom ended up in the hospital and had to have surgery. Judy was such a sport through it all (she is seriously such a great kid) which really touched her mom’s heart. Judy has gotten all A’s, and usually for a reward for an A, she gets $10 per A. (My parents did the same thing. Totally works.) This time her Mom wanted to give her something extra for all her hard work and understanding as well as helping her Mom through this tough time. The kicker? She still can’t move her neck enough to drive to San Antonio.
Last week, Mom approached me and asked if I had driven to San Antonio by myself before (she is so considerate) and if I’d be willing to take Judy to SYTYCD. She said she’d buy my ticket and help with gas, and told me her heart in the matter.
Words can’t describe how honored I was that she would trust me with her sweet girl. That she thought of me, and offered to pay my way as well. I checked my schedule, considered the dance class I would miss, and agreed. (I mean, so hard, right?) (My teacher is out of town and it’s the class I’m probably going to switch around anyway.)
She told Judy, got the tickets, and we counted down the days this last week on instagram in excited anticipation.

Little did Judy know that I had insight from last year that would *hopefully* get us to meet them this year.
(And Mom was okay if we came back at 2:30 in the morning.)
(hehehehe)

We head out after she gets out of school and I get off work yesterday. GPS was being weird and got us a bit turned around, but nothing substantial. We laughed it off with a “remember the time we went the wrong way as soon as we left for SYTYCD?”
We worked on her math, science, and art homework and by the time she finished we were nearly there. We talked excitedly of dance and how cool it was that we were getting to go. I love this kid.

When we arrived, I pointed out the side street near the parking garage.
“See those buses? Those are theirs.  And after the show, if we wait by them, usually they come out and say hi.”
She. Was. Elated.
We got into the parking garage, took the elevator down to the ground floor, and entered the Majestic.
As we waited to show our tickets, an usher said, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Photography is allowed as long as there is no flash.” To which I said, “Can you imagine the pictures I could have gotten with my big camera had I know?!” (Seriously, though. They would have been poster worthy, and not because I’m awesome. We. Were. That. Close.) Judy said, “You could get a picture of Gaby’s feet!” (They’re impressive, y’all.)
We gave our tickets to the lady and she scans them, as she does Judy’s, she says to her, “Are you a dancer?” Judy answered, “Yes.” and the lady said, “You hold yourself like one!”
HELLO HUGE COMPLIMENT
I’m absolutely beaming in pride. Someone we don’t know saw in Judy what I can see in her. That part that is starting to show and just needs a little bit more to fully come out. Her untapped potential. Judy was so flattered.
We get in line at the merch table and start really getting excited. As we checked out, the lady that helped Judy asked if we were sisters. I said, “Not technically, but basically.” Because really, close enough. The lady said, “You two favor each other!”
HELLO HUGE COMPLIMENT AGAIN.
We hadn’t even made it to our seats and we’re already so happy.

We show the usher lady our tickets (oh, ps, a lovely usher lady pointed us kindly in a shortcut part of the merch line. I think Judy’s red hair was luck for us) and she tells us it’s all the way down towards the front and to the right. (aka, center)
We were in Row C, seats 115 and 113.
Ya know, third row in the center.
What. Is. Life.
We’re so flipping excited it’s insane.

We looked at our programs, and I asked her to point out her favorites and had her school me on who everyone was. She explained how the Street Vs. Stage went this year and who was which team.

The show began.
(Keep in mind these are on my cell phone… If I had my pro camera, they’d be legit. But honestly, I’m kinda glad I didn’t. You can see the raw moments in these blurry photos. They may not be poster worthy, but they do my heart good. Therefore, they are fab.)

My mind is completely blown.

Last year, I went into it knowing what dances to expect and with hopes of which of my favorites I would see. I knew everyone’s name and could point them out easily. I knew which dance was which by the first 3 seconds in (if that) and the whole thing was a wild ride. This time, coming in not knowing really who can do what or which dances were done this season (except for one I saw in a clip) proved a very different experience. A wonderful one.
There were surprises around every turn, dance moves I didn’t even know existed, perfect technique and executions. My right hand was on my face with my mouth open just about the whole time when I wasn’t taking pictures on my phone.
(I was sort of glad to not have my pro camera. Sure, the pictures would have been wonderful, but it’s no different than seeing it on TV. You’re experience is through a screen. This way I could just enjoy it, only getting a shot here and there for posterity.)

We were so close that the dancer’s could see us when the lights were bright towards us. How do we know? They would make eye contact and wink and stuff. It was so cool.
You could really see how much they put into their art form–the expression, the emotion, the force and passion. You could hear them breathing and see their mouths sing along at appropriate times. You could see their muscles contract and the details of their technique. You could hear them breathing and see the sweat drip off their faces onto the floor or glistening down their backs. You could even hear their feet hit the stage as they landed at times.
I was so glad Judy was there to see how they connected with each other and emoted so well.
There was even one incredible dance they did where it started out with one dancer and a sole lantern on stage. Next thing you know, there are two dancers with lanterns at the foot of the stage. Then two more down the aisle from there, and two more from there. Gaby was literally a couple feet from us, and Hailee not far behind either. Judy was beside herself, these were two of her favorites. The concept of this piece had to be one of my favorites, although favorites are hard to pick. Ever moment is absolutely incredible, with no dead space anywhere between.

I still can’t get over some of the things these people were able to do. I am #teampotato all the way in comparison, haha! But seeing them made me want to be better.

What I really appreciate about SYTYCD in particular is the wide variety of dancers.
In ballet, it tends to be one specific body type that’s favored. You can still dance without that body type, but more often than not if you don’t fit the mold you fall away. Thankfully, this is a stereotype that’s falling away a bit, but it is still very much the norm. Here, I can see dancers of all different body types doing all these different dance styles. I see one girl with thighs like mine, albeit more toned. Her stomach looks like mine, too. Toned, but not necessarily what someone may always consider “flat.” This particularly has been a hard one for me to accept lately because I know before I could get my stomach flat and “beautiful,” but at the expense of my health. If I’m hydrated, it expands a little. I was always made to believe that meant I was lazy, that I was incapable. But clearly it doesn’t. Here was this dancer before me, absolutely beautiful and slaying every single move in every dance she did. You wouldn’t even notice that her stomach wasn’t just like everyone else’s unless it’s something you question in yourself and therefore notice in others. She was perfect.
I looked up at her, watched her danced, and saw that if I continue to work hard it is possible for me to be like that, too. I can work harder on my thighs, stick to the game plan I have. I know I don’t have to worry about my stomach if I’m doing everything I need to do. I know that strength is where I need to work now that my body isn’t rejecting things as much and finally starting to feel normal for the first time in years. And now I had proof that it’s possible to be these things I dream.
(Thanks, Alexia. You really changed a person just by being who you are. I appreciate that more than you could ever know. Keep doing what you’re doing and inspiring lives.)

I also couldn’t get over how well everyone showed emotion and commitment to their roles. Specifically Hailee. She owned each and every part she did with such intensity, I couldn’t comprehend it. She reminded me of my friend Brieanna, whom I met at Bible School and is now starting to break out in the music scene. She’s incredibly talented and has always been a fierce friend that I am grateful for. (Check out Brieanna Grace’s “Good Machine” on Bandcamp.) That same spark Brieanna has always had is in Hailee, too, and dooms them to do great things with their art. I love it so much.

When the show ended, Judy and I decided to beat the crowd and exit out the side door.
As we walked out, I realized we were in the exact place where we needed to be in hopes to meet them.
We lingered a few minutes and one of the workers there told us, “It’ll be about an hour before they can come out. If you want to wait, please do so past the prop boxes so we can get them loaded.” So we did just that.
(I also saw Ray, whom I saw last year and follow on instagram, and a girl who was with them last year whose name I couldn’t remember. It made me happy, almost like I was seeing old friends, even though they have no idea who I am. I have a mad respect for them.)

Judy was exhausted and said she was going to sleep the whole way home. We talked about school she waiting for her the next day and the test she had to look forward to in third period. Time seemed to pass by pretty quickly and we made friends with a few people next to us. I realized that this time there were way fewer people waiting than last year. They didn’t even set up the little cable things to keep us in line or anything.

The dancers would come out and take their stuff to the bus, then come back and see us. Nothing separating us; mingling like old friends.

First person we met was Jaja, who was one of my favorites when she auditioned last year but didn’t make it through.

 I was so glad she came back and auditioned, and especially that she did so well. Meeting her was something I never thought would really happen. I almost wished I would have met her after a few other people first because I was so awkward and had no idea what to say and so tongue tied and everything. But she was kind, and so wonderful. Judy was really excited to meet her since she also had red hair. The whole drive home she’d go back to her picture with Jaja and stare at it, beaming. To say she left inspired is an understatement. Meeting these dancers started to show Judy the commonalities she shared with them and the potential she has in herself. I am so grateful to them, more than I could say.

Next up, we got to meet Derek.

I was particularly taken by him during his solo that night. He had these balances unlike anything I have ever seen.

**There’s a picture but my thing is being stupid and not loading it? But his face is clear but the rest of him is blurry HOW DOES THIS EVEN HAPPEN.

Next we got to meet Megz.

Okay, first off, her jacket is perfect. And I told her this. She was team Street, and one of the only people who was actually older than me. I was really impressed with how well she did any style she was given, and how fluid she can make her body look down to her fingers. (That was my favorite.) She was also one of Judy’s favorite’s, so she was really excited to meet her.

JJ skipped passed us while we were with Megz to keep the momentum going, so next we got to meet Neptune.

 Man, he was so cool! So down to earth and extremely friendly. Not to mention, his dancing was so sick. Like, my mind was blown. He was so kind and really loved Judy. A lot of the dancers did, which was so great. It really meant so much to her, which makes my heart burst with good things.

Next we got to meet Edson.

He had quite the cheering section the row in front of us during the show, and honestly I can see why. His skill level was incredible. He had a really warm personality and was very kind. I think the cheering section girls were there and had just met him. I can see why they were fans!

Next we got to meet Moises.

He was one of the alternates that was able to come, which is pretty cool. I love that they do that. I made him draw himself as he signed my program, and when he did he said, “This is my leg, and this is my foot. Look at how pointed my toes are! This is my favorite move.” It was hilarious. He was really nice and had gotten to do a solo which was really great.

After that, I saw JJ and she wasn’t with any of the other people. It looked like she was looking around to see if there were any more people, so I shouted, “JJ! Wait! Don’t leave us!” She laughed and smiled and came right over to meet Judy and I.

She talked with us about dance and Judy complimented her and talked about dance. She asked, “So you are team stage then?” We said yes, and she had complimented Judy’s dress, which had stripes, and so did her sweater so she said, “We can be team stripes!” She was so incredibly kind. And her sweater was insanely soft. It was crazy to think this was the same fierce team street dancer we had seen tearing up the stage not long before, seeing that she was as sweet as sugar! I love how she is the full package, all wrapped into one! I really enjoyed meeting her.

Next we got to meet Marissa, who was also an alternate.

I kept forgetting that the alternates were alternates. I mean, I had them all draw themselves, but I kept forgetting that they weren’t just like everyone else. They’re so insanely talented, and Marissa was no exception. She really blew my mind, and when I first saw her before consulting my program to figure out who she was, I couldn’t believe she wasn’t top 10. I can tell you, I’d hate to be one of the judges.
She was really friendly, asking how we liked the show and talking with us. I had her draw herself as well and she said, “Oh, I haven’t seen these yet! Can I look at it?” I said of course! And she looked through it. We got a picture and she said she wanted a copy of it. I told her I could tweet it to her, so she wrote her twitter handle by her picture in my program. I love how personable she is. I really felt like we were friends, and not just a fan meeting a dancer. That is a great skill to have, and I’m grateful to have met her. (When I tweeted her the picture the next day, she replied right away. Which I found really kind and also impressive that she was awake so early. hehe. 🙂 )

Next we meet Yorelis, who was another alternate.

Again, can’t believe they are alternates. How these judges decide is beyond me because all of these dancers were mind blowing.
Yorelis really stood out to me, partially because she has such amazing hair and I kept thinking of all the amazing pictures that could come of photo shoots, but mostly because of her insane amount of skill. She also drew herself on the program and we talked about dance. I told her I didn’t know how she does this every day. I mean, they must be so exhausted, we’re wiped out just after Nutcracker I can’t imagine this much intensity. She said, “It’s really not that bad! But I’m really grateful I get to do what I love every day.” And I said, “yes. Never stop doing that. Like, ever.” This really stuck with me, given my current work situation and the potential opportunities I have to (finally) leave there and do more of I love, which is hinging on the fact that what I love doesn’t bring enough income in to really justify quitting the place the sucks up all my times and damages my spirit. But this makes me want to press on. To fight to do what I love and endure until it’s what I can do full on. That I’m not being foolish to prioritize what makes my soul come alive over what society tells me I need. And I’m really fortunate to have the opportunities I have been given to get income doing what I live, even if it’s minimal. Every bit helps.

Next up came Jim, which Judy and I were internally freaking out over.

Judy and I do ballet, so obviously we would be excited about the dancer from Houston Ballet. (duh.)
He was so kind. I told him about Ms. Munro and how she used to be affiliated with Houston Ballet back in the day. (Ballet Mistress. I had to ask yesterday, hahaha) Judy told him he should totally be our Sugar Plum Cavalier since we only have a handful of guys, and we told him about Michael Levine that comes and dances with us. (Corpus Christi Ballet, if anyone is wondering.) We talked ballet and Nutcracker and dance and it was really cool. He was so nice and made us feel like we were just visiting with a friend, not meeting this dancer that has become a legend in the ballet world lately. We got pictures with him and when it came time for him to continue on he said, “I hope to see you again soon!” (Of course I told Ms. Munro about it all and dropped hints that we should totally have him in.)

Next we met Gaby.

She is the Season 12 winner, and sweet as can be. I just started taking Tap this season when Mrs. Julie asked me to take her level III since a few of the older kids were taking tap for the first time and she didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable being the only older ones. “You’re good with patterns, you’ll pick it up just fine!” It’s been fun so far, I’m really grateful to get to learn. Seeing Gaby, especially in her solo, absolutely blew my mind. I literally cannot find words to express how intricate and precise her tapping is. On top of being insanely talented, she’s also good at keeping it interesting. Some people can find tap sort of flat, which I think is ridiculous, but she makes it something anyone can enjoy, even if they don’t realize how difficult what she is doing really is. She talked with Judy about dance and asked her what her favorite styles were. (Judy was pumped to meet her. One of her favorites all season.) She really encouraged her to keep with it keep doing her best.
This is what it’s about, ya know? These dancers inspiring the up-and-comings just by being who they are. A person’s positive influence is invaluable, and I am so grateful to these for being that for Judy. I believe she is really at a pivotal moment in her dancing where she’s about to make a huge breakthrough and show everyone what she is really capable of. The other girls in her class better watch out, because she’s coming for them! I’m also grateful for the inspiration these dancers are for me. More on that at the end.
In my picture with Gaby, Virgil photobombed, which is hilarious.

Next we got to meet Virgil and Alexia at the same time.

Virgil signed the program and Alexia drew herself wonderfully as she signed. (#meyeronfire) They were really fun and really nice. We talked with them and laughed and really enjoyed ourselves. (I wrote about Alexia above. She’s great. Supah fab. And from Utah, but we claim her here in Texas for sure. But Utah is close to Idaho and that’s where Emilee [my name twin] lives so we like it there to. I haven’t been to Utah yet, but it’s on my list.) Alexia seems like a really well rounded dancer. I’m hoping to get to go back and watch this season and see the full picture of how they got here from where they began with their SYTYCD story. Virgil was pretty great as well. Really funny. He was impressive to watch and thrived with anything given to him. He was another one of the really expressive ones that just seemed to stand out.

Lastly, (but we didn’t know it was lastly) we met Hailee.

She was Judy’s absolute favorite. When she walked up to us, I told her this, and she was so excited. She signed our programs and we got pictures with her and we talked with her like old friends. I told her how she was one of the most emotive dancers I have ever seen and how much I appreciate it. She thanked me and we got to talking about dance and all sorts of things. I asked about her knee, since she danced with a brace on. She said, “Funny story!” and showed us the epic floor burn on her knee. “It bleeds like a gun shot wound!” so they wrap it and then put the brace over it to help protect her knee from bleeding all over the place when she dances. She told us that the first night on the bus was a rough adjustment, but she had Netflix so it made it easier. I told her to look up documentaries to fall asleep to and she said she looked up one on dangerous animals in Australia, but it ended up keeping her awake because it was so interesting (and slightly disturbing!) She said she’ll be there in the morning with fun facts about the animals she learns about and that the scariest was this super venomous snake and how much she hates spiders. (same, though.) She really seemed to be such a genuine person (And reminded me of my friend Brieanna, which I wrote about earlier if you skipped all that) and was so warm and friendly. I love when I can leave things like with with a greater respect for the dancers after meeting them than when I arrived. This was definitely true for Hailee, and for all the dancers. Before she left us, she gave us another hug. This really resonated with Judy (and me, too.) Like. How cool is this? Here we are, dancers connecting with other dancers. This time it just happens to be that we are meeting these dancers that are known nationwide and have talent oozing from every part of them.

Everyone was so incredibly kind and friendly. Last year was great and all, but this year really blew me out of the water. They all took time with each of us and really connected with us. I really appreciate it, more than I think I could ever express.
For me, being someone who started dancing well after I could ever be considered for a career, seeing people like this from so many different styles of dance–it stays in my heart; in my soul. I see them, and think, “okay, if I can just work harder, I know I can attain this.” And it came at a good time, seeing that I had just heard back from my doctor and we think we’ve finally figured out what has been making me so sick all these years. Now I have these shining examples in front of me of what is possible if I work hard and I know I can push myself harder and really work for it without having to be afraid of what is going on internally. For the first time in almost 13 years, I can push myself and really work for what I want. Without fear.
Now to just get everything figured out with my back and knee. Hah. But it’s going better! So that’s good.

The world is small, and it’s full of people. We’re all connected in the fact that we’re all human, walking different walks in life, yet all sharing similarities if we take the time to look for them.
I’m blown away and so grateful for the serendipitous moments like these that connect people to people and give the opportunity for inspiration. They’re changing lives, doing what they’re doing. Art is such a deeply personal thing, whatever the medium, and dance is a universal language. Once you decide to be a dancer, you become part of a vast family. We’re connected in ways that are hard to explain unless you’re part of it. I’m grateful to have met these talented members of that family, and so excited for social media to be able to follow along with where they each go next.
I’m rooting for y’all!

Judy was so excited, we talked the whole way home.
She was so taken with how good the picture of she and Jaja came out. She was thrilled to know there was a dancer who had red hair like her. Representation is important. You as a person represent all the similarities you hold with seeming strangers. You can never be everything to everyone, but you never know what you mean to someone. Be you. Be you fiercely. Represent what you are. The world is better for it.

Empty studio

Usually on Tuesdays, I’m only at the studio until about 7pm. This is considered early for me, as most of my classes start at 7 and go til 9. (I get there at 5 because it’s just easier than going home, which is far away. And traffic sucks.) Last night, however, I didn’t leave until after 9.

On Monday, Ms. Munro came up to me during barre and asked what time I could get here the next day. She had a board meeting and no one to man the desk after she left. I told her my class was at 6, but I get here at 5 and I can do it if she’d like. She said not to skip the class (haha) but if I could be there it’d be great. I got there, answered the phones, and manned the desk until Julie’s class started.
There were only 10 people in class, which if I remember correctly was about typical of the 6s last year. The kicker? There’s 30+ people on the roll list.

I was able to do yesterday’s class without my knee brace. I took it easy on the fondus, but I really wanted to at least attempt them so I can get used to it and find my boundaries. I’ve noticed if I work hard to hold my hips square, it doesn’t hurt my knee as much. I also noticed yesterday that it looks as though my shin bone is what’s longer on the right leg. Weird, huh?

Class felt good. It wasn’t too hard, but just enough of a challenge. I noticed myself getting better and stronger when it comes to doing fast frappe’s or degage’s or tondue’s. I still have a lot to work on, but the improvement is nice.

After the hour of barre I stay for, I went back into the office. Andie came in and we looked through recital costumes for her three classes she has. It was quite fun. Looking through all the different options and playing around with music tracks and laughing at the same costume that keeps popping up everywhere. The phone rang a couple times while I was there, but none of the inquiries were complex, so that was nice.

Mia’s class in the pink studio ended at 7:45. Julie had her Jazz class at 7:45 until 8:45.
This got me to thinking.
I could go home, or I could be the one to do all the closing up responsibilities and in the meantime, use the open studio to work on my weaker, shorter leg in my pointe shoes.
(guess which one I chose.)

There’s a portable phone, so I took it with me. No one was in the foyer, no one was there to potentially decide to see what I was doing in the studio. (granted there are curtains I could draw if I wanted. I just forget about them.) I put on some music and just let it play. Starting at the barre, working on doing proper plies and finding how difficult it is to releve en pointe when one leg is shorter and gets there sooner. I did plie releves on my shorter, weaker leg, while holding on to the barre. I did it with the longer, stronger leg as well to see the difference in the two. The shorter leg is impossible to do without the barre, the longer leg is possible but still a bit difficult. (Forget trying to releve without a plie.)
In class on Monday, I realized how much I’ve been struggling to do proper pique turns. They aren’t hard, but I can’t seem to go in a straight line, and I want to make sure I’m plieing enough as well as spotting and holding my arms correctly and having proper alignment and straight knees. I wanted to get more fluid in these, so I can do them quicker as was required in Monday’s V’s class that I struggled with.

My left side is impossible to go straight when turning. I worked and worked and worked on it, trying to make sure everything was being executed exactly as it is supposed to be. It was rough.
I worked on my right side, and noticed I didn’t get on my box all the way. I do for the most part on my left side, but the right is lacking. So I worked on this side for a while, trying to figure out why that was happening and what I could do to improve. I did pique passe’s across the floor to get the proper feel of it as well as placement and staying in a line. I kept switching off between sides, working on this and that. After about 20 minutes, I went back to the barre for more plies and releves. I did them really slowly to get a good feel for the motion and make sure I was rolling through correctly, as well as getting a good, deep plie.
I stretched a bit after and laid there, seeing a cool angle of my pointe shoes, hahaha.

Don’t let the smirk fool you, I’m dead inside.
(But the good kind, ya know.)
(PS. Shirt is from an etsy shop run by dancers. TurningPointeApparel. So great)
I took off my shoes in the office, but not before I got my polaroid of the day from that fun angle of my shoes. Not sure if it came out well or not, I haven’t seen it. hah.
My pinkie toe on my left food is doing this fun thing where it rubs the skin off, kinda, so that’s cute.
Then I noticed that I managed to do this.
That would be a hole in my toe pads.
(thankfully new ones are in the mail)
I watched bits of the Jazz class. Seeing them dance the way they did make me feel all sorts of things. Mainly, that I never want to stop dancing. I want to feel how they must feel while dancing. I want to improve to get to that level.

🙂
He’s a blurry one of my shoes. Ribbons out and all. 

Here’s my feet with Mrs. Alex’s when we were manning the desk. Hehe.
Lalalalalala this is my post and this is the end of it.

Costume fittings

This weekend was the Nutcracker costume fittings for the older dancers.
I had the fitting for Petite Fleur on Saturday and Rat Queen on Sunday.

I left Bailando for a bit to run over and get fitted. They told me I could just do it Sunday, but Jilissa was okay in that time block so I went over. Good thing I did, too, since there was another girl I’m similar to and we had to switch around costumes and compare to get the right fit. Plus it was fun to be around all the other girls and get excited.

excpectation

Reality

Thanks Nina

Me with Elizabeth and Ms. Munro

Nina has quite the eye.
Yesterday I came a little early to help with all the Snow girls and their fitting (33 in the tiny costume room.)
It went about as smoothly as one can expect. Thankfully, Elizabeth is really organized.

I did a few headshots between that and RAT QUEEN

We’re not excited at all.
The costumes are like giant onesies, and the tutu is actually the Black Swan tutu, so that’s pretty cool. We feel pretty  naked without it (hence the last picture) but are excited that they all fit and Elizabeth doesn’t have to do much to them!
At one point, Jessica and I were goofing around all excited, and Ms. Munro walked up. She looked at us, with a look of satisfaction, and said, “Great! I knew I picked the perfect people for this role!” Which made us feel awesome.
I love Jessica. This is going to be so much fun. 
Hopefully this season will just keep getting better. I’m really excited for it all. Plus, my rehearsals won’t be all that extreme, so that’s nice!

Bailando 2015

This weekend marked the 16th annual Bailando Dance Festival at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi.
It’s, I believe, my 3rd year to attend. My old dance teacher from Instep, Jilissa produces it and it’s hosted by the Corpus Christi Concert Ballet with TAMUCC. There’s three nights of performances, and master classes on Friday and Saturday. The performances on Thursday and Friday are adjudicated based on their choreography and the favorites are put through to the Gala performance on Saturday. Its a great opportunity for choreographers to learn and grow and get insight on how to broaden their thinking.
This years performances were amongst some of the best we’ve seen.
I get to take pictures of the performances and classes, which is really cool. It’s also great because I get to sit in on bits of every class, even if it’s not a style I’m particularly versed in. I learn a lot, and I’m really grateful for it.
I got to take a couple classes on Saturday, the Beginner/Intermediate Ballet with Orlando Julius Canova and the Intermediate/Advanced with Mel Glouchkova.
They were the first classes of the morning, so there weren’t too many people in them. I was glad to take the class and to get corrections from these people who don’t see me every day. On top of that, it was great getting a compliment on something I never knew if I did correctly or not. Orlando told me to watch as to not overcross in my ronde de jambes when they go back, which I never realized I did, so I was able to really watch and think about controlling it better. He also told me to keep my right shoulder down. I figured it was from the back being crooked, one leg longer thing, but I never really noticed how drastic it is. You can actually see it. I tried thinking about keeping that shoulder down, which is actually kind of difficult. The alignement helps me, but its as though my right shoulder is perpetually shrugged a bit. Working to get it even was actually a bit uncomfortable, so I’m not sure if it’s something I should actively attempt to fix or if that would make things worse.
I wish I knew if this could or would ever be fixed or if this is something I just have to deal with the rest of forever. Or even what the heck caused it. All of these things seem to still be up in the air.
There were moments I felt sort of stupid in his class, but I tried to just let it roll off my shoulders. I felt awkward and got a bit embarrassed, but as long as you play it off no one seems to remember. So, whatever.
It was a great class.

Mel’s class was a little more on the advanced side, which I appreciated. She had us do a lot of direction changes, which threw everyone off a bit, but once I got the hang of it, I got it. I struggled a bit in this class, but I think my brain was a bit off for handling it. Still, I tried, and I liked it. I only did barre in her class since I did the full thing in Orlando’s–jumps and all–and my knee was over it. I’m hoping removing the fluid will help and that we can get that done soon. Why is my body so complicated?
I took pictures of the rest of the class, and watching helped solidify the combinations that I struggled with, so that was nice. There were a few things I wanted to work on at home if I can remember them. Maddie came to this class, which made me really happy to have someone from my studio there with me. 🙂

Overall, the event ran really smoothly. I brought Jilissa the “Leslie treatment” (A big Fiji water and a bag of Reese’s) and she hugged me so tight, which was cool. I love getting to help out (we got staff shirts this year!) and knowing that Jilissa can breathe a little easier knowing she can leave me to handle things when she has to be somewhere else makes me feel really good. I’m glad I wasn’t in the way.

At the beginning of the Gala, Jilissa and some others came out and greeted everyone as well as thanking the people who made it possible. She had the choreographers stand up and I saw Ms. Lori was there!! I was so excited I could literally feel my heart getting lighter. Jilissa kept looking in my direction while she spoke to where I wondered if she could actually see me. I tried to keep my face pleasant and encouraging to help give a good audience vibe when she then asks me and the other volunteers to stand up. (By name. She thanked me by name. In front of everyone.) I was in the third row from front so I don’t know who else was there. I didn’t know what to do with my hands or anything, and never really know how to handle those sort of things, but she’s never done that before. Even before that, she seemed really grateful to have me there. It was nice, especially considering she had plenty of people helping without me. Then to have her personally thank me, it was just so nice of her. I love Jilissa so much and have a great respect for her.

At intermission, I was able to go and say hi to Ms Lori before she left back for Austin. She asked about all the girls and told me to send her love and asked about Nutcracker. She was so excited to hear I was Rat Queen, which meant the world to me. She is truly a wonderful person, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have her in my life, even when she’s far away.
Ms. Munro was sitting next to her and introduced me to a man with her. She then went on to tell him how helpful I was and how much the younger ones love me and all these other really kind things. I’m standing there like, what? compliments? what is life? what do I do with my face? Do I say thank you? Here, have a sarcastic comment because I don’t know what else to do. And it was really nice.

I’m thoroughly exhausted, but my heart is full. I was sad to see this Bailando end. I got to see Abby and met some new friends from Concert Ballet, Frances and Clara, who are both going to be Clara in their Nutcracker. If I don’t have rehearsal I’m going to go see it. 🙂

Here’s a few pictures from the weekend!

Dance Au Deum

Ugh, I love this so much

Jennifer Mabus’ class

My new friends! 

Islaaaaa!

And sweet Lindsey

This piece was done to a strobe light and it was incredible

Misha is goals

MARI YOUR FACE SLAYS ME

Jessica, my fellow Rat Queen! This was her first piece to choreograph herself and she got great critiques! I’m so proud 🙂
I love watching my friends dance. I’m not one to really cry, but if I did it would make me cry. Even without tears, seeing them moves me.

World Ballet Day

I’m currently watching the portion of the live stream from The National Ballet of Canada.
They are doing their class warm up. So far, it’s fairly simple–all things I am more than capable of doing. It’s quite a large class, and as they pan from side to side, you see many variations of the same movement.
Plie, plie, grande plie, cambre, and 2nd. repeat. 4th, 5th.
Some people cambre forward in 1st, some cambre forward in 5th. Some back. You see some do different flexes and points at different times, or work and isolate specific muscles. You see some stretch different muscles than others, and some put their arms in 5th while most are in 1st, etc.
I thought of class last night with Mrs. Alex. We did this combination that ended in a ponche for our balance. It was on flat, and the arms were a little different. She made a comment that she thinks we can get our legs higher, and had us look in the mirror to see how high our legs actually were compared to what we thought they were. She told us, “I want you to just look at your leg. Not anyone else’s, just yours. I mean it! Don’t look at anyone else! It’s not about comparing yourself to other people.”
It’s about doing what we need, what’s best for us. It doesn’t matter how great or not-so-great the person next to us is. That is irrelevant. You can’t do anything about them. All you can do is work harder where you are with what you have.
If you watch the professionals, you’ll see that all of them aren’t the same, either. They do what they are capable of. If you’re truly a great dancer, no one will even notice if your leg isn’t up to your ear or whatever your neighbor can do that you can’t.

What I love about seeing this company, is you see them dancing for themselves. You can see it in them that they aren’t worried about the person next to them. You don’t see fear, you don’t see insecurity. You see them in their element. You see how seriously they take their art form. There’s something that they fully encompass that sets them apart, and is visible.
That’s what we want to achieve. To focus solely on ourselves and our own improvement. To become so fluid with the people around us that corps work is flawless. To accomplish that musicality.

That’s one of the most beautiful and enticing thing (at least for me) about learning the art of ballet.
We are all working towards the same goal. We learn these same moves in a language that is universal and timeless. It makes you part of a special kind of family, connects you to seeming strangers in a bond that can’t be explained.

I have made some of the most wonderful and cherished friends through ballet, and even more through World Ballet Day. It’s incredible. And really, there are no words to describe it.

Just love.

Here are a few screen grabs from the National Ballet of Canada.
I have more on my phone from The Royal Ballet that I’ll add when they back up and I can access them.
🙂

Nutcracker Casting 2015

The day is upon us.
That fateful day when our Assistant Director walks in the door clutching the very thing dreams are made of.
It also happens to be the crusher of dreams.
For me, it’s just, “meh.”

(Okay, not meh but way less exciting than for the younger girls.)
(Or… so I thought.)

If you have been following along in my ballet story, you will know that there were certain roles that I was hoping for. These were goals I had set out to accomplish, hoping it would give me a leg up for Swan Lake, which is really what I want to accomplish.
I knew going into it that in the hierarchy that is Nutcracker, my next role in line would be Petit Fleur. After that, Lilac, and after that, Rose. Typically, if you’re a flower at all, you’re also snow. My goal was to pass up Petit Fleur–which is typically more posing than dancing–and go to Lilac. It was a stretch, but the summer felt promising and I was really improving. Ms. Munro has been watching me. I was allowed to take the VI’s class, which I wasn’t expecting but was very exciting.

The list goes up. I step to the back and let the girls see first. I hear squeals and everyone looks at Annika. She got Clara! We weren’t expecting that, since she’s so good, so I went forward to see who the Clara’s were. And it’s a fabulous group of them–really strong dancers that will impress this year. Annika, Lauren, Alyssa, and Maddison. I’m so beyond thrilled for these girls. I feel some of them may have felt they missed their shot last year when the age range for Clara’s went down so much, but this year it’s their time to shine, and shine they will.

I glanced at the Lilacs. I glanced at the Lilacs continued page.
My name wasn’t there.
I looked at Petit Fleur.
Bingo.

My heart sank a little bit.
I think I knew deep down I wouldn’t get to skip up, but it was given hope when in Oz I was doing the same roles as one of the girls that level above me, and doing them well, and then also when I was allowed into VI’s. Not to mention, everyone telling me I could totally do it. I was sad, but I tried not to show it. I stepped back and waited to look where everyone else ended up.
Emerson came back to me and said she was Petit Fleur and Snow. I was glad to know at least I’m with my girls again. They really make it fun. I asked if she saw my name for Snow, and she said she didn’t.
Wait, what? Usually when you’re one, you’re both? I asked one of the other girls from my class, and she was also both. Why am I not both? I can totally do both. What gives?
Whatever. I’ll look at the list when people file out a bit more. Maybe she just didn’t see it. It’s no big deal. I’ll have fun regardless.
At this point, I’m not like, freaking out or anything. I’m not upset or mad or whatever. Just kinda there.
I’m watching all the other girls find out their roles and watching their reactions, which is a welcomed distraction in my waiting.
Then Annika comes up to me and says, “Emilee! You’re Rat Queen!”
WHAT.
I just looked at her. I asked, “Are you sure?” and she said, “I mean, pretty sure!”

I find my way to the board and try to find where Rat Queen is listed.
Sure enough, there’s my name.
Sharing with Jessica, one of the best dancers in the studio.
(And also someone that has been really inspiring for me. Her work ethic is insane, and I’ve gotten to watch the results that come from it. It gives me the motivation to work hard, knowing it’ll happen for me too in time. I really appreciate having her in class.)
So then I’m freaking out.
That’s why I’m not Snow. I’m freakin’ Rat Queen!!
I remember last year hearing someone complain about being this role. (why do people always complain about the roles I am?) And I remember sitting in the seats and hearing her and thinking, “Give it to me, if you don’t want it. This role is awesome!”
It’s an absolute blast.
You have on the giant rat head, and get to be super sassy, and interact with the Rat King and Nutcracker and the other rats and rat princesses and mice and stuff.
Did I mention I get to be sassy?
I’m really excited to get to be sassy.

The more that this set in, the more I was really pleased with my casting.
Especially with what the doctor had told me earlier that day:
We got into discussion about my knees hurting. I told her the whole happenings with the chiropractor and my back and my legs being uneven and showed her the xrays and she asked me questions about it and I answered them. I told her how they told me 3 1/2 years ago that I had arthritis and sent me for physical therapy. She asked if they mentioned my leg being longer then, and I told her no.
She examines my knee. Asked if this and that hurt, which it didn’t. She poked here and there, and again no pain. She asked where the pain was, and I told her it shoots under the knee cap. It typically doesn’t hurt when it’s at rest, but with use and during class when I plie a lot. She looks at the right knee and pokes this one part. “You can see the right knee is swollen. See this? That’s fluid.”
Oh.
So it’s not arthritis, I have fluid on my knee.
She wants to get an MRI and look into it more. I’m glad she is so invested in me and interested in all of the issues instead of just surface or what I tell her. She investigates, and she cares that I get better.

So, no. I’m not Lilac. I’m not even Snow. But the roles I have will be really good for my knee (Even though Petit Fluer is a lot of kneeling) and will help, I think.
And that doesn’t mean that I’m out of the running for Swan Lake.
I’m also not guaranteed. And I think my knee will be a big deciding factor.
I asked Mrs. Alex if she thought it would be more the older girls or if I had a shot, and she said it’s very uncertain right now.
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, I’ll work my hardest, do my best, and take it as it comes. If it doesn’t happen, I just have to accept it. This can be difficult as my entire life seems to have been  a constant battle of barely missing the mark and having to be happy for my friends as I watch them enjoy what I can’t have–for whatever reason. There’s been times it’s been wrongful exclusion from politics. This isn’t that. But it’s still rough. I felt it last year, I feel it now, but it’s okay. Now I just take a moment I need to grieve the fact I missed the mark, then I pull myself up and get over it, working my hardest to be the best I can. I also try and make the most of the situation.
What people don’t realize is that I’m so inclusive because I’ve known exclusion my whole life. And the times someone included me was a game changer. People think I must have such a wonderful and perfect history since I’m so nice and kind or whatever, but really it’s the opposite. I’ve known great loss and pain and injustice, so I do the best I can to help others through it. I try to be what I wish I would have had.
There are times when it’s just a lesson the person needs to learn, and that’s fine. But when I can lessen the blow, I try my best to do so. I’m also human and imperfect and will still miss the mark, but I’ll give my best effort in what I know and take the lessons as chances to learn and grow.
(I’m not snow, so no snow secret santa for me. But I’m trying to scheme up ways I can still have fun and make someones day in secret. Hehehe)

TL;DR
I’m really excited to be with my girls in Petit Fluer, and really super excited about Rat Queen.
I told my parents, and they were really excited that I get to use my drama skills with this. Like, Dad legitimately sounded excited.
(I really want to prance around in the costume.)
(PLUS I get to hang out with the kids!)
(and this means I’ll be able to take pictures of snow again!)
(really I can’t lose, y’all.)

SPEAKING OF PICTURES

I stole this from Adrienne’s snapchat. She’s a Maid and we’re pumped about it!

(stolen again)

(and stolen from Annika)

(fun fact, at first I had an excited face when she came up to me with her phone, but she said, “Look dead.” so this came of it.)

(perfect.)

(annika again)

The girls waiting anxiously

It’s blurry but YO HOME GIRL IS RAT QUEEN

And look! they spell it correctly!

So yes.
And I’m really freakin’ excited for Annika. She’s Clara, then also Russian and Spanish on nights she’s not Clara. So it’s new roles for her and really exciting. Plus, I just feel so proud. Like, here’s my baby Shrub, and she’s mine. And we’re from the same studio, and we came here and newbs, and now look at her. And she’s Clara. Two years ago, Nutcracker wasn’t even a thought. And now she’s doing this and all these people are so happy for her and celebrating her and I know how incredibly happy this makes her and it makes me happy. Because she’s so talented and it’s being utilized and she just keeps rising and my heart can’t take all the love! I fear I may burst!

Happy days 🙂

OH!!!!!
And Abarrane is a Mirliton!!!
She wanted this role so badly, and she was feeling pretty crappy at auditions but still managed to rock it anyway. And she got the role and my heart absolutely burst when I heard/saw. I’m so proud of her. She’s worked so hard and proven herself and overcome insurmountable odds to do so. I really hope she’s in class today so I can hug her.

That one time we danced in the dark.

Class started out pretty normal.
I had tap, but my tap shoe somehow managed to melt off to where the tap separated from the shoe.
But I didn’t lose the screw?

(It just got worse from here)

So I did tap in ballet shoes, which is a funny concept.
It was hard, but it was fine. Just really had to focus on the feel rather than the sound.
(arms were a joke.)

I think Julie likes having me in there because she knows I can help her when she needs it.
Yesterday, it was helping her write out what three different combos were for the girls who came in late or just struggled so they could practice at home.
(my hand writing is terrible, so this was hard, but they could read it. Bless.)
Class was fun, though. I’m kinda getting the hang of it.
I really enjoy it. My brain works in patterns and rhythms, so it’s a great combination.

My knee has been doing pretty alright. We did the whole class Tuesday en pointe, so the part I was there for was mainly barre. But I did better than I thought I would. I was able to think about my knee and realize where I still need work and what is getting better.

Yesterday barre went pretty well. My knee hurt a few times, but I’m figuring it out. (It’s hard, because letting my hips be uneven makes my back hurt. sigh. The struggle.) We put on our pointe shoes, and most of the things we did weren’t all that invasive. The parts that were, I just skipped and did on demi instead, and did en pointe what I could. The hard part was that it was so fast, so I struggle regardless. I would have been challenge on flat let alone with pointe shoes on.

Although, we had this combination that involved a lot of balancing, and though I’m still not perfect with it with pointe shoes on, I was able to do more than usual. It was a struggle, but it felt good. I was proud.

We had about 30 minutes left in class, marking a combination, when the power went out.
I stood still, heard some of the girls freaking out, and then felt a hand on my arm. One of my friends is really afraid of the dark, so I just stayed with her and reassured her; talking to her to get her mind off of it. About a minute later, the lights came back on.
We continued, and the first group did the combination.
I was part of the second group. We started doing the combination, and–conveniently–right when we get to the part when I realized I couldn’t remember what came next, the power went out again. I couldn’t find my friend, but the lights came back on again, so we started over and just continued on with class.

We learned this variation that mainly had to do with character and direction. We were about to start it when the power went out for a third time! I looked for my friend, but couldn’t find her again, and another one grabbed me and I held her. The power came back on again and I saw that my friend had been in front of me. She said she was okay, and we continued on and did the variation. At this point, we were starting to wonder what we should do about it. We had about seven minutes left in class, so we learned this other combination for across the floor. (Saute, back saute, tombe, pas de bourree, jete, grand jete) I really liked it and how it felt, and asked about the arms cause I kept switching them. I walked back to the corner where we were gonna start. My friend was tucking her ribbons, and I put my hand lightly on her back, and no sooner I did the power went off again. She laughed and grabbed my arm. It was like I knew it was about to switch off again.

This time it stayed off. We had five minutes left and we kinda waited to see what we were going to do. By this time, we had little lantern lights in our studio and the other one and could see at least something. Most of the girls flocked to the light, so I did the combination by myself because I loved it and how it made me feel.
Mrs. Alex had us do saute, jete, jete across the floor one by one twice on both sides. You could hear the girls giggling and from what you could see, they were giving it their all. Something about thinking you aren’t seen and you’re having a blast makes them really come alive.
A few of them had really just shown so much energy as a whole. Adrienne was one of them. She was really giving it her all and you could see it. She was beautiful to watch. And she and Allison had really pretty jete’s, even in the dark.

At the end of class, everyone got out their phones and took pictures of us in the studio in the dark. It ended up being really fun.

Between one of the off-and-on moments, Mrs. Alex told us about a time during a performance when the power went out and she was in the middle of a complex turn sequence. She kept going and when she finished the power came back on. Can you imagine? Talk about nerve wracking.

(This was us leaving the studio, seeing that businesses to our left were out as well, while businesses to the right were fine.)

The studio

I love this so much.

"Why do I even do this?"

Yesterday was rough.
It seemed like I found myself saying “I can’t” not because I didn’t want to try, but because my body physically wouldn’t allow me to do the things. The sentence ended with “yet” most of the time, but still it started to feel very harrowing.
These were things I needed to be working on, things I need to improve on, and I couldn’t do them because it would shoot pain into my knee, or it’s not strong enough yet.

I felt like a failure.
It was very overwhelming.
Worst of all, I felt exposed. My teacher knew and I couldn’t just blend in and pretend I could do all these things.
I felt defeated.

But that’s not what I really want to write about today.

Work has been rough, to say I’m over it is an understatement, but I’m trying to keep a positive attitude towards it since I’m there and I need it right now. I remind myself it isn’t forever and that for now I have to make the most of it. That “this too shall pass” and all that other good stuff.
I was thinking about ballet, and how I’m in the studio five days a week now. I thought of how dancing makes me feel and the place I’ve ended up in and how wonderful it is.
I thought about the seemingly-spontaneous decision I made almost 4 years ago to pursue this childhood dream of mine of dancing en pointe. I thought of my first class and how terrified I was to even look into classes, let alone take them. I thought of those first months and panicking in the corner at not being able to do seemingly simple things.

I thought about my first performance.
How overwhelmed I was at some of the steps, and how I would spend hours at home going over it until I had it. How I would search the internet for tips and tricks and explanations. How my parents didn’t want to come and it made me really sad.

I thought about my first recital. How I sat out recital my first year there, and was excited about it my second year there. I thought of the corrections my teacher gave me there that are second nature now. I thought of the photo day and all the people I’m friends with now. I thought of how my parents complained about seeing me dance that time too, especially about the parking and not having good seats cause they left too late like it was my fault.

I thought of my second holiday showcase. How I got to help with the babies and it was madness. I thought of how I decided then to dance for myself and no one else and if my parents or anyone else didn’t want to come I wouldn’t make them because it just makes me feel guilty for not being understanding of them not wanting to come or whatever. I thought of how I had to rush home after work to change to get to the studio in time. How I was always perpetually early to beat traffic so they started having me assist the baby ballet/tap classes.

I thought of Bailando and getting to take pictures and really committing to this.

I thought of my first pair of convertible tights.

I thought of asking my dance teacher if getting en pointe by the next year was feasible and her being uncertain.

I thought of the next year and how I was given the permission form two weeks before my 25th birthday (which was my bucket list goal–before 25.)

I thought of little arms around my neck as I took a group picture with my class I helped teach.

I thought of how my family didn’t come to my last dance recital at my old studio.

I thought of my studio shutting down.

I thought of how harrowing it was to find a new studio. How scary it was. How no one spoke to me when I was there so I would bring a book and pretend to be invisible as to not draw attention to myself. I thought of how out of my depth I felt and that they must be judging me in class. That they probably thought I should be better than I am and that I was a joke. How I felt I have to work harder to prove myself since I “don’t look like a dancer.” I thought of how I felt when I saw dancers who were good and not stick thin, that I could do it, too.

I thought of watching Nutcracker by myself because no one would go with me and my friends kinda sucked then but tried to make me feel like I was the sucky one (anyway) and how certain dancers would stand out to me.

I thought of my first Nutcracker auditions, and how the one friend I knew encouraged me. How I had to audition with the younger kids cause I knew my pointe was next-to-nothing and there’s no way I could keep up with the older group, even though I seemed to have the director fooled.

I thought of the disappointment in casting, but how I was going to make the most of it. How I wasn’t going to let other people make me feel like I was lesser for my casting. How I wouldn’t let my family’s comments on how I’m “only in the show for a minute and a half” bother me and not pressure them into coming to see me, even though it’d be my first performance en pointe.

I thought of how I rolled my ankle at auditions and how I thought of giving up all together since I couldn’t find good shoes. That it must be me. How I won a pointe shoe fitting contest through Capezio that changed everything.

I thought of my first Nutcracker season, and being sad it was over.

I thought of Oz and auditioning with 5s and wanting to quit again and how the entire show turned around for me. How I became friends with all these girls and how the dancers that stood out to me when I watched Nutcracker alone were now my friends and some of my biggest encouragers.

I thought of my first recital en pointe. How my parents came, got free parking, and afterwards told me, “you looked like a real ballerina up there!”

I thought of where I am now. How I’m at the studio 5 days a week without rehearsals. How Nutcracker casting is pending and I have no idea how I’ll be able to pull it off. I thought of the mom in the studio yesterday that told me, “If your parents ever don’t want you, I do.” I thought of the support that I get and how people believe in me. How people like me. And how weird and wonderful it all is.

And in all of this, I thought of what my life would be like if I had never taken that first step. If I had never faced the fear of the unknown and taken that first class. If I had given up all those times before. If I wouldn’t have pushed through.
I would leave work, and go home, and be by myself and probably miserable. I wouldn’t have near as many friends. I’d feel out of place since most the friends in my life are in different stages. How I would have nothing to take away the sting of how terrible work makes me feel. Nothing to strive for. Nothing to achieve. Nothing to feel accomplished with. Nothing to dedicate myself to. It would be like walking around sick with no medication to help.

Dance is my medication for the pain life gives me.
Dance is the sanity in my crazy world.
Dance is the clarity in a place that doesn’t make sense.
Dance is the comfort in my life of tragedy.
Dance is my friend when I’m alone.

What would my life be without dance?
Shallow. Limited. Insecure. Lonely. Sad.

Ballet has taught me, and helped me grow as a person. It has lead me to meeting wonderful people and having experiences I carry in my heart always. Ballet gives expression to the depths of me no one knows.

People in my life, those reading this, those who don’t even know about it–they don’t know the full me. The tragedy, the pain, the difficult things I’ve gone through. They see me in the after. They see me in my element, in the happiest state of being. Some of them know of hardships I have faced, and instead of treating me like a freak or some celebrity or something stupid, they walk beside me.

Ballet has given me things I could never replace or even known to have hoped for.

So on days like yesterday when everything feels overwhelming, and I find that thought in the back of my mind coming to surface of, “Why do I even do this? I’m never going to get past this. Who am I kidding?” I remember all the beautiful things the last (almost) four years has given me.

And I smile.
And say, “Try it one more time.”

It’ll all work out. It may not look the way I want it to, but it’ll solve itself. I’ll figure something out and I’ll keep fighting.