Off-Season, Off Kilter

“Can you really detach yourself from ballet?”

For the past couple of weeks, I haven’t been myself. So I did a quick evaluation of the most relevant things in my life currently: work, work, work, exercising, work, work again. Days off can be few and far between when you’re supplementing a dancer’s salary. The off-season is the chance to load up one’s work schedule at a second (and maybe third) job(s) and save up (for winter, quite literally, when Nutcracker season can make it nearly impossible to complete a shift). So my initial thought was simple-I’m overworking myself, and I’m stressed. Not good news necessarily, but manageable. So I tried giving myself a little down time here and there to really enjoy the summer. But I still didn’t feel right. I felt sad, out of place, almost angry. I felt those things until today. The cause of my problems?  –  I need ballet.

Most would consider the schedule of a ballerina to be a pretty manageable and almost luxurious one. What’s not to like? A 28- to 36- week season, and the remaining weeks serve as time away from the grind, clearing your mind and growing your bank account. At the end of the season all you will desire is that feeling of closure and completion as the curtain goes down on the last show. For a group who spends nearly every waking moment with each other, physically exerting themselves and emoting to their max, all you’ll want is to get away. The thought of sleeping an extra hour in the morning and not immediately throwing on something containing spandex is a liberating concept. Back to “the real world”, if you will. But, realistically speaking, can you really detach yourself from ballet?

Sketch of me by Sandra Cohen, 2014
Sketch of me by Sandra Cohen, 2014

“I…didn’t feel right. I felt sad, out of place, almost angry. I felt those things until today. The cause of my problems? – I need ballet.”

The first week is bliss. There’s no leotards and tights to wash, you can wear your hair down, and you feel like you could do anything at all (learn Italian, take countless day trips, or finally finish a Netflix binge project…). You’re all “ballet-ed” out, and you just need some time apart. But I think you’re in denial.

The time off will catch up with you. Maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone in the professional dance world, or at least not at the same pace. Maybe I’m just overly emotional (I am a Pisces after all). But I start to feel different. I don’t feel excitement or challenge. I start to feel monotonous and deflated. Sometimes I can’t figure it out right away. But it always clicks. Class. When was the last time I took class? I need ballet. What is a tendu?! How do I use my inner thighs?! Do I still know how to dance on pointe?! (Mind you, these dramatic feelings can come to mind, after only a week)

In the studio, February 2014
In the studio, February 2014

So today I gave myself barre. For most, including myself, this is a less than desirable task, but it is something every dancer must do for themselves at some point. It was incredibly hard. I’ve been exercising nearly every day, staying in shape and eating well like always, but getting back to ballet is not like your average physical activity-it can present a struggle. But even though I was out of breath, and even though I felt like I’d lost all extension and turnout, a fog lifted. I was stretching to a La Bayadere adagio track on the dusty studio floor by myself, and I just felt better again. I felt like myself. I remembered all the joys and challenges my career presents, and I felt hopeful again. When I clear away the countless things that have filled the void, I realize that this is the great equalizer. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Because it feels like air in my lungs. It feels like I can breath again.

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4 thoughts on “Off-Season, Off Kilter

  1. Exactly Kat!! It can feel like you’ve totally lost all ability at first, which is terrifying if you love it. But once you’re back in, the fire and the passion are completely lit again 🙂

    Like

  2. Love this one Liz. I think any dancer can relate. A great reminder that even though getting back in SUCKS because you feel like you forgot/lost all abilities (even if it’s only been a week) you’ll feel amazing for doing it again, which makes you want to do it once more, and again and again and again …: )

    Liked by 1 person

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