The final bow of Nutcracker 2015

Sunday marked our final show of The Nutcracker for our 2015 season.

Cue tears.

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.

We all wore them during warm-up, and Jessica and I proceeded to zoom around like we were superman.
It was so much fun, and really helped me to keep up my moral, and not give up from feeling sick.
(Why is that so common on show days?)
Julie did our warm-up, which included a really good stretch. Mariela and the fellow Insteppers and I know it as the Joffrey Stretch, but they call it something else. As we did it, (bring the leg up to passe, grab the heel and extend out, bring it out to second and get a good stretch) a few girls at the barre next to me all freaked out at the same time over how high my leg was. It was really funny. Their eyes got really big and they said things like, “Dang, Emilee!” I didn’t really realize how high it was until they commented. It felt so good, and really shocked me, because it was really high.
Later, we did grand battements in center, and again my leg decided that was the day to go super high. I was able to maintain control and turn out while doing this as well. It felt really good.
Turns sucked, but I laughed about it. Jetes were really fun since we were wearing capes; it made us look like we were flying.
I got ready for the show and came downstairs with my camera, as usual. Jessica and I had our capes on to get pictures in costume (see above.) Ms. Munro saw us and asked me, “Are you wearing that on stage?”
I looked at her, because she didn’t say it like, “You’re not wearing that on stage, are you?” But rather like someone had a really good suggestion and we just hadn’t told her yet or something. I looked at her and asked, “I mean, can I?” She commented on how cute it was and said she thought it would be great and, “Let’s ask Alex!” Mrs. Alex came over and Ms. Munro asked her, to which she said, “I think it’s cute, and it goes with the costume. I don’t see why not!” 
I GOT TO WEAR THE CAPE.
Now I felt really empowered. Like a security blanket of sorts. No matter what happened on stage, I was wearing a cape and therefore immune to disaster. 
Jessica helped me pin it so it wouldn’t fall off in partnering, just in case, but we had to pin it over the Rat head. This made things a bit tight, but it worked. The partnering bit went alright, I probably could have been a bit more solid, but Sean is a rockstar and makes me look so good. 
My shoe came off in the jetes again, but my ribbons were tied well (thanks Elizabeth) so the shoe just came off the heel and stayed on enough to get through. 

(Lillian got these gems of the incident.)
(Thanks Lillian 🙂 )
I didn’t forget anything, and was even able to grab the cannon ball, which I heard Ms. Munro praise from the wings. This made me feel really good and like I actually succeeded in the role, rather than just merely getting by. 
When we finished, Ms. Munro commented on how good the cape looked on stage. I said, “it made me feel like I could fly in my jetes!” To which she responded, “You did fly!” 
My eyes went something like this O.O
My mind is blown. I never expected her to say that. ahh!!
After the scene ended, we stayed in costume to get pictures with my sweet mouse, Addison, and my rat family

Colin had to go to the bathroom, so he missed the family portrait.
It’s funny how you can tell which rat is which, even with heads on.
Addison was the mouse we picked up and carried. She is an absolute sweetheart!
It was really difficult coming off stage and not being able to take the head off and breathe. Remember, the cape was safety pinned over the head, so I had to keep myself from panicking at the fact I couldn’t get air. Greyson saved me, though, after a few minutes. All was well.
(definitely worth it.)
The rest of the show went smoothly, except it seemed to be the day everyone slipped. A Chinese, our Sugar Plum, even Clara, mostly in the the same spot on the stage. They recovered extremely well, though, and no one remembered it even happened. Signs of a true professional.
Flowers went well, also. I was able to get nail the corrections I had been given, and Isabel and I got the timing right on the finale, so I felt really successful overall.

(I can’t remember how to get this to rotate, but my sister took it from the audience 😀 )
I don’t know exactly what it was about this season, but now that it’s over, my heart feels so extremely full from having lived it.
I wouldn’t have expected this in the beginning, seeing how there seemed to be more drama than usual and everyone kept getting sick and hurt. But it turned out to be one of my absolute favorite memories.
It’s probably due largely to the people.
I have realized, now more than ever, that I have such wonderful, incredible people in my life.
Those that encourage me, celebrate with me, listen to me vent. Those that are kind and loving and fun. They make this experience something I cherish. Without them, it would just be us going through the motions.
Dance friends really are the best friends, and basking in this after show glow is my favorite thing right now. My fellow dancers are what make this what it is. From the youngest cherub to the oldest company member, I couldn’t be more grateful. 
It’s also heart warming to have friends who support you and come to watch. 
I wish I could express what it means, but words fail me.
My heart is so full.
Now, friendship isn’t about gifts, but I did receive some from cherished friends that really hit my heart. Every single one of them means more to me than I could ever say. They really didn’t have to do that, yet they took the time out to think of me and choose to do something for me to make me feel special. And it did. It really did.
What a wonderful season of memories, growth, and hard work.
Until next year!

Triggers.

“Stop whining.”

If you want to know the fastest way to break my spirit, get me to shut up, and subsequently not speak but rather hide inside myself for days all it takes is those two little words.

We got to work on our recital piece in the class today, even though we typically only run it on Thursday’s. Ms. Lori was really cleaning us up and giving us detailed corrections. There was a point when she told me to straighten my back leg. It’s really difficult to straighten my back leg on that part: it’s really fast for us, being the last group and the first for the next part, which makes my bad knee hurt if I’m not too careful and also limits how much I can plie which causes me trouble in the straightening of the other knee because it throws off my balance which apparently, in turn, causes my back leg to bend. I tried to tell this to Ms. Lori, and her response was, “Stop whining” cutting me off before I could finish. Once I got my breath back, I tried again to explain what it is with my knee, but I was already shaken. It literally only takes the moment for the words to leave the persons mouth and hit my ears, and I am wounded. I hate this fact about me, but there it is.
So I shut my mouth, did the best I could without killing my knee or something else in how quick it is, and just went with it. The next time we ran it, Ms. Munro was watching. While Ms. Lori was getting the music right, I tried the move a few times on my own to try and get the fluidity to straighten my back leg at the speed required. I should be able to do this, right? Stop whining, Emilee. Just shut up and do it. You’re pathetic. The oldest one here, and making excuses. You’ll never go anywhere with that attitude. You’re hopless. Stop whining.
Ileana is a gem and watched me, letting me know if my leg was straight or not just because she is made of pure sugar, which helped me be a little more confident. I tried it one more time and felt really great about the pique turn that follows the move my knee wasn’t straight in, noticing I was better onto my box and far more stable than usual. Ileana applauded. I got this.

We ran it for Ms. Munro, and it got to that part. My knee didn’t hurt too badly, and I did my absolute best to straighten my knee. But when it came to the pique turn, I hit the girl next to me as we turned.
Completely forgetting that this was the reason why my pique turns were rough in this part, (she would get on to us about being together. It was either hit summer or hit the barre on the wall, both of which I have done numerous times) I said, “I hit Summer!” and Ms. Lori snapped back, “No whining!”

It took everything in me to hold it together. I didn’t have time to fall apart. I couldn’t afford it. Ms. Munro is watching and I want so desperately to be good enough and show improvement and that I will work hard. Being told that I’m whining is the opposite of that. No one wants that on their team. No one wants to work with that. I had to literally shut out all of the thoughts in my head, because all they would do is cause me to break down, and I’ve managed to never do that at this studio and I’d like to keep that record.
Numb your mind, keep dancing.

At the end of class, I brought it up to Ms. Lori casually. I told her why I had spoken and what I had realized in why that part was rough. My pique turns were lacking because when I do them confidently I hit Summer or run into the barre, and if I run into the barre I can’t get to the next part and it’s really awkward. Not to mention painful. She said she didn’t meant to snap at me, she’s just on high stress level with theatre week for Oz and recital coming up, not to mention she’s also trying to fight off being sick. I told her I understood and that I know her intention is to just make us our best, not to be hurtful.

Now, it has come up that Ms. Lori teaches privates. I didn’t know this, and felt kind of left out that I hadn’t been informed, but that’s dumb because I could always ask and no one has to tell me. Most of it was still just the sting of the “whining” comment, so I tried to just let it roll off my shoulders. But I want to do privates with Ms. Lori. I would have done these a long time ago had I known they were an option (and if I can afford it.) One of the girls had one after class and I couldn’t help but be envious of the opportunity she had to improve. That she has parents that are able to pay for her classes and also support her in what she aspires to do. I didn’t have that with ballet like this. I just want to dance better.
(especially with Swan Lake being next year’s spring show. I want to be able to hold up and I know right now I’m not there.)

I got in my car and left the studio, turned on Taylor Swift to try and shake the sting, but instead proceeded to cry. Like a kid who was just yelled at by someone they look up to when they weren’t expecting it oh wait, that’s kinda what it is or a dog that’s been kicked.
Could I really take a private lesson with Ms. Lori? Half of my struggle with pointe is the fear that I’ll hurt myself. Could I handle her if this is her mindset towards me?
But I want to improve, right?
Right.
And I can handle Andie helping me. What makes this any different?
Maybe the insane vulnerability and realizing no one here really knows me or knows why I function the way I do.
But do they need to? Or is it just another excuse, a crutch that just holds me back from my best potential?
Am I nothing more than a whiner?

What am I afraid of?
Rolling my ankle like I did last September when I just went for it.
Or when my left foot isn’t stable no matter how hard I seem to try or how confident I try to be about it.
Falling like I did trying to roll up in a develope
Not being able to roll up at all and falling on my face or rolling my ankle like, ya know, has happened.
Doing something that makes my knee feel like knives are trying to poke out from the inside. (like, ya know, when I did that plie that caused my back knee to bend.)
Doing something to hurt my back. Again.
Not to mention how accident prone I am. Something bad happens so much that I’m beginning to believe I’m just making some of them up because there’s no way this many low-key tragedies can happen to one person. I must just be dramatic, right? Until someone connects it all and is shocked. Guess I’m not dramatic…

But if I’m not aware of where I falter, I’ll never get better.

I try to keep myself open to correction. I value constructive criticism.
But for me there’s a certain way to go about it, or moreso one way not to.

When I was a kid, my family hounded me for whining.
It made me so upset, because I didn’t think I was whining. I thought I was just expressing how I felt about something and trying to get them to understand where I was coming from, potentially leading to a solution.
Apparently I failed at that, because they would shut me down by telling me to stop whining or doing the precious little “I’m a whiner” jingle they made up and taunted me with.
It crushed me.
It’s a deep gash that I try and ignore and can typically avoid in life, but when it comes up, it leaves me crying like a 6-year-old like, oh, ya know, 82% of the time I’ve been typing this.

It makes me feel like such a failure. Like my efforts aren’t enough. Like I just have to never let myself try and understand why I’m doing one thing and how to be able to do another, but instead to just do as I’m told and hope it works out okay.
Do you know how daunting that is? How hopeless that makes me feel?
It takes out the very fire that burns in me, begging me to dance.
It silences my passion.

Now, I don’t blame Ms. Lori. How was she to know that two simple words would trigger such intense reactions in me? How is she to know that this would cause a domino effect of fear in me, throwing up a wall toward the things I’m most terrified to attempt but know I have to break through in able to go anywhere. It makes me terrified to take the risk I know my dancing depends on. Something that should be so simple. I feel like it takes the progress I’ve made and shoves it backwards 30 feet, leaving me reeling and having to make up the lost ground all over again, by myself, while trying to convince myself that these rather convincing voices in my head aren’t right in what they’re telling me, even though they’ve been put there my whole life by people who are supposed to build me up.

Can you blame me for being hurt by it, though? When my entire life I’ve been shot down with these words? Being told that my concerns weren’t valid, even when I knew I was right, because I expressed them in a way appropriate for someone the age I was?

I can sort of see how it came across as whining to Ms. Lori tonight; maybe more of an excuse. But my intentions of vocalizing my fears were to express what I thought was causing it and opening myself up to ways to correct it.
I made myself vulnerable, and was shot.

(unintentionally. I in no way blame Ms. Lori.)

So I’m going to let myself cry, try not to overthink any of this or let myself sink into the black hole of my past, and move past this. And then I’ll message Ms. Lori about private classes.

Like Taylor Swift told me on my way home, you gotta shake it off.

Yesterday. (ooey gooey feelys)

Yesterday was the first class I was ever able to do completely en pointe.

Now, I may have done this at Instep, but I don’t remember if I ever made it all the way through. Usually my toes would hurt so badly that I could never actually get through the steps I needed to. I remember it being very discouraging.

Yesterday was encouraging.
It was stability and compliments.
It was hope and sore feet and feeling like I was doing something right for once.
It was trying harder and doing more and pushing limits.

Yesterday was nothing special, but it was everything.

I found myself standing by myself at the smaller barre along the short wall, really taking in everything around me. These girls, all in the same place at the same barres they always stand at, pressing themselves harder than normal, focusing on their technique. Ms. Lori, leading us along in this endeavor to become our best. She kept saying things like, “Don’t let this get to your head, but people are watching this class.” and I would laugh inside that she opened with the preface she did, because out of this whole class, maybe one may let it go to her head, but maybe not. Mostly these girls are fueled by hope and ambition, striving to be their best and oblivious to the fact that they’re already better than the next level above them for the most part. One of the girls said, “I know why. It’s because you’re our teacher.”
I couldn’t have said it better.

And I stood back (metaphor) and for the first time, I saw these girls as competition.
They aren’t just the “cute little ones” anymore. These girls are biting at my heels, some surpassing me. They will get roles I will probably never be able to get. Maybe simply because I am too old, but maybe because they’re better.
These girls are dedicated. You tell them to jump and they leap. You tell them to try and they succeed.
No one has let them in on the secret the world is keeping that you’re supposed to be afraid. And honestly, I hope no one ever does. These girls are capable of so much. The world is theirs for the taking, and they’re taking it.
And honestly, I can’t wait to see where they go. I’m excited to see what the next audition holds for them. We have six Clara’s in their class, easy, if not more. They’re so good. And the last thing in their head is to let it make them proud.
I’m literally brought to tears at the thought of it. At the thought that I get to be a part of this class. That this doesn’t just end when we finish with IV’s. That I get to go with these girls on to the V’s class. It challenges me to work hard so I can keep pace with them, and encourages me that if they can do it I can, too. They may think I’m there to encourage them, but really they’re encouraging me.

We got our recital costumes yesterday. I wish I would have taken a picture of the Polaroid, because it’s perfect. The colors are absolutely stunning and the way it flows on stage takes your breathe away. It brought Ms. Lori to tears when we ran the piece, and you could see the girls take pride in themselves as they danced. (not the negative, head-hawty pride, but the kind that brings a feeling of adrenaline-inducing accomplishment.) They all loved the head pieces, too, which made me feel really good.
They smile more. The ones that were in their shell at the start of the year are opening up, and the “popular” girls are accepting of everyone. Gah, I love it.

Ms. Munro came in at one point and was really impressed with what she saw. She even said, in hushed tones, “I really think this is the best dance of the whole recital.”
What an honor to get to be a part of something so special.

Allison took this of my feet after class.

It’s nice to see that you’ve improved. That all your work wasn’t for nothing. That you’re not as bad as your brain would have you believe. I still have a long way to go, but I’ll get there. If I can get here, I’ll get there.

This is me with Nina. One of my many babies in the class. She calls me Mom 🙂
This year has literally been the best. And it’s not over yet.