Theater week, night one

Tonight was the first night for rehearsal in the theater, and let me tell you it was impressive. 
The theater I was used to is a very old theater next door that usually houses plays; This one had ceilings several stories high, a giant stage, all sorts of back drops and everything. Massive. I felt like a part of history. 
So many of the other dancers have been doing this all their lives. Even some of the ten-year-olds are on nutcracker four and five and have been dancing as long as I’ve been out of high school. (9 years, folks.)
This was the first time I was in a situation where we were all interacting and mingling with each other, I felt kind of intimidated to be full on approached with some of the “older” dancers. It can be a sort of awkward place for me since I’m older in age but so much younger in skill set; I feel like I should know so much more than I do, which is exemplified by the the fact that so many people have done this so many times (especially my age) that they don’t have the kinds of questions I do. In critiques, I spoke up about how we were told we did awful, and was told to stop digging a hole (not by my teacher, but by someone else) but by that time it was too late and I had already sounded like an idiot. But what are we supposed to do if we keep getting told that we are off the music, when we’ve never been told the proper placement on the music we are supposed to be doing? Not everyone can (or cares to?) try to figure out the music placement, and I don’t want to look like an idiot, ya know? But the group one age set younger than us got to break it down with the music and now they’re so improved and for some reason we can’t get it. And it’s not excruciatingly difficult, I just don’t think we know.
But, my friend Lillian made a good point, “take in everything. Take in the good, take in the bad, and take in the good again. You’ll never have this experience again.” So I’m gonna try to get past my embarrassment of how I feel like I’m starting a new high school off on the wrong foot, or how I’m older and should know/feel/be better and look at the good again.
When we were doing barre warm up, I ended up at the barre with some of the younger ones. One of them asked what I was and I told her and the others that began listening that I was Chinese. They kind of looked at me like “that’s it?” So I told them I’ve only been on pointe a year, and only had the proper shoes since September and only been in ballet 3 years and they told me they’ve been dancing 8 years. And my other Chinese role friend said, “yeah, she’s 26! And only been dancing 3 years and she’s amazing!” Which made me feel really good. ‘Cause I don’t always feel amazing. She later told me I had really good calves, which made me laugh.
Annika and I stuck together most of the time. We were both trying to get a feel for it all, and I kind of am at a disadvantage since I don’t go to school with all these girls like she does. Do I talk all hip? Do I give away how old I am? Where’s the line and what do I say and why is this so hard and weird? But it was fine. The girls were kind. 
One of our Chinese girls is an old soul. She doesn’t get caught up in the drama of everything, but instead focuses on working hard and improving and being her best. She tends to stick close to me and today she told me she tends to get along with older people. I like having her around. You can also see her hard work paying off. This girl can balance on releve literally forever. 
While we were backstage, I caught myself looking at the ceiling often. The whole place was huge and amazing. How cool is it that someone who started ballet at 23 is able to dance in the nutcracker?  Like, how is this possible? I’m a no body. Most places if I were to try and do ballet at this age, I wouldn’t really have much of a chance to grow and improve; it would be recreational and not much more than that. But thanks to Instep, I was able to come in, be vulnerable, look like an idiot, and learn in a safe and nurturing environment that allowed me to grow. There is so often the stipulation that you can only get out all your awkward learning moments when your young and past that you’re just screwed. This is also why I only do ballet. I would love to branch into other styles, but most aren’t able to take the time for adult beginners. Although, there was a 3-month time span where I was able to do tap and jazz at a little studio in a tiny town near my parents house that was so much fun. But to think of how a mere 3 years ago, I was recovering from an injury do to a car wreck, skipping the Holiday Showcase because I was new and sucked too much to even pretend I could get on stage, and here I am now in the Nutcracker, getting compliments from people I hardly know–it’s a place I never thought I would be.
There was a moment when we were working on the final part of the finale where it all felt real; it’s like my mind rewound to last year when I watched nutcracker from the audience, and here I am dancing nutcracker on the stage. How did this happen?  How did I get here? What an incredible opportunity this is! I just felt it, and I don’t know if there are words to explain it, but it blew my mind a little.
Overall, it’s a pretty amazing experience. I only wish I could have had more years of this but ya know, maybe I wouldn’t see the value it has if I had grown up in this. I don’t know, but I’m glad to be here now.

Act II rehearsals.

We had rehearsals with all of Act II on Sunday.
These make me nervous, because all of the “older” kids are watching. And honestly, with everyone that’s been hurting themselves this season, I’m afraid of risk.
(I mean, I always seem to be afraid, but this is like, more. Whatever, judge me.)

Sunday’s rehearsal was very tense. Overall it seemed like there was a strained air about the studio. Ms. Munro was sharper and no-nonsense, injured dancers nervous of their injuries, but doing their best, dancers goofing off panicking when they don’t know what’s going on, frustration all around at these people. At this point in the game,we should have our stuff together. I can understand the bigger numbers needing loads more work and direction, being that it’s longer, more complicated, and contains many more people. But our little pieces should be together by now. Especially when it’s not all too difficult.
(Stupid pirouette is still scaring me. And my toes are dying. And I’m not sure what else to do for them or if you just kind of get used to it.)

We went through it twice and we were supposed to do it in costumes the second round, but we ran out of time and ended up just running through it.

After the first time, they huddled us together really quickly for corrections. The first thing Ms. Munro said was,
“Emilee is the only one smiling the entire time! You all look like you’re miserable.” Then she did these little sound effects to indicate misery. “You all need to be more,” *insert happy sound effects*

First Ms. Alex, and now Ms. Munro.
Not one mention of not having the pirouette down on pointe, although I really want to do it, for myself ya know? I don’t want to cheat. I want to improve and I want to take risks. I also want to build up my strength in my feet and ankles.

I guess overall in life I feel rather defeated currently. I’ve noticed my tolerance is lacking, and I’ve found it difficult to deal with all the things that I can’t control; especially when people are calling me lazy with it and saying I’m just making excuses.

People suck sometimes, and they are rude and careless. And these are days I want to become a recluse. Because trying to explain won’t do anything for them, because they actually don’t care, but they also won’t keep their noses out of things.

I’m hopeful for this season.

Nutcracker shenanigans

Saturday’s rehearsal was a little different.
We’ve gotten to the part of the rehearsal season where we know the dance and mainly just need to work out all the kinks. Ms. Munro wasn’t there, so we had Ms Alex running it with us, as well as some of the company members (I’m assuming?) Helping out, one of whom I didn’t know.

We ran it through the first time, and Ms. Alex comes over to us and tells us individual critiques, “You need to make sure your knee is straight when you pique on to it. You need to make sure that your feet are pointed. Oh, they’re flexed during that part? Okay, then that’s good. Everyone flex your feet on that ending jump. And you,” she looked at me, “You were the only one who smiled the entire time. You all need to do that, too, make sure you don’t forget your face!” Building up to the moment where she’s going around and looking and different girls and giving corrections, I found myself nervous. Then to get a praise instead of a correction, I was taken back. I found myself thinking that surely there was a time I wasn’t smiling, especially since I don’t remember thinking about it the whole time. Sure, there are times I remember, but not all the time. I guess this is when my awkward smiling-all-the-time-no-matter-what thing comes in handy. (Times it doesn’t come in handy: when you’re getting a ticket and they take a picture of you that you know nothing about and when you try to fight it the prosecutor is confused as to why you look so happy to be pulled over.) Stupid defense mechanism… Maybe all my theater training is finally coming in handy.

We ran it a few more times and Ms. Alex pointed out the different things that needed cleaning up, which made me really happy, because that is what really bothers me most as an audience member. As we went on, she complimented me and my partner Summer quite often, which made us feel really good. She even used us as an example of how it was supposed to be done. Yep, we were freaking out internally and to each other.

Overall, I’m really proud of the girls. They’ve done amazing and have really grown in their skill and musicality. It’s a good season.

While they rehearsed the lead Chinese, I took a couple pictures. (Since I had a photo shoot before and had my camera.)

One of our Clara’s 🙂

Another Clara in the Lead Chinese role

Some new pictures

Nutcracker Photo Day!
Lillian and I. This is probably my favorite picture ever.

All my Chinese girls, except one

Lillian captured this bit of perfection. That’s our dance teacher, Ms. Munro, showing us how to hold our umbrella’s.

🙂

Just some snow, hanging out

Me and my sweet Shrub 🙂 Words can’t express how proud I am of Annika. This girl has some serious skill.

Some flowers

More flowers

Guys. They spelled it right.

Creepin’ the flowers.
Some Pictures from rehearsal
This costume room. Oh my gosh.

Watching the Lead Chinese. Ms. Munro caught me taking this and laughed. 

Dead little toesies.

This one is actually from class. But whatever.

Bailando

This weekend was the annual Bailando Dance Festival at our local University.
My old dance teacher works at the university and helps put it on, so it was kind of like a mini Instep reunion.
Which was so wonderful.

I wasn’t able to dance, so I took pictures of the classes and helped Leslie with whatever was needed.
This kind of sucked–having to watch everyone else take all these amazing classes from the sidelines–but then it was also awesome. I was able to sit in on a bit of every single class. If you were in one downstairs, you couldn’t be in the one upstairs as well. You don’t have a clone. But I was able to go in and out of all of them.
Inadvertently so, I was able to sit in on classes I normally wouldn’t have the courage to take; namely modern and contemporary classes.
I love when I have the opportunity to learn from a variety of different teachers. One may see something another may overlook and vise versa. This weekend definitely opened up my mind to dancing as an art.
Here are a few points I learned from a few of the choreographers.

  • Never dance with judgement. Only dance for the artistry. (From Alexis Anderson’s class)
  • Don’t. Judge. Yourself. (Also from Alexis.)
  • Think of yourself as Mr. Potato Head. Your arms are like sticks and the body is the potato and doesn’t move. (Oddly effective from Dana Nicolay’s class. #teampotato)
  • Strive for progress not perfection. (From Gabriel Speiler of Dance Au Deum.)

There were a million other things I didn’t get to write down, as well. Like in the one class from the director of Urban Souls; I was completely inspired by how open the dancers were required to be. There was no “I can’t,” There was no doubt. There was confidence. And seeing those nervous dancers find their confidence and seeing the improvement made me see that I could do that, too.

I was able to watch and envision myself doing the different moves, to try and pick them apart and think of how I would execute the moves. I was able to find in myself a bit of belief that maybe I could do these things if I tried.
I loved getting to watch the dancer’s feet; to see what is correct and what probably feels correct but isn’t. I loved watching the port de bras and understanding the placement of the body in all these things.
I also loved getting to take pictures during these classes, helping me remember what looks right and how to do it. It also helps remind me of what I learned and gleaned from this weekend. I apparently really like the word “glean.”

(A couple of my favorite moments were when I realized Mel Glouchkova was using the Harry Potter theme song for barre work, and when Randall Flynn was using a Misty Edwards song for contemporary. Did my heart good.)

I found myself on a dance high. I am sad to still have to miss two more of my Thursday classes, but it’s a good way to keep me off my ankle to make sure it’s 100% when I go back, and it’s for good reason.
I just miss dance.
(I still have to sew my shoes. so there’s that.)
Also, we had our Nutcracker costume fitting, and it made it feel real.
I was glad to get to be with the other girls all together, I think it’ll be fun.

Nutcracker Casting.

I got a snapchat of what I got for Nutcracker.
And I wasn’t prepared for it.
And let me tell you, I cried.
And not really a good cry either.
And now that I’ve had a day to process and think through, I don’t really want to write this blog post. But this is part of my story, and I have to tell this part to get to the next; just like I had to live through this part to get to the next.
So, hear me out.
I got the snap chat, with my name horribly misspelled–which I’m used to by now–and found out that I got Chinese.
Which isn’t bad, I guess.
But I sure had hopes that I’d at least be petit fleurs. Something with a tutu.
I have heard so many people complain about Chinese.
I’ve only seen The Nutcracker twice, so I’m still kinda rusty on which rolls are which, but I knew what Chinese was and where it was because the first time I saw The Nutcracker, my friend Addie was Chinese.
She seemed to like it.
But it’s not one that people think of. When they think of The Nutcracker, they think of Sugar Plum Fairies and Clara, and the Rat King, and the Snow. I knew all of these weren’t feasible at my skill level, but you know what I mean.
My friend is an adult ballerina as well and did Nutcracker for the first time last year, landing Lilac and Snow. I was really hoping I would be good enough to get those rolls, and at auditions, a couple of the girls told me I was a shoe in. I guess it’s my fault for letting me get my hopes up. Reality is I’ve only done ballet for 3 years next month and only been on pointe for a year, which really hasn’t been a year with all the injuries, surgery, and improper shoes. I should have known I wouldn’t be developed enough in skill to be farther ahead than my easier class. I’m 26.
I’m 26. That’s another kinda difficult thing. Doing a roll with 13 year olds.
but I’ve done recital with 13 year olds.
Yeah, but I wasn’t the only adult.
It feels like being in the advanced class at my old studio, but being the only one not dancing in the advanced dance. As hard as I tried, I just wasn’t up to their level. I guess I wanted to prove something to myself. I wanted to prove that I can dance, that I am improving, that I am something.
Chinese was the roll I wasn’t sure I wanted to do if I got cast in it. I know anything lower would have been with students who were too young with which to be paired. But I figured if my friend had done it, maybe I could, too.
Then I started daydreaming; of feeling pretty on that stage in a beautiful tutu. Of being in a long enough part to make it worth my family paying money they don’t really have to spare to see me. Of the pride in my voice in telling people “I am in The Nutcracker” and how excited they would be, and they would come see me and see why I dance and how the production is beautiful.
I wanted to prove that I am good at ballet. That I’m not wasting my time doing this. That all this effort and pushing through is paying off. I want to prove how difficult this is. That I am capable of difficult things. That I’m not a pansy or a baby or weak.
I want to prove that I am a ballerina.
I won’t lie to you, I cried.
I sat on my couch, crocheting and watching dance moms and cried.
I cried because I failed myself. Because I’m not as good as I hoped I’d be. Because I don’t get to wear a tutu or feel pretty or prove to anyone anything. I cried because I’m not a part that makes my friends want to take pictures of me. I don’t get to be in a roll that leaves kids wide-eyed in wonder and want to sign up and “be just like her.” I cried because I really wanted to be in a role that wasn’t typical to me. I want to show that I am human and that I am more than what is surface and that I have something to offer this world. I cried because I wanted to be remembered, and to me this interpreted as just another time that I was overlooked even if I could fill a roll or had a lot to offer. (Even if this was the best roll for me to fill.) I cried because of the fear that no one would want to come now. That I’m not good enough to be worthy anyone’s time. Or that they would come and be disappointed. I cried because my ankle is still freakin’ hurt and I can’t do anything to improve my situation and I don’t know how long it’ll be like this. I cried because I’m 26 and I feel like I missed out and should be better than I am. That I should be better because I’m older, not because I’ve only been in ballet a quarter of the time most in my class have.
A lot of emotion rolled into those moments. I debated even doing The Nutcracker at all. Who was I kidding?
Then a very wise friend of mine told me some appropriately wise advice;
“Sleep on it sweetie.”
I put it out of my mind and asked her if she knew what rolls other friends of ours had gotten and if she was excited for this years turn out.
I did the whole, “fake it ’til you make it” bit not really certain if I would ever make it to the level I was faking it. But I guess it seemed like the right thing to do.
I put it at arms length and took a step back to evaluate the situation.

  • Which would be worse; being the roll I was cast for, or sitting in the audience while everyone else had fun?
  • Surely there is something to be learned from this
  • What about my babies, what would it say to them if I backed out?

So I thought about it.
I wanted to be something more mature, something beautiful. I wanted to be something that would show that I’m a ballerina. I wanted to be like my friend and have the blog-perfect Nutcracker experience that made everyone so proud. I wanted to be a roll that didn’t make people roll their eyes and not take me seriously.
But maybe this wasn’t the year for all of that.
Maybe this is the year that I have to learn to put all of that aside. Maybe this is the year that I learn something for myself; that it’s not about proving something to anyone else but me. That I don’t have to have these typical roles to inspire someone. That maybe the ones I’m to reach out to aren’t the once in the audience, but rather the ones backstage. What if I’m comparing my unique story to everyone else’s. What if the way that I am special is that I don’t fall in to the typical category of what you would expect, but rather am silent in my strength.
What if.
And what about that story I heard.
About the most requested extra in hollywood.
How they didn’t have any award, and no one really knew his name.
But the Director’s did, and they requested him. He was in high demand
He was in high demand, even though the public didn’t know him.
I decided I needed to be that guy.
So content in my roll and just happy to be there that I don’t have a second to waste on feeling sorry or guilty or sad.

I thought of Jenna, one of my Instep babies who is at my new studio now.
I found the cast list online this morning and looked for her name, uncertain if she even auditioned.
And there she was.
Jenna was in it, and how elated will she be if I’m in it, too?
Then I decided to look up my other friends roles, and found out one of my dearest dance friends–one of my dearest friend in general–got cast for three rather large roles without even auditioning. I was ecstatic for her, bursting in pride at how she was able to accomplish such a feat.
It crossed my thought for half a second that she accomplished everything I failed to and that I should probably be sad or bitter or resentful or whatever, but I wasn’t. she deserves this so hard.
I reevaluated.
I looked at reality
I have only been in ballet almost 3 years.
I have only been on pointe for “1 year.”
I have only been at this studio for a month and was cast in a part that requires pointe work.
Be real, your chaines and grande jete’s suck.

So, I decided that is what I will do.
I will work on these things I know I need improvement on and hope to do better next year.
Maybe if I work really hard, it’ll show.

It’s hard, being out on a stupid pointless injury that won’t seem to go away.
It’s hard, having to miss classes.
It’s hard, not knowing when I’m going to get sick.
It’s hard, not having the space I need to practice at home.
It’s hard.
And there are a million excuses.
But I just can’t let that be the final answer.

So I decided I’m going to team up with the one girl from our class that was actually excited about being Chinese and start an optimism party.
That we will make the most of this roll and be grateful to have it.
“Dance, dance like it’s the last, last night of your life.” Right?
If I died on December 22nd, I’d wish I had done it.
I’m gonna ham up this roll and be the best I can be.

We’ll see how this goes.