I’m a lucky girl. I started dancing when I was in 1st grade. I confess that I tried gymnastics first, but was so petrified of all of the equipment that I would have a panic attack every time we learned something new. So, I made the switch to dance lessons. I loved it; especially ballet. Ballet ballet ballet! We moved to Virginia Beach after that year, so I needed to find a new dance school. My awesomely supportive parents helped me find the school that became my ballet home, Virginia Beach Ballet Academy. I was totally hooked.
My dad tells me (and everyone) that when I was 7, I told him in a matter of fact/don’t even think about arguing with me way, “I’m going to be a ballerina.” I planned to dance for the rest of my life. And I suppose that statement is still true, though not in the way I had originally intended it.
We moved again, and I found another fantastic school to train with, Maryland Youth Ballet, and then went on to college at Indiana University and became part of the IU Ballet Theatre. IU was such a phenomenal experience. I had the honor of training with world renowned dancers. It was incredible! Except for my whole injury thing.
My junior year I found out that the annoying pain in my back was actually a stress fracture in one of my lumbar vertebrae. I honestly didn’t believe the doctor when he told me my back was broken … It was impossible to get my mind around that possibility, but then he showed me the X-ray. Yep, definitely broken! ( FYI – You shouldn’t have a cloud where a bone outline is supposed to be) That meant I had to wear a back brace (AKA girdle) constantly for three months, and then physical therapy, and then a few months of getting back in shape. I had just started rehearsing for the role of Arabian in Nutcracker the week before that doctor’s visit. I had always dreamed of being Arabian … good gracious, that music! As you can guess, I was beyond heartbroken.
After dealing with my injury, ballet was a mental struggle for me. I was able to finish school, and complete my degree, and perform a few more times. But after my injury I didn’t feel comfortable in the ballet world anymore. I had physically recovered from my injury (well, for the most part), but I had not mentally recovered at all. I stopped auditioning …
The first few years after IU, in Chicago, I avoided all things ballet. I didn’t want to hear any music, I didn’t want to see any performances, nothing. Nada.
I tried to block it out of my life. It didn’t work though; I would dream about it all the time. I would dream that I was performing, in class, in the break room, sewing pointe shoes, putting band-aids on blisters … you name it, I dreamt it. My subconscious was fighting to keep ballet alive in me. My conscious self fought back; I wasn’t ready to put my crushed spirit back together, I wasn’t ready to move past the fact that I was not dancing with a professional company, and open my eyes to the possibilities that I still had.
I ended up moving back to Virginia Beach. After 7 years of no ballet classes, and very little exposure to it (I wept through one performance of Joffrey’s Nutcracker, and sniffled my way through the movie “Center Stage”), I decided to see if my amazing ballet school was still here … and it is! With the same directors that I trained with. It was a wonderful reunion; I went in and watched class. I was so happy sitting there. I was comfortable; it felt like home. As I watched the class, I found myself leaning, and lifting, and moving my hands ever so slightly along with the class. I wanted to move; I wanted to be in that class, not watching! So ballet and I had a fresh new start, in a safe familiar place. I started teaching and taking classes, and even performed on pointe that first year. Crazy, actually, but it was the closure I needed. I needed to perform one more time with joy, with no pressure, no apprehension. Everything happens for a reason, and everything brought me back to this studio.
I have now been teaching there, part time, for over 4 years. (Thankfully, my design career allows me the flexibility to do so). I helped teach a beginner class recently, ages 4-5ish. For one of the girls, I’m very sure it was her first class ever. One of the steps we had them do was emboîtés, which is a step where you hop from one foot to the other, lifting your legs up in front of you, and travel forward (hard to explain in writing). It’s kind of like a hacky-sack move … but traveling. Anyway, this adorable little girl was having difficulty with it. She was doing a double hop on each leg; I explained and showed her it was a single hop. She continued to struggle, so I told her not to worry, we would practice and she would get it. Her turn came up again, and halfway across the floor, she got it. Her face just exploded into a grin; she immediately turned to me to make sure I had seen. I smiled at her, and nodded. She was still grinning. After class she came up to me and showed me her emboîtés again. She was ecstatic. She said, “I did it! Just like this, across the floor!” I said, “I know! You got it! You did great!” She beamed at me, emboîté-ed around the studio again, and then emboîté-ed to the dressing room.
I am such a lucky girl; I get to teach ballet.