Interim classes.

Yesterday started off as one of those rough days. It was a struggle, and all I could think of was that at the end of the day, I got to dance.
I didn’t so much care that it was in a studio or in a class, I just wanted an empty space and music to move to.

Matthew taught class, which is always exciting. I love how he’ll explain the details of things, and bring visual explanations of proper alignment, etc, to help us fully understand where we are and if it’s where we need to be.

The class was pretty full, with a decently mixed array of people. One of my favorite moments was definitely when Matthew was explaining how it’s good for your muscles if the room isn’t too cold. “Unless it’s so hot you pass out. That’s not very good for your health.” We laughed pretty hard about that one.

A friend of mine from my old studio came to class–her first in two years. It was so great to see her, and even more wonderful getting to dance with her again.
It was cool, too, dancing beside her now. She was there when I first started, being one of the advanced dancers that I looked to and one day wanted to be like, to dance like. And now, here we were, side by side at the barre, and I saw that she was no longer just my superior, but more or less my equal. Though now I also see that in this endeavor to better ourselves in this art form as adults, there really isn’t one more superior than the other. There really isn’t equals. We’re all here for the same reason–we dance to feel alive. As long as we keep striving for that, then we are successful, wherever we may be in skill and technique. (Keep in mind, we also aren’t trying to make a career out of this. Adult recreational dancing is something else entirely. Anyway.) Paige and I were talking before class, catching up since we saw each other last, and she asked about dance and made a comment, “You’ve gotten good now!” These side comments really mean a lot to me, because she saw me at my worst, at my beginning. She was in those first classes of mine when I was no better than a baby deer. When everything I am as a dancer now was nothing more than hopes and dreams. Sometimes you forget that you aren’t still in those baby deer days. You’re still you. But if you dedicate time to anything, it’s bound to improve. You can’t forget where you came from, but you can’t ignore progress either. You may not be where you want to be, but you sure aren’t where you started.

I managed to hold my balances in passe and coupe at the barre longer than I usually do, which was a pretty exciting accomplishment. I struggle trying to hold myself steady as I’m still trying to navigate proper alignment with two slight curves in my back and uneven hips. I know it’s not impossible, it’s just something to figure out how to work with it. People fight worse and still have careers, I can find a way to make this work dancing for funsies. My turns and most of center was far from par, but that’s okay. I tried and I learned and I know it’s something I can do on most days. I’m not worried.

Summer classes are still my favorite. I’m a bit nervous for Fall classes to start, mainly because the flow will be so different for me this year, and responsibility is a thing. I’m excited to get to teach some babies, but still a little nervous. It will be good though, and I have good resources and people to help me should I need advice.

I want to hopefully try my shoes before next class to see if I can get them situated to where the toe pain isn’t excruciating.

I finally got my picture with Matthew, before he goes off to the great big world that is College.


Can’t believe I never got any during shows or recital. Ugh. I take pictures of everything but tend to forget important things.

We still have a few more weeks of summer. I’m trying to get everything done that I need to before I’m dancing on my days off and driving all over the countryside all the time again. (It’s about 80 miles round trip for me to dance and back, which I’ll be doing four days most weeks and five+ on others.)

Last Summer Class

Yesterday was our last class of the summer.
I almost didn’t go because I was, once again, not feeling too hot.
(I’m really hoping this isn’t a trend, because if it is then Nutcracker will be a serious struggle.)

(We’ll cross that bridge when it gets here.)

I was really excited for class because a few of my friends I hadn’t seen since I left for Europe were there.
My day had been rather difficult, in one of those dance-will-either-hurt-or-help kind of ways and I was really hoping that them being there would sway it more towards the help side.

(It did.)

Mrs. Julie taught class. She’s the other Advanced teacher this next semester. She was also the choreographer/director for Oz and I’ve had her in a few classes this summer so I was excited for class.
(Plus she does hilarious voices and it just makes me really happy.)

She started class with these really slow, 8-count grand plies.
Two in each position. With a cambre coinciding with whichever position.
To say my legs were shaking by the end of it is a vast understatement.
I struggled to do anything else the rest of barre. I still tried with kinda minimal vocalization because I was freaking out but doing it anyway because I knew that some times this could happen and if it were a show what would you do?
Part of the time when she had us hold certain positions, I had to physically hold my leg out to keep it from frantically shaking. When we were to balance in second then fondu the standing leg to close, I literally couldn’t do it. My legs shook so hard my entire body shook and I couldn’t balance. I tried anyway, but had to quit sooner than normal. I didn’t count this as a loss, though. I knew that the shaking is proof that I’m working my muscles, and the right muscles, and I wasn’t the only one crazy-shaking so at least we’re all rowing the same boat.

Thankfully my legs had time to calm down before center, because she had us hold our leg in second and promenade. I struggled a little, but nothing as bad as what I thought.
There was also this complex degage combination we did at the barre that had patterns different than we were used to and used fast music (even though it was toned down.)
I’m pretty decent with patterns, so a few times through and one time messed up with music and I had it down. I can’t say the technique was great, but I got the pattern and intend to work on it in case she throws this on us again in the future. *dusts shoulders off*

I really liked the combinations we did in the center. They were more contemporary ballet, which I haven’t really gotten the opportunity to do. I have always wanted to, but never really thought I was “good enough.”
I was made to believe that I had to be a certain level of good before trying instead of coming to class to be taught which is what classes are for. I’m comfortable with Julie, now, and having been taught the Crow’s dance and gotten such positive feedback from it made me feel more confident in attempting these things she was giving us in class. Things I had never done before like the “firebird” jump and this other one-legged turn thing I don’t know the name of (so vague, right?) were attempted and executed successfully, even if they weren’t perfect. She didn’t care for perfection. She cared for proper attempt.
That, I was able to confidently give her.
(Which is new for me. I like it.)

I loved how I felt dancing these fun combinations. All of them. Even if there were parts I knew I wasn’t good at.
This is the first time I’ve truly felt this way in dance. That I wasn’t critical of myself. That I wasn’t nervous or afraid at all. I think I’ve brushed the surface of this before–like in Ms. Nathan-Murphy’s class–but not ever to the extent I was last night.
My hope is to get this confident on pointe. I’ve gotten there on flat, and now I want to get there on pointe. I’ll have to stick to the conditioning and training to get my strength up to feel more confident in my shoes, which I’ve already felt happening this summer. I can get there, I just have to keep working hard.

My legs are (obviously) sore this morning, but in a good way.

We have a Studio cleaning day next Saturday and Cheyanne gets to come with me. I’m really excited about this. I love her so much and feel a sort of bond with her, especially since we’re both out-of-town-ers. Her mom was telling me how excited Cheyanne was when I text her about getting to be in 6s before I wrote the blog post, which really meant a lot to my heart. It’s one thing to be excited, but to have people be excited with you takes it to a whole other level. I haven’t had that much in my life, its still new to me. I know people love and support me, but usually they are just doing that to be nice or whatever. It hasn’t often been genuine excitement and understanding of why it’s exciting.
Her younger sister also took class with us yesterday, and the little nugget was showing up the older kids left and right!
Cheyanne and I will be in *hopefully* 3 classes together this next semester. I still have to register and decide how much I can actually afford to take. That’s the struggle. I really hate money and the need for it. Especially since the main stress in my life is my source of income, and for reasons out of my control. (Mainly just generational differences, so that’s cool…)

Until all of that gets figured out, I’ll keep truckin’. I’m trying not to worry too much about things and hoping photography picks up again so I can have a bit of a buffer again. Cause, ya know, that buffer is gone right now.
(Europe pictures are still coming soon and it was totally worth it so)

I’m hopeful. And as long as you have hope, you can endure just about anything.

Fall Class Placements

I wasn’t able to go to class on Wednesday, and last Monday there was an influx of people in the studio registering, so I waited until yesterday to ask about which classes I should be taking in the fall.
I wanted to ask Mrs. Alex, since she knows the most about where I am and has taught me quite a bit last semester, but she wasn’t there yet. Ms. Heidi was, so I figured I could ask her opinion. She’d seen me in a few classes this summer, and we’re 364 days apart in age (hah) plus she’s knowledgeable so I figured why not.

She’s teaching the 4s this year, but I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t want to take that class. I was considering it before, but I think this year it wouldn’t be all that helpful–I’ve grown past it. But my pointework is still lacking, so I wasn’t sure what to do. (hence asking.)
She said, “Do you want my honest opinion?” and hid her head like she does sometimes when she’s being honest. “I think you should take the advanced class.”

what.

I’m pretty sure my eyes bulged at that point as I wondered if there were some other kind of class she was referring to because surely it wasn’t the 6s/advanced that is, ya know, the highest level in the studio.

“We have been talking about you–in terms of dancing and the studio (I laughed, I cause I knew what she meant but it could have sounded funny. hehe.)–and we were wondering why you were limiting yourself to the lower classes all year.”
I asked if she had seen me at the beginning of the year, because Advanced would have been way over my head. Plus my pointe shoe issues, so I told her about all of that and rolling my ankle and winning the fitting contest and how now I can actually dance and life is good. But I’m behind. I can’t do a pirouette.
She suggested simply doing really thorough and consistent theraband exercises and the like. That working on strength will help me just as much as continuous execution, which is what Abby had pointed out in our last private we had before I went to Europe and so we’ve been working on that. She suggested maybe find what level worked for me for pointe, even considering the pre-pointe to get the strength work or doing Adult class on pointe. (which my friend Liz does)
“I think it’ll be good for you to be with the older girls. I think being around them will push you and you’ll rise to it.”
Well dang.

I had felt that I had improved this year, but I didn’t even consider this.
I guess I kept up in summer classes, but I was so beat mentally and emotionally from other things I hadn’t really considered it.
It felt really good hearing Heidi say these things to me. I guess the main voice that remains in my head is the one from the beginning, telling me that I may not be as good as I hope to be yet but I’ll get there one day. The one telling me to just do what I can and I’ll learn it eventually. The one telling me not to dream that big because logically I’m probably still a couple years out from achieving that. And some of that is still true.
Some of that will always be true.
I’ll never be perfect. I’ll never have it all down. I’ll never know everything.
No one ever will.
And this is one of my favorite parallels to life.
No matter how much we learn and how much we know, there’s always more to learn.
There are always places to improve and grow. There are always new perspectives and improvements to be made. And when you know all the depths of the world of ballet, you can always improve. There is always something to work on. And when you master it, you’ll find something else.
We will never be perfect, but perfect isn’t the point.
That’s why we keep coming to class.

Mrs. Alex got there a little later. I helped her move a table out into the lobby and then asked her what she thought. “I think 5s for sure. You can definitely handle that. And I think you should try the 6s.”
I told her that I can’t do a pirouette, and so I don’t want to drown in the 5s with that. (She’s one of the 5s teachers.) She echoed what Heidi said, to not be hard on myself if I can’t do things perfectly and all crazy good like some of the other kids do. To just do what I need to do to get the most out of class. The pirouette will come. “I think we put you down for 5s as your pointe class and then to take 6s.” She went to check, and that’s what they had done.
This isn’t just the opinion of one person. This isn’t just someone hoping for the best in me and I may or may not rise to it. This is the opinion of the majority of the teachers/principal dancers in the studio/company. This is their opinion of me without strain. Like it isn’t one of the biggest accomplishments of my dance career thus far.

I told Abby and Elizabeth about it, to see what they thought. I know they would tell me straight up if they thought it was biting off more than I could chew or a bit of a stretch, but they were in agreement. Abby said it would particularly be good if my goal was to be a Lilac. I’m really starting to get hopeful that that may be an actual legitimate goal. And with the capability to practice at home now, this could actually happen. I just need to remind myself that those little simple exercises do make a difference, and to not get discouraged when it feels mundane.

To say I was freaking out is an understatement.
It was just the jump I needed to my heart.
The week had started off pretty difficultly and I had considered not even attending class in fear that it would make me feel worse rather than better. The only reason I pushed myself to going was to find out what class I should place in.
Worth it. 

We had one of the Advanced teachers for class yesterday. I noticed I was pushing myself harder than usual when my muscles started hurting earlier.
I got a vague “good.” from him, which never happens, so that’s cool. Then he told me I need to point my feet more cause it breaks my line. I responded I guess as a defense which I instantly regretted but he didn’t care I just wish I would have kept my mouth shut. (Darn you short little toes!) So now I want to work on trying harder with that. (The pointing the toes part, that is.)

I’m a little nervous about going into this next year, but also hopeful. Which at the beginning of yesterday there wasn’t much of that so I’m grateful to have it back.
We’ll see where this year takes me!

Hi, hello, I’m back.

I have yet to go through all of my pictures from my trip to Europe (I had to get a new hard drive, there are so many…oops…) but when I do, I will post some of the ballet-y ones.

It should be noted that some of the students at the Dutch National Ballet for the summer intensive were staying at the same place as me in Amsterdam. I was freaking out. My friends made fun of me.

WHATEVER FRIENDS YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE

Anyway.

Europe was incredible. My mind is blown. Words fail me to explain in short what all my heart absorbed.
(So stay tuned for a few pictures soon.)

Yesterday was my first class back.
I was only gone two weeks, but I was a bit nervous that it would make quite the difference for me. Thankfully, we walked everywhere in Europe, so my arches actually benefited from this, as did my back. (Sitting all day apparently makes it worse.)
I was hopeful, though, since in the past when I’ve had to miss as many classes I tended to come back stronger, more fluid, with a clearer head, whatever you want to call it.
There were only 9 people in class, which felt weird since when I was there we were averaging 19. It makes sense, though, being the last couple weeks of summer. Catherine taught, which felt slightly comforting to me since it was familiar. I knew what to expect out of the class, whether I was capable of doing it or not.
It also helps since she was my teacher last year that she is aware of my back problems and a few other issues, so I don’t have to worry about her getting on to me for something out of my control.

My head felt clearer as we went into the combinations. I messed up a few things at the barre, but nothing drastic. Mostly I was able to keep up and keep time and execute the moves correctly.
It was interesting, being out for a few weeks, then coming back and being able to feel all my muscles engage from the top of my leg/hip all the way down through to my toes. While you’re dancing, you know (or at least hope) this is happening, but you tend to forget about it. You just go through the checklist in your head and do your best. To actually feel what’s happening in your muscles is pretty cool.

As we went through barre, I felt something in my back sort of shift. I don’t really know what it was, and it doesn’t seem to have any lasting effects, but I felt it. And in that moment, it hurt. So I was a bit concerned.
I thought to myself, “Why do I still dance? It’s probably actually not helping the issue. I can’t seem to get past where I am right now. Why do I still do it? I’d have so much more time and money if I just quit.”
But then I remember how vital it has proven to be for my digestion. I remember how alive I feel after a well-danced show. I remember the feeling of that first moment on stage, and the moment of jitters right before. I remember the success you feel as each drop of sweat beads and falls down the side of my face.

I’m struggling right now. I feel very in-between on levels and I’m very uncertain on how this next year will go. I don’t know how I’ll get any better at pirouettes.
But I can’t give up. Not yet.
Maybe I won’t dance forever. Maybe something will happen in the future and I’l have to stop. But why would I stop unless I absolutely had to? As long as it still makes me feel alive, as long as it’s so beneficial, why would I not continue? Something could happen at any moment to change life as I know it, and then I wouldn’t have a choice. But as long as I have the choice, how could I not choose it? What if I quit, and then something drastic happened, making it never to be a choice again? I’d have all this time wasted, never to be achieved again.
I can’t do that again.
So I keep going. Until I’m not getting what I need, I will endure. It may face some changes, but I’ll persevere. I owe it to myself.

Last class of July (for me.)

Monday’s class wasn’t really anything noteworthy. I ended up feeling kinda frustrated. But whatever.
The good thing was that my friend from Instep, McKenna, came to class! I hadn’t danced with her since the studio closed down. She graduated and went off to school, so getting to take class with her, let alone see her, was wonderful!

Yesterday’s class was a little better. My brain felt a little bit clearer and I was a little more confident in the combinations. The only thing I really struggled in shouldn’t have been a struggle, which was frustrating. We were en pointe, and doing these different develope’s and promenades and things similar, and I just couldn’t hold the balance on flat to save my life! I know I can do it in flat shoes, but something about the shank completely throws me off. I tried anyway, even though I really didn’t want to. At all. It’s just really disheartening when you know you can do better, but can’t.
I asked Elizabeth what she thought, and she mentioned it may be related to the thickness of the shanks giving it a more defined edge and to try filing them down to help give me more stability. I’ve always had extra hard shanks, so I’ve never known it wasn’t supposed to feel this way. We’re gonna try it out. Hopefully it helps.

I was able to do more in class than I expected. Not sure if that’s sad or not? Because it really wasn’t much. I’m a bit nervous for V’s next year, but I’m still going to do my best and try to keep a clear head. I didn’t do any pirouettes yesterday, but because the teacher didn’t want the younger level to do them. So since I’m part of the younger level I just worked on trying to get a really good balance. (Some of the girls still turned. But I can’t remember working on getting a really good balance other than the one time with Abby, so I stuck to it.) There were times I even struggled with that, but it was usually when I ended up on the tape seam on the floor. (these floors can be problematic.)

Overall, I left the class feeling good. I think it’ll be good to have a break from it all for a bit to come back (hopefully) stronger.

I had a bit of a hard time with the little ones at a few points, but I think mainly it’s because this is the next level of new for me. It’s not something I’ve mastered already and am super confident in. I have to focus harder and really keep my game face on and pay attention to everything the teacher does. Sometimes they can get over-chatty (I mean, sometimes I talk, too, but this was a bit much.) and distracting and asking questions that I don’t have answers for. I love them very dearly, but sometimes its difficult. (a few of them are good about keeping quiet if I ask. But. Yeah. Anywho.)
I’m really grateful for the people that have been in class and willing to help me when I had a quick question. Like Cheyanne clarifying something for me, or Abarrane giving me a confidence boost even if I was really failing, or Elizabeth helping with just about anything. Then the ones that are always consistent good examples and clear dancers so I know I can watch them and get a better grasp of what’s going on.

I think I’m finding it increasingly difficult to try and learn these new and complex things in such a fast paced and crowded environment. I even found myself saying how I wished the studio was Abby’s house so we could work on it like here. (actually, I said “I wish the stubby was addio’s house. Wait.” and then laughed at how my mouth doesn’t like to work sometimes.) Even so, we get so much done in those privates. I just hate how uncomfortable and verge-of-anxious I feel in those moments before these difficult things I’m not confident in. I have to do them but I don’t fully grasp what I’m doing and that makes me feel panicky. With Abby, I don’t feel that panic, because I know she’s got my best interest at heart and is watching to make sure I do what I need to do and if I don’t she’ll correct me. In class you can kind of get lost in the noise.

I’ll have a few polariods to post later. I meant to do it but I’m leaving the country soooooooooooooo I ran out of time.

That being said, I won’t be back in class til after I get back. Not sure what August classes consist of, so we’ll see. Whatever classes are, I’m sure I’ll be working with Abby who is wonderful and always watching out for me.

Third Private Lesson

Because Abby is awesome, she squeezed in one more private lesson before these last two classes of mine before I leave Friday for Europe.

I had told her about my pirouette struggles, so she told me to make sure I had my pointe shoes with me.

Lillian was able to come, too, which made it really fun. Abby had us doing similar things simultaneously, then switch, which were cause of some really hilarious moments at times.

We alternated; one on the bosu, one on the exercise ball. We went through the normal kind of things on the bosu–what we worked on last time–to get really warmed up and reiterate the proper alignment. Most of the things on the exercise ball were rather difficult, mainly because the muscles it required for balance were very confused as to why they were being utilized. Once we got the hang of it, we were rockin’ and rollin’.

There was this one part where we used the exercise ball to help with stabilizing our arabesque. Abby had told us how she had worked with Alexis on this and she surprised her and lifted off the ball and stayed in this absolutely beautiful arabesque. This made me feel pressure. I have to keep working hard and keep improving and not fall behind.
When it got to be my turn at the exercise ball, Abby said I was looking really good. I was able to lift my leg off the ball and hold it there for a while. My left (I guess left? Whichever side you consider it…) was a little weird, but I’ve noticed I’ve been having trouble keeping square on that side and Abby pointed it out. It also felt different than the other side, I could feel that it wasn’t the same, so why couldn’t I fix it? The leg that’s up is the leg on the crooked back side. I could feel whatever it is pressing against each other. It didn’t necessarily hurt, but I could feel it. Maybe that is part of the issue? She was able to help me get a feel for how it should be and hopefully that will help.

We moved on with pointe to try and help me with my pirouettes. I could feel myself starting to panic on the inside in a way that happens whenever I can’t fully grasp a concept. It is one of the worst feelings I can think of, especially when I’m unable to communicate what I don’t understand about it. I don’t really know how to explain this, but I can remember it happening when Dad would try and help me with math. He would get frustrated and I would get frustrated and then I’d shut down and complexes developed.
I don’t want complexes to develop in ballet.
Abby began by explaining pirouettes–basic breakdown type stuff, making sure nothing was missed. I asked her about the spiral versus scoop methods of getting onto your box in a pirouette which got kind of confusing. I’ve seen both, and I think I’ve learned both, but I’m still so new in the knowledge of pirouettes that I don’t want to learn the least effective one and have to relearn something later. (does that make sense? Anyway.) She told me to not focus so much on what my foot is doing, instead to focus on your core and maintaining the proper position for turns rather than how your foot gets there.
This made me start to freak out on the inside. How would that help me? The last time I tried to just go for it, I rolled my ankle. I can’t afford that.
I kept quiet, and she kept explaining. Meanwhile, Lillian was trying to implement what she was saying. I missed part of it, falling inside myself and zoning out in my fear, but I managed to pull myself out and somehow Lillian doing these things out of the corner of my eye made something click with what Abby was saying. I thought of seeing Ileana with her beautiful balance and turns in class. I thought of how you could see how she maintained it. I thought of how I must look judging on how I feel when I turn and that connected into being what could cause everything else to fall apart.
Don’t think about what your foot is doing. Maintain proper alignment and you’ll turn.
She demonstrated further and it all seemed to settle in my head. I haven’t gotten to try a turn yet, but I feel like I have a better understanding of what it actually is that I’m trying to achieve. Keep that position, you can turn forever. I’m hoping to try it today.

She also stressed the importance of getting in the habit of rolling down out of releve. This is also something that isn’t solid in me yet and I want to develop the good habit of doing. I have to get the feel for it and build the muscles to do it. I have to get the muscle memory of it in my brain, make it be what is the comfortable thing to do rather than something that makes me nervous.

I noticed while working on my left foot that it felt different than my right. It gave me that frustrating feeling again. I needed to know why this was happening so I could figure out what to do about it. I know it’s not right, how do I fix it? What is not right about it? I mentioned it to Abby and she watched me. We connected that this is the foot that tends to balance on the far side of the box rather than the whole box, which makes me feel really nervous and unstable. My foot just does it. So I tried working with my foot to make it not do that. But why is this one different? Then I remembered.
Nerve damage.
I asked Abby if the nerve damage on the right side of my left knee could play into this at all.
That’s it.
It doesn’t affect anything else that I know of, but that little section of messed up nerves is causing certain muscles to not engage the way they need to like the other knee does. It’s why I feel that almost blank spot on my foot–where I know I should feel something working but feel nothing. It’s why I struggle on that side.
(STUPID CAR WRECK.
Dancing would be so much easier if it had never happened.
The whole situation is entirely too stressful. )
(Anyway.)

We also talked about en dedan turns en pointe, but thinking about it now I can’t remember specifics? Which probably isn’t good… I know we worked on the movement of going from fourth to passe like you would in a turn.

Anyway.
I’m hoping class will be good tonight. I’m not sure who is teaching so I’m not sure what really to expect. I guess we’ll see.
This week will be my last week of summer classes if I remember correctly. Not sure if they’re doing anything in the interim of July ending before fall classes officially start in August.

I’m hopeful that I can still improve.
That working hard produces results.
That this isn’t all there is for me.
That even though I’m older, I’m still learning.
That dreams are still possible.

(Ps. Here’s a picture of my feet.)

(A heck of an improvement from even last year. Woohoo!)

That time I walked out of a class.

This week has been pretty rough for me personally. A friend died on Saturday in a freak accident, my cat died mysteriously on Tuesday, many other little things are building up and apparently it’s all taking its toll.
I had convinced myself that I was okay, but learned quickly yesterday that I, indeed, am not.

I just wanted to dance, to feel alive among this unexpected death and tragedy.

Thankfully, I sort of noticed I was not okay that morning at work, so I knew going into dance that there was the potential that things could get overwhelming. I went in hopeful that I would be able to get through since I was able to Monday, but I did know that my brain seemed to go spacey in class even then, so it was possible it would happen again that day.

At this point, I wanted to be invisible. I didn’t want to be asked how my holiday was, I didn’t want to re-tell the story of Saturday or Tuesday or anything because I didn’t even know how I felt or how to wrap my brain around it. I just wanted to be in a normal environment and be invisible, like when I first came to the studio. I knew this wouldn’t happen, and that was okay. I know the people who did speak or ask or whatever just care about me. Some I really don’t mind in the slightest, those closest to me that I don’t really have to use words with and they know what I’m saying. (Bear with me on the explaining of everything. This is going to be a pretty weighty post. And such public vulnerability isn’t really my favorite so this post is taking forever to think through and get the best wording for everything.)

While waiting for class to start, one of the mom’s came up to me and said, “I wanted to thank you.” My first reaction was, “oh God, what did I do now.” Like there’s no way this will be positive (why do I do that?) but she continued in saying, “My girls come home talking the world of you. They’re both really shy, but you’re so kind to them and it means so much to me as a mom to see them so happy and at ease.” And there was this depth in her eyes as she told me all these things and my heart just completely melted because her daughters are literally pure sugar. I’ve written about them before, about how they started to open up to me and it made me so happy. I saw them start off pretty distant, then they started standing near when I’d talk to the other girls, so I started making eye contact with them as I told stories to the girls before class, and would say hi to them when they got there–just simple things. Really, they weren’t difficult to do at all. These girls are very easy to love, and if anything I felt honored when they started opening up. Like I had been chosen. They made me feel special. And here, their mom was thanking me for how I treat her sweet girls. I wanted to cry. (more on this later)

I go into class about 5 minutes before 6, when class is supposed to start, and find a spot at the barre. Two other girls are in there already, stretching and warming up. Shortly after, Annika came in and came beside me. She was telling me about different things going on in the dance world specific to us, when Elizabeth walked in. I didn’t expect her to be in class since she wasn’t there Monday, and I honestly didn’t realize seeing her would evoke such emotion in me, but I almost cried seeing her. She and Abby have really been more than I deserve throughout all of this; more than I realized I needed. I’m so used to having to go through deaths and grieving alone and figuring it out as I go that to have such friends really be there for me the way they have means more than I’ll ever be able to express. Through these things, I don’t know what I need. It’s complicated and would take a million more blog posts to explain, but through those complex details, they reach straight through the jumbled mess of strings straight to my heart and it brings me such peace. She hugged me, and just having her there–in the flesh–did wonders for my heart.
Shortly after that, Cheyanne also walked in. I love this little nugget. (apparently, “little nugget” is my newest term of endearment.) She gave me a hug and stood by me at the barre and just makes class more enjoyable. The world feels right when Cheyanne is in the room.

We start barre and things are going pretty well. I mean, past the part that I was already spacing for some reason, making me not on my a-game with remembering the combinations, but I just kept going and didn’t worry about it, catching on when I could and trying my hardest to focus. Somewhere in through the noise of the music and my voice in my head telling me the combination/all the little checklist of things to make sure you remember while doing the combination, I started realizing Ms. Munro was saying my name, and pairing it with things like, “Good!” and “Nice!” (Like, really. I had to ask Annika if she remembered what it was she complimented me on. She remembered:)
We did this combination of fondu’s en qua, which I remember messing up–especially at the beginning.
But then Ms. Munro complimented me, on my feet and extension. Apparently I’m either showing improvement, or was executing the corrections she was asking. Which apparently were at least partially directed towards me. Which means she’s apparently watching me.
Which is great. I’m really glad this is happening! It’s just still pretty new and surreal to realize I’m being watched. In a good way.

Barre ended up feeling great. Before doing grand battements, we stretched into our splits. Which, I’ve gotten really close on, especially recently. Low and behold, yesterday would be the day that I would do my side split, get all the way down, and let go–hands high in the air and able to stay there. (No, I did not wave them like I just didn’t care, but I did do jazz hands.) Cheyanne asked if I could do the other side. “I dunno, let’s see!” and wouldn’t you know it, I did!
So that was exciting. And Ms. Munro saw that, too (I mean, hard to miss I was really excited) and smiled at me all nice and assuring-like.
We finished barre, and things were great.

Then we went to center.

I put on my pointe shoes, uncertain on if I’d be able to make it the whole class, or if I should attempt it knowing that I was still not okay, but I figured I’d try it anyway. I could always take them off, right?

We start simply enough. I can’t remember exact combinations now, but it was mostly flat. (chasse, back leg to attitude, hold it, promenade, something something.) Anyway, I kept losing my balance. I’m not sure if it’s because of my back, since it had started hurting half-way through barre, or if I was just having a really off day. It was pretty disheartening to not be able to do these things I know I should be able to do.
Abarrane  was near me, encouraging me through my flubs.
It started getting more and more difficult as we went on. I ended up on the dreaded far right side, which for some reason shakes me up. I guess because you so easily run into the wall of bags, which makes me feel like I have to contain my moves, which isn’t good when things are new. I kept messing up simple things.
We did this combination where we ran through pirouettes, and I really wanted to try them again. She threw in en dedan (spelling? I don’t know.) pirouettes, which I had never done en pointe, so I didn’t even attempt them. As we did these combinations, full of pique-things I should be able to do, I kept falling out of them. Not just falling out, but near rolling my ankle. I don’t think my shoes are dead yet, so I’m thinking it’s just me. Didn’t help that I had the more advanced people behind me in the opposite group as me, and I was just falling apart.
I took off my pointe shoes and attempted to do it on flat, but it wasn’t much different.
Okay, it’s me, then.

I started to feel this tightness in my chest.
I couldn’t do the things I should be able to do. My brain is spacing. I can’t clear my head of the cloud.
That’s when I did something I’ve never done before.
I walked to the back of the room, before the combination was even really finished, and I walked out.

I forgot all the moms were out there, until someone asked if I was okay. I was trying to keep my breathing calm to hopefully avoid a full-fledged panic attack. I went and sat on the bench at the farthest part of the room. I remember being asked if I was okay. I don’t remember what I answered. I remember being asked if I needed anything. I think I said, “I’ll be fine.”
Thankfully, these mom’s are super respectful. They didn’t pry or anything, which helped me be able to calm down without really panicking. Which is really good because then my circulation isn’t effected.
I wasn’t sure at this point if I was going back in or not. Cheyanne and Annika came out to get water and I asked where they were in class and they said they were still in center. So I put my shoes back on and went in again.

They were still on the same combination (this shocked me?) So I tried it again and did better.
We did a few things across the floor, some of which I just couldn’t wrap my brain around, though I knew I should have been able to. I think I stopped mid-way on one (not getting in the way, though. Like, finished the phrase, just didn’t repeat) and leveled my breathing again. When we moved on from that, I didn’t do the right side at all on the next part. Some of the younger girls were asking me questions, but I didn’t have answers. Then some of them got blunt and mentioned they saw me not finish. How do you explain an anxiety attack to a kid? I don’t want them to come into these just because they know about them. If that makes sense. I don’t know. I said something that worked, I don’t remember what, and tried to stay kind but honest. They were sweet. The older of the sweet sisters asked about one of the more complex moves and I did what I could to help her break it down in the limited space we had. I did it the second time, and the younger one asked me about it when we were finished with that one, but before we got the next one. I broke it down for her, and sure enough she caught on. I was really proud.
So then I didn’t do the right side on that next thing, and decided to try the left. I almost ran into Ms. Munro because I can’t pique turn straight, for some reason, and Ms. Munro was like, cheering me on. I don’t know if she noticed I left or skipped a few sides, or if I was doing it well, but I just tried to get through and finish.

Class ended. I made it.

I still haven’t gotten to journal about it all and sort my thoughts since work has been interesting. I’m hoping to be better by next class on Monday. I did take the evening to just breathe and do things I enjoy, namely eat ice cream, and watch hilarious plays with Andie while eating cheesy bread.

On the drive home, I was thinking back on the class.
I remembered what the Mom had told me before class, and I cried.
Things are really hard, work leaves me feeling really defeated, but this shows me I’m doing something right in the world. That I’m not failing, or hard to work with, or complicating people’s lives. That if I weren’t at one place or the other, it would be felt in a good way.
Abby made a good point when I told her about class–I’m in a really safe place.
This studio, these girls, this group of people are probably a best case scenario–as best case as I could even dream. More, even. I nearly cry at the thought of how incredible blessed (and not in the cliche use of the term) I really am to be among these people. They don’t judge me. They don’t make me feel like I’m fragile or incapable. They encourage me and believe the best in me and help me when I need it.
This is my home.
This is my family–the family I get to choose for myself.

I like my choices.

Pictures

My phone hadn’t run the backup yet to get to add these to the post before this last one, so here is it’s own post.

Enjoy. 🙂

Cheyanne is the greatest. These pictures are proof.

This was from one of those moments when I really noticed how great it was to be there. (read here for a description of what I mean.)

(This one, too.)

The pool party at Ms. Munro’s house. SO MUCH FUN

I may have already posted this one, but it deserves a re-post. ❤

Summer sessions.

Yesterday began our new schedule, July classes.
They only offer adult ballet and ballet classes for Intermediate/Advanced dancers (combined) which doesn’t feel any different to me, but is very different from the dancing-every-day that the intensive girls are used to. I’m really glad they give the teachers a chance to have a break, but I’m also extremely grateful they still have classes for us available.

This weekend was rough, and all I wanted to do was be in the studio, surrounded by people whom I love and who love me doing the thing we all love. I wanted to feel alive.
There weren’t near as many of the younger girls in class, and there were more of the older girls. It felt so good to be in that room. I can’t say that enough.

I was at the barre between two of my good friends, Annika and Abarrane, the latter fresh off a stint at a summer intensive. I don’t know what it was, but being sandwiched between these two dancers made the class even better. Maybe I’m not used to being around dancers that are a higher level, I don’t know, but it was ideal.

Ms. Munro taught our class, which I was excited about. I couldn’t really tell when she was talking to me or Abarrane, unless she specifically said one of our names, which typically she doesn’t. So if it was a correction, I took it like she was talking to me. If it was a praise, I took it like she was talking to her. That way if it was her, and I was jacked up or something I wouldn’t think I was doing it right when I clearly wasn’t. Does that make sense? Anyway.
I really felt good about the way barre was going, minus the fact that I kept forgetting to breathe or not breathing enough. It was particularly bad this time, my only guess that I wasn’t breathing enough this weekend and didn’t really notice, so it caught up to me in class that I wasn’t aptly oxygenated. Is that a thing? I don’t know.
I made a point to really try in class. To do my best. To not just go through the motions, but actually dance. What if I never got to see my next class? What if this is my last chance? No regrets, right? Right.
Ms. Munro apparently saw this, and commented that my epaulment looked nice. She also complimented me on my arms (elbows being lifted) and my back attitude balance. (!!!!) This was a first on the back attitude, because my leg typically dips. But something clicked and the stars aligned and I was able to get my back leg flat and lifted while keeping my hip down and my balance was there so I was able to let go and even hold it. And she saw it. And she complimented it by name. Victory.

We did center en pointe. The younger ones stayed on flat, but I wanted to try it. I felt like I was capable of doing it and wanted to try and see. I was nervous.
My toes actually did better than they ever have. The left foot’s toes didn’t even fall asleep. (I wish I knew how this was achieved!) I was able to do what she asked and not look like a fish on dry land floppin’ around. When we did this combination across the floor, I had a little trouble, but not too much. Apparently in the balance (I can’t get the accent on that last e.) back I wasn’t making it as juicy as she wanted, so she came over and moved me physically into how it was supposed to be. I’ve only seen her do this with people that show promise, so it made me happy to have the correction. Plus, I just didn’t know. It startled me since she’s never done this with me before so I was a little thrown, but it ended up being okay. I finished the combination decently. (In execution.) Apparently my face was super focused cause after that run through (which was the second time) she told me not to look so worried. You could read on my face that I was nervous for the pirouettes. Gotta work on that.
Also, pirouettes on pointe. (!!!)
I hadn’t done these since Nutcracker, which were really rough and so much has happened since then. I was extremely grateful that this was part of the combination so I could have a chance to work on them, but also nervous. Obviously. I managed to get around, but on one of the sides, my bad habit of putting the toe behind the knee crept up and the turn was less than successful. But I am grateful for the mistake. On the other side, I did it right and was able to feel the difference putting the toe in front of the knee makes and how it really affects the turn in a positive way. I wish I could work on them more, but I’m grateful to have had the positive exposure to them again.

By the time we did the last combination across the floor, my brain was apparently fried. I was spacing out. The first time was decent until we got to the pique turns, which I was attempting, but my knee wasn’t straight and I didn’t want to do it half way. (It was because that toe was hurting. Still gotta figure out this formula.) It was okay. The second time we did it, I completely spaced on what we were supposed to do, which was frustrating since I could actually turn on that side! But that’s okay. It was a Monday, and a heck of one at that. The rest of the class was really great and so informative and constructive. I feel like I can be in these classes and actually swim instead of feeling like I’m drowning all the time. I’ve almost crossed that hurdle. I’m excited to see where the rest of the summer session takes me, although missing two weeks of classes will be a bummer. (It’s for Europe, though, so it’s really okay.)

I wish I could dance every day. I’m hoping next fall to be able to dance four days a week, but it’ll depend on if I can afford it. And if I’d be more over my head than I think I would be right now. We’ll see when I get there.
Until then, I really hope to get more pirouette practice, and hopefully be able to keep my brain more clear so I can dance better and prove myself. So far, so great.

End of Intensive class/showcase

Surprisingly, my boss gave us today off from work, so I was able to go to the studio for the little mini-performance they did of all the variations they had learned throughout this past month. I had learned a few of them in class with the girls, but they had way more practice with them, being that they were also taking classes during the day, and I didn’t feel all that confident with them. The girls were kinda bummed, but I loved getting to watch them, since I don’t get to when I’m dancing with them.

To say I am proud of them is an understatement. 
There are the obvious front-runners in the class–the ones with natural talent and build and perfect feet–whom you know are going to be incredible. But even so, you don’t realize how incredible they are. You don’t think it’s possible for them to improve as much as they end up improving over such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to see where this next year takes them. I’m almost giddy over it.
Then you have the other girls; the quiet ones, the timid ones, the ones not quite on pointe yet. These girls really impressed me. So often in class, I just hear them getting corrected (or chewed in some cases) that you don’t really get the chance to see them at their finest. (Not to mention in class you tend to be mostly focused on yourself, so you don’t really see how well they are doing.) 
These girls killed it.
Seeing the ones on flat completely owning each role, using their heads and arms and faces, really selling the character while maintaining technique and engaging their cores and having great form–gah, I was proud! Then you have the girls who are new to pointe–the II’s. These kids have really blossomed in the last month. You see them getting more stable and confident and really going for it, tackling some difficult moves and doing them well. There are these sisters in class (who are flippin’ adorable) that are II’s and pretty quiet when you first meet them. The younger one kept getting corrected that last class I was in, I felt kind of bad for her. But today, specifically when they did the variation from Coppelia, I was really impressed. They nailed it. Their technique was solid, their knees were straight, their faces were passionate. My eyes teared up a bit. They’re growing by leaps and bounds, each and every one of them. We’ve got ourselves a good crop of up-and-comers on our hands. 
We also got to watch the advanced kids do their variations. This was particularly fun for me since I got to take class with these kids this year, too. (I say kids. but I say that about everyone. Anyway.) They’ve got a bit more depth to their styles, and of course more complex moves. Their variations were substantially shorter, but also more difficult and there were more of them (I believe?) 
These are the ones that really make me feel something. this summer crew in particular. Really nailing it and making these variations look clean, even though some of them had just learned them that week (or that morning, what?!) It’s also fun knowing them, having them for friends. You get to be there to support them and celebrate with them on each accomplishment along the way. I seriously feel like their my siblings. The younger siblings I never had. I can’t really express what that means to me.
One of the mom’s asked me today if my parents read this blog. And it’s kind of funny, because, I mean, obviously they don’t. (Not sure why that would be obvious, but I guess to me it is? Anyway.) They care about ballet, only because I’m in it, but they don’t really care about it. If that makes sense? They support me, but they don’t necessarily enjoy coming to performances (unless they’re shows. Then they’re okay with it.) (sometimes.) Here, I have this whole other world, this entire side of me that my own family doesn’t fully understand or grasp or particularly care about. Such a big facet, just “meh” to them. Sure, they listen to my stories and try to keep straight the names I talk about most (sometimes) but they don’t really care. It doesn’t interest them.
Where the heck did I get this immense love and passion for ballet, when I come from a family that is so indifferent about it? I get the journaling from my grandma, the photography from my Dad, but dance? No clue, whatsoever.
Anyways. 
Sitting in that studio, surrounded by the parents and siblings of my friends who were showcasing their work, I looked around and smiled. I tried to take a second to just really soak it all in. This moment, this place, with these people. The colors on the walls and how the sunlight shone in the window. The feel of the room and the love that filled it. I tried not to think about things before or what could come after, of different opinions I’ve heard or ones of my own. I just sat there and enjoyed the moment. 
This is what it’s about. Not just the giant performances with elaborate sets and trained orchestra and all the lights and jitters and hundreds of people paying to see us. It’s about these moments in between; the parents coming out on the Friday of a holiday weekend to line up in miss-matched chairs and benches and stools to sit there for an hour and a half and watch their baby dance what they learned this month. To pull out their cameras to keep this day forever. It’s about the in between. 
Anyone can put on a good face for a performance. But it’s the people with the passion enough to participate in these little shows for family and friends that really want it. (Not to say other’s don’t want it, but these really show that they do.) Seeing the kids light up with their parents there, it brought tears to my eyes. 
My family may not particularly care about my dancing, not like I do anyway, but they’re not my only family anymore. My parents wouldn’t have come to this, but I have “family” that were there and would have been so proud to watch me dance had I chose to. I have made my own family between these very walls we now sit. Ones that pull me out of sadness and share wisdom and listen when I don’t know who else to go to. Ones that encourage me when I’m down or a little insecure. Ones that believe in me when I have my moments where I struggle to believe in myself. Ones that love to see me and miss me when I’m gone. 
This is my family.
My dance family.
The family I choose for myself.
And I must say, I have found myself among some of the greatest on the planet.
(okay, that’s all. Anymore and I might cry and that ain’t happenin’.)
After the performance, we went over to Ms. Munro’s house for a pool party. TALK ABOUT FUN.
We got there, and some of the girls went straight for the pool. Ms. Munro came and told the rest of us we were welcome to swim, but we needed an adult out there. I volunteered my services, which was hilarious. Because I’m totally an adult when it’s convenient 😉
The girls (and Sean. Yay Sean!) were so much fun. We had a blast. Squirting each other with water guns and sliding down this awesome inflatable slide and the giant watermelon inflatable thingy. So great. Then we all ate pizza and cookie cake and just enjoyed each other. I also got to hang out with the Urban sisters for a bit, which really made me happy. They’re such dolls, I love them so much. Two of six kids! But both wonderful in their own right. That just had to be noted.
All in all, this was just about the most perfect way to spend a day off of work.
I can’t wait to get to continue dancing, and improving, and working hard. Being with them just makes me want to dance more and get better. I can’t wait until my house is done so I can do more on my own, but I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I get where I am now. 
I’m excited to go to Europe and all (in two weeks!) but will be sad to miss out on 4 classes with them. They add light to my life (that’s a Leanne Rhymes song, right?) and give me a good reason to come home instead of running away to one of the countries I visit. 😉
I’m excited for Nutcracker season!
My phone was dying, and I didn’t take my big camera, so I didn’t get many today. But here are two.
Just about everyone that came 🙂

My sweet Sarah and Cheyenne in between classes. ❤ ❤