Capturing The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

There are certain things I will never understand. I still find it frustrating and painful to juggle the concept of loss. Why must we lose people to another life beyond? About a month and a half ago, a dear friend of mine and an artist of the Charlottesville community passed away. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to Keith Alan Sprouse.

Photographer Keith Alan Sprouse was a friendly and welcoming face at the Charlottesville Ballet throughout my first season dancing with the company. I remember him spending the day with us on a weekly basis, grande Starbucks cup in hand, snapping his camera throughout classes and rehearsals. It was fun to have a spectator for class, and having him there always gave me a little extra push to try to look stellar for his photos! On breaks he would chat with us, comment on our latest works and rehearsals, ask questions about the ballet world, and share his favorite images of the day. He was a positive, humorous, supportive, and motivating force in the studio, especially on those days when you feel like you’ve never actually danced a day in your life. Keith would remind us of our awesome feats and make it all seem a little less daunting.

In February of 2015, Keith offered to do a series of dance shots with any interested company members. Three close friends and I all signed up for ours on the same day. Keith let us try different poses, a variety of ensembles, and let us view photos take by take so we could really refine the shots. It was awesome having such a talented photographer to work with, but also someone so patient and encouraging throughout the process. Keith made me feel like a star that day, and I so cherish the images from that shoot. He caught me at my very best, and I am so grateful for that experience.

“…there is no filter for pure life.”

When I found out that Keith’s state was declining this fall, the sadness and regret flooded in, along with the “I hope” and “I wishes.” I hoped he would make it through, and I regretted not having visited and stayed in touch recently. What I really wished most of all, was that I had spent a few more minutes chatting with him when I saw him last.

No one ever said life was fair, but when I hear about the loss of a wonderful person like Keith, it’s so hard to understand. My heart goes out to Keith’s family and friends, and in honor of my friend I am trying to make a promise I know he would want me to keep.

Life is short. Too short to worry, to hesitate, or to dwell in anger or sadness. Keith was never one to worry or stress. He knew how to fully enjoy life and the company of others. I vow to try to embody this positivity myself. Keith, I will try to follow by your example. I cannot thank you enough for all of the wonderful memories you captured, and for the cheerful company and support you always provided.

A camera sees everything – the best, the worst, the mediocre. But there is no filter for pure life. Photographers like Keith offer us snapshots of the highs, the lows, and the in between. But how we fill in the dots beyond the camera is up to us.

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Know Yourself, Then PUSH Yourself

“How can you push your dancers to give all of themselves, without holding back or giving up, while staying safe physically?”

Dancers are taught to push until there’s nothing left…To exhaust the body and give more than 100% at all times – in class, in rehearsal, in performance. We are ‘spoon fed’ the concept from day one that ballerinas are a special breed (and they are). Achieving success requires us to be calm and collected, focused, impeccably precise, and emotionally unshakable, even in the face of criticism and harm to the physical body.

While I believe those factors to be non-negotiable requirements, I am equally aware of the potential danger behind this message, not only in terms of our physical state, but also mental condition. While there are many who promote and encourage the self-care of professionals, some teachers and mentors do not (I have experienced both sides in my career thus far). Understandably, it’s a fine line to walk, especially for an artistic director or ballet master/mistress. How can you push your dancers to give all of themselves, without holding back or giving up, while staying safe physically?

“There is a time to push for more, but there is a time to conserve too.”

I, too, struggle with this as a dance educator. At times I feel hypocritical, but I have to fully communicate the need to PUSH oneself. If a student does not have that desire, there’s not much I can do on my end to cultivate it. It has to come from within. On the other hand, there is the student that gives 110% at all times, but struggles to understand signs of fatigue and overuse in their body. There is a time to push for more, but there is a time to conserve too. As a teacher, it can be difficult to understand and/or translate individual cues, recognizing the difference between laziness and fatigue. But this is my greatest responsibility.

What is lacking, for many students especially, is self-care – both physical and emotional. It is impossible to expect success without properly caring for the body and the mind, not only in the studio but also outside of the studio. The body requires stretching, massage, icing, the stabilization of weak areas/potential injury spots, additional conditioning, and aerobic exercise, in order to sustain a high level of dance training. The mind, on the other hand, is taxed with millions of different kinesthetic commands, as well as complex patterns and choreographic pieces. It is a dancer’s job to allow mental capacity and the clarity to ensure confidence, artistic expression, and freedom from anxiety and fear.

The vast amount of energy that must be devoted to dance can be overwhelming to a dancer of any caliber. In a world that demands excellence from all angles, the demands of ballet seem impossible to maintain. But those who really want ‘it’ understand and accept the unique commitments required to truly grow as artists. We learn when to push, and when enough is enough. Only when we are truly tuned in, mentally and kinesthetically, can we reach a high level of excellence, and hope to sustain that excellence in the future.

The Joy Of…Dogs!

“My career is very different than it used to be, but I take tremendous pride in the fact that it still exists because I say so.”

Hello WordPress & hello to my readers! I can’t even remember the last time I was here! Since I have been absent for such a long time, I’m going to keep it simple with some updates, in yours truly’s favorite format (for the OCD, perfectionist inclined) – a list.

A light summer read, a list of excuses, a list of updates, what have you….

1.) Taking the “Dog Days of Summer” to a whole new level – About 4 weeks ago, my boyfriend and I became parents………to a beagle! Our fur baby Oliver is about a year old, has gained three pounds since coming home from shelter life, is extremely friendly, food oriented yet inconveniently stubborn at times, and likes to chew – EVERYTHING! Learning curve is an understatement. Although Oliver has a lot of good puppy skills already, he’s got a long way to go! I look forward to the day when we don’t need to keep all of the accent pillows in the laundry closet, but for now we’re taking it in, helping him learn and succeed, and working together as a little team of three.

2.) #tooblessed Ballerina returns to the stage – So proud of myself. Leave me some room to brag here, ‘cause it’s happening. I still miss the hardcore, professional dance world so much, but I’m proud to announce that I was able to keep my head in the game and perform onstage in a full length ballet after a year of being my own director. My career is very different than it used to be, but I take tremendous pride in the fact that it still exists because I say so. I know that what I was able to accomplish performing with Roanoke Ballet Theatre this month was a victory all my own.

3.) Family matters – Another big moment! You know that, a.) you’re a pro adult, and b.) your family is super busy/putting child #2 through college, when your Dad and bro haven’t visited your local digs in three years! I’m not gonna lie, I primarily used Italian guilt (it runs strong) to coax the three of them into coming for a visit. However, it was truly a joy sharing my “new” apartment with them, my new puppy, new restaurants and experiences, and another gig on the stage with them.

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One of my favorite photos ever hahaha

4.) Proud dance mama – My 3rd school show as faculty member for the Charlottesville Ballet Academy has come and gone! So proud of all of my beautiful students and the energy and love they poured into their three performances.

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My girls shining like patriotic stars ❤

5.) Runnin’ it – It’s that time of year again! This upcoming Tuesday will be my third annual attempt at pretending to be a runner! (LOL) I’ve made it tradition to travel back to my hometown in Massachusetts each year for the Fourth of July weekend, while there participating in Pittsfield’s Fourth Of July 5K, alongside my Dad and brother. After a year of consistent ankle strength and no accidents, I’m hoping for an even better PR this year!

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Thanks for staying with me all! Wishing you a beautiful and relaxing start to your summer! You’ll be hearing from me soon, but until then, dance on. ❤

Corps Strength: Standing Out While Blending In

“…Confront not only [your] own errors, but also the errors of others. The artist must fight for the good of the group and the image of the ballet…”

For performing artists, there is always that burning desire to be the star-the soloist granted the exclusive opportunity to lead the show. He or she is able to make personal, stylized choreographic decisions, and basks in an audience’s approval and applause. But a ballet really cannot exist without the corps de ballet.

While I did not thoroughly understand this in my early years as a performer, it is a concept that is stamped into our brains the moment we begin a pre-professional career. As a young dancer, I honestly felt like the corps was always being coerced into success with words to inflate their confidence. I didn’t think the corps was really NEEDED. As a newbie to that kind of work, I felt that any boost we received was just an attempt to insure that we didn’t look like a ‘hot mess’. Does the average ballet attendee want to see a ‘hot mess’ corps? No, of course not. Even to the untrained eye, a squiggly diagonal or an incorrect foot or arm leaps out visually, especially when there’s 15 other girls executing the correct version. Despite all this, I didn’t realize the true value of the corps until later in my career.

A skillful balance of peripheral and central vision, quick thinking, focus, and unshakable precision are all crucial characteristics in order to be successful in the corps. These may seem like qualities that 99% of ballerinas possess. However, I speak from an experiential viewpoint when I tell you that it’s not for everyone. As a developing dancer, I myself was trained to live and breathe corps work (it’s that Russian training in me). It requires an extremely observant and specific eye and a whole lot of patience. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, all the steps and poses you’re forced to repeat about one million times as a corps de ballet, those will definitely do the trick…

“Even to the untrained eye, a squiggly diagonal or an incorrect foot or arm leaps out visually, especially when there’s 15 other girls executing the correct version.”

While performing on the sidelines (literally) of a full-length ballet can be viewed as a simple onstage challenge, the repercussions of an error are severe for a member of the corps de ballet. From an audience perspective, one could assume that the corps has the easy job. The neat and tidy appearance of a spot-on corps de ballet, can create an aura of visual perfection that makes the eye assume it’s simple to execute. However, the work that goes into creating that pristine en masse visual appeal, is grueling. It is a very different challenge than that of a soloist. Errors onstage or in rehearsal lead to the disappointment and disapproval of not only one’s director, but also one’s colleagues. I’ve been in many a corps where tension frequently escalates due to repetitive corrections and issues caused by the same individuals. But a true professional is able to face these issues and work towards uniting the group, selflessly abandoning what they may feel is the right approach. A wise corps dancer willingly confronts not only their own errors, but also the errors of others. The artist must fight for the good of the group and the image of the ballet, rather than be consumed by self-promotion.

My work in the corps has made me the dancer I am today – meticulous, clean, alert, and strong. Being a corps de ballet dancer requires you to blend, however, your identity is not completely disguised. You can stand out while blending in. Excelling within a corps prepares you for the next level…for something more. If you want to go bigger and better, you’ve gotta have corps strength in order to survive.

*Can you find me in all of these corps group photos?…Why is the corps always wearing white?!

Versatility At Its Finest

Hello Dancers And Friends!

I’d like to address a special blogging award I received about a month and a half ago (apologies for my lateness!), called the Versatile Blogger Award. Many thanks to The Book Swag, which I very much enjoy following, for the nomination! Check it out!!! –  https://thebookswag.wordpress.com/

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The Rules are basically as follows…

  • Thank the person who gave you the award & include a link to their blog! 
  • Select & nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Share 7 things about yourself…that your blog followers may not already know…
  • Display your VBA award!

As my blog approaches its second anniversary (!!!), I’m very happy and honored to receive some recognition from fellow bloggers/talented writers within the online writing community. 🙂 As a dancer, inside and outside of the studio, my mind is always creating something. I’m so grateful to have this outlet for myself. This space is extremely cathartic and essential to my artistic personality now, and it is thrilling to receive positive feedback regarding my thoughts. Thank you, wherever and whoever you may be for your support, your ‘shares’, your comments, and for simply taking the time to read what’s on my mind. Without further ado, here’s a little fun for this week…

7 Things You Might Not Know About Ms. J.O.D. (that’s me!)

1.) Some of my little adorable students call me “Ms. Ballerina”, or occasionally even just – “Miss Ballet”.

2.) I don’t only teach children, I also supervise them. My current (other) part time jobs include child care employee at ACAC and nanny/babysitter. Do I want to have children of my own someday? Yes. However, for now, it’s quite enjoyable to have the option to designate the care of the children I supervise back to their lucky parents!

3.) Although I am a professional dancer and have a lot of flexibility to draw from, I have basically zero gymnastic skills. I hate being upside down, can’t stand on my head or my hands, can’t quite do a cartwheel, and although I can invert and do a backward roll, know that I am faking it like crazyyyyyy each time….

4.) In another life, or maybe sometime in this one, I would love to be a baker or a chef. I can’t get enough of my cooking shows and baking competition shows. Favorites include, Chopped, The Next Great Baker, Cupcake Wars, Giada At Home, and (don’t judge) The Pioneer Woman.

5.) I know this isn’t quite original, but coffee is one of my great loves. I only drink about three cups of coffee a day, but I like it in its purest form-black, no sugar, no cream, just pure, rich deliciousness. I like drinking espresso straight from a demitasse cup, and I could live at Starbucks.

6.) I love me some word games – Scrabble, Bananagrams, word searches, I’m all over it.

7.) Although I’m proud of being a big girl (now!)/adult and moving away from home, onto bigger and better things, I get homesick. I LOVE my family, and I get fam withdrawal if I’m away for too long. I call my Mom and Dad every day to catch up/bother them.

I NOMINATE –
You Have Time To Read, In My Ginger Nature, Tendus Under A Palm Tree, Setting The Barre, loved.chosen.beautiful.enough, The Renegade Press, Dance Healthier, A Ballet Of Life, Corporal Culture, Tutus And Tea, Gretchen Rubin, gregfallis.com, My OBT,  Butterfly Mind (new to me, excited to follow! I love this post in particular)

What Are You AFRAID Of?

“…in order to rid ourselves of fear, we must confront it..look it in the eye…”

…Good question, right? Hopefully, it’s obvious that we’re not digging deep for a consistent fear of spiders or perilous heights though. For some of us (the more anxiously inclined), the initial inquiry could also be accompanied by the question, “where do I even begin?” Personally, I am not afraid to reveal my fear – of change…of stupid little things (like going to a different yoga class than I’m used to-typical “First World problem”)…of trying something new, being somewhere new, stepping outside of my comfort zone. But while I personally recognize that fear can hold me back at times, I must also commend myself for the things I do try and for the forward steps I venture to take.

Admittedly, I have forgotten that a crucial, structural piece of my right ankle is no longer “there”. It is in pieces…an obsolete, useless ligament, ready to snap at any time…an extraordinarily flexible ankle, in the worst sort of way.

I was talking to a friend/mentor today and realized that physical fear has not crossed my mind in a long while. You may be wondering why it’s taken me so long to get over this injury. I am NOT AFRAID to admit that my ligament tear was physically terrifying. Largely due to the fact that my career relies 105% (if that were possible..and I think it is) on my body. Since I’ve spent the majority of my life working on being intrinsically aware of my physical being, I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore. It was like experiencing a betrayal. As physically, intellectually, and emotionally adapted human beings, we take basic operations of the body for granted at times. When you fall or cause damage to yourself while walking, running, or even dancing your heart out, it’s scary to feel weak and vulnerable. We blame ourselves and wonder why and how this could have happened.

Trusting your physical capabilities is just one of many examples of how to release and come to terms with fear. While it is the least desirable of all possible options, in order to rid ourselves of fear, we must confront it..look it in the eye…and try to understand why it’s there. Face it. Wrestle it into submission. Be uncomfortable.

I challenge you to put yourself in an uncomfortable position. Because you are stronger and more brilliant than you ever may have imagined. Be AFRAID…and see where it leads you.

Wandering Thoughts…

Hello Dancer Friends,

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. (Spring Fever!) To make up for lost time, I thought I’d change it up this week with a new/different type of post…

I wholeheartedly appreciate and adore the things in my life that are amazing and good (god, so many things!…boyfriend, family, friends, a strong and able body, my art—writing and dance, the list goes on..), the things that make my life unique and special to ME. However, I also admit to feeling a bit like a ‘wanderer’ lately.

Negative vibes completely fog my exploration of self at times. The good is overshadowed by the blur of the uncertain. I accuse myself. I “should” myself. I think, “maybe I’m being too lazy”, “maybe I’m not doing enough.” But when that happens, here are some of the little things that pull me back into reality…the reality that life is good.

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Spring blossoms outside my door

Things currently helping me on my “ever-evolving” journey:

  • This recipe – there’s nothing better than the smell of fresh baked goods. This recipe’s so easy & so delicious…baking in the oven as I finish this post!
  • The Happiness Project – check out the entire website! Blogs to read, books to buy, podcasts to listen to! I LOVE to listen to this in the car throughout the week, whether I’m making my weekly journey to Roanoke for rehearsal or just driving around town…
  • EASTER! – Looking forward to my “surprise” Easter “basket”, arriving soon in the mail from Mom & Dad. I love the low-stress, springtime joy of Easter – a holiday to celebrate rebirth and new beginnings, time to gather with friends and family over good food and maybe some Easter chocolates (may even try my Mom’s lemon meringue pie recipe on my own this year) *side note-mini Cadbury eggs are life

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    A stop along the weekly road trip…
  • Cinderella – diving back into this ballet (haven’t done this since high school!) has been a joy. I love the haunting and oddly different sound of the Prokofiev score. The waltz from Act One/Two gets stuck in my head for hours…
  • Conversations On Dance – I guess I spend a lot of time in the car, ‘cause here’s another podcast that boosts my waning mood throughout the week. This duo from Miami City Ballet interviews some of the most fascinating and influential current icons of the ballet scene. I love hearing more about their careers and the experiences of their esteemed guests…
  • Community – I’ve been watching an unusually high number of scary movies lately. To quiet my mind and provide me with a desensitizing show before bed, Community’s been my go to on Hulu. Funny, light, and zero supernatural beings…

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    Summer time means lots more time out here ❤
  • Summer, summer, summer time – The promise of glorious sunshine, time spent by the pool, warm nights, visits with friends and family, and a super flexible schedule, keeps me optimistic.

Until next time J.O.D.ers!! Thanks for reading! Please feel free to read up on some of my old posts and stay tuned for next week!

Favorite Movie? Still ‘Beauty’ For Me

“…this movie ignited an obsession in me…I was enraptured by it – the colors, the animation, the lively characters, the humor, and the story of a brilliant, headstrong woman who loved to read…Although I can’t explain what was going on in my head at the age of two and a half, I think it was Belle’s unique personality that stuck with me.”

Last Friday night, I felt like a little girl all over again…in the body of a 28-year-old. To celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, I eagerly attended the opening night of the brand new live action Beauty And The Beast. The last time I saw this movie in a theater I’d only been on earth for two and a half years…

It was 1991, and I went with my Mom, of course, surrounded by many other youngsters like myself. Although I don’t remember the specifics of that day, I do know that this movie ignited an obsession in me, for at least the next couple of years. I was enraptured by it – the colors, the animation, the lively characters, the humor, and the story of a brilliant, headstrong woman who loved to read. My recent viewing, twenty-five years later – different life place, same feelings of elation. I drove myself to the theater after leaving work, went with my boyfriend and buddies, and was surrounded not by children this time, but by other reminiscent twenty-somethings like myself. Years later, it still charms me. I felt myself beaming throughout the entire film because this movie is so near and dear to my heart. Although it was stunningly similar yet revamped in all the best ways, the message remained the same. And it is that message that has stuck with me since childhood.

This post is not meant to be a movie review, but, since we’re on topic, I do highly recommend that you take the time to go see this refreshed classic. Anyone with a heart for Disney and its old school gems is sure to enjoy the careful attention given to the original detail, as well as the fresh and fascinating new look of animation brought to life. The remake of this movie draws a broad audience. While it is a classic story well known by current youngsters, this 90’s hit definitely strikes a chord with twenty and thirty somethings who remember the original release too. I for one, was not at all ashamed to spend my Friday night watching a Disney movie. And I wasn’t alone, in an opening night crowd consisting primarily of adults and young adults.

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My 4th Birthday Cake – Someone clearly messed up my name on the cake though because “my name is Belle”. PC-Mom & Dad
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Close up – As a columnist for our local newspaper, my Dad wrote an editorial regarding my B&B obsession. It was titled “Favorite Movie? It’s ‘Beauty’ At Our House”. Obviously, you now know where I got my title inspiration from today ❤ Thanks, Dad. PC-Mom & Dad

I couldn’t tell you specifically what resonated with me as a child. I can only really guess. There were the obvious attractions of course, to Belle and her magical tale – she’s a beautiful girl, an amazing singer, is gifted with a beautiful, sparkling ball gown, discovers a handsome prince in disguise, and consequently marries into princess status (typical Disney princess perks and admirable qualities). However, as a child, I personally did not relate that closely to any other Disney princess. Belle was my girl. It was the tunes of Beauty And The Beast that I would sing from my crib in the morning, it was a Beauty And The Beast cake that I requested for my fourth birthday, it was the design of my first bed comforter, the pattern on my big girl underwear when I potty trained, my favorite cassette tape to sing along to, and ultimately it was the identity I chose to adopt. One of my Mom’s favorite stories (and my friends’ favorite as well) was my convincing introduction when I would meet new people. I would formally introduce myself as Belle. My Mom about ten seconds later would politely explain that my actual name was Elizabeth. I loved everything about Belle so much, I wanted to step fully into her shoes.

Although I can’t explain what was going on in my head at the age of two and a half, I think it was Belle’s unique personality that stuck with me. While she still met the same magical fate as the other Disney princesses, Belle achieved happiness simply by being herself. She followed her heart, spoke up for herself, and opposed injustice. She was selfless, and loved unconditionally. She read books and loved adventure – a fantastic role model who sought more than the typical princess, while still embracing education! (haha my 28-year-old feminist self, also totally relates to Belle)

While Beauty And The Beast did not dictate all of my life decisions obviously, having Belle as an early role model showed me that a woman could do anything she wanted.

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.
I want it more than I can tell.
And for once, it might be grand,
To have someone understand.
I want so much more than they’ve got planned.”

As a woman in the arts who followed her heart as well, this movie makes me so proud. I am proud of who I have become, and I too will never stop questioning and searching for exactly what I want from life.

Shrouded In ‘Shoulds’

“Remove [should] from your inner dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment…”

Should I? Should I really? Should that bother me? Should I brush it off? Should I be doing something else? Should I give up? What should I do next?……..questions like this cloud my head often. The quality and speed of my progress in many different areas can quickly be hindered by the emergence of should. The toxic word rapidly poisons thoughts and ideas, and can easily fuel a perpetual cycle of uneasiness and self-guilt. But I know I don’t bear this flaw alone. As a society, we are always pushing ourselves to become better versions of ourselves. But as we push to change and make improvements, we walk a fine line along the way. We must remember that although we nobly seek change, the desires of our hearts and minds exist for a reason.

“Shoulds” present a unique problem. The motivation behind our efforts always stems from a positive place…a driven, wholesome desire to change and adapt for the better. But as we proceed, whether we are investigating a new habit or a major life change, or simply making daily life decisions, we must ensure that the steps we take really add to our overall happiness.

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It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of change. We can easily convince ourselves “this is what I want!”, when we’re actually following in the footsteps of another or chasing after an ideal. If you’re feeling tortured and discontented, is the self-questioning really worth it?

The next time you sense should entering your brain, STOP it in its tracks. Remove it from your inner dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment, what will make you happy, and what will best serve you today and in the future. Don’t argue with yourself, don’t agonize, or create self-guilt. You know what you need to do, and you should.

An Allegro Anecdote: The Austin Toe Episode

“We’re idyllic, graceful beings onstage, but…in the light of day we have our more human moments.”

Ballet dancers are a rare breed. Superhuman, flexible, musical, artistic, graceful – all are common adjectives used to describe this specific subset of artistry. However, those of us within the dance field have definitely had our share of non-graceful moments. Let me share one of my personal un-graceful, unlucky moments as a dancer, braving the “elements” of the real world.

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One particular weekend of adventure…PC: me

Seven years ago (whoa) I attended Ballet Austin’s summer intensive program in Austin, Texas. It was an exciting time for me. I took my first solo plane trip, and as a soon-to-be college graduate, investigating a potential company for the summer was a thrilling opportunity. The BA program was six weeks long. Dancers were given not one, but two opportunities to learn original choreography, by Artistic Director Stephen Mills, and perform for audiences in the studio theatre. It was a difficult program, and definitely a challenge for me. As a more classically inclined, Vaganova trained dancer (from my days spent at Bossov Ballet Theatre) the more neoclassical, quick, and sometimes dry classes were very different from what I knew, yet still very valuable to my training.

As the summer passed and I developed friendships with other dancers within the program, we used our weekends to not only rest, but also to explore the culture of the Austin scene (did I mention I was 21 at the time?..) On a typical weekend adventure, we sought out one of our favorite delicious Mexican restaurants. I attended, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, prepared to combat the hot, dry weather of Austin. (I was obviously a much younger version of myself, since my feet weren’t killing me hiking around Austin in only flat flip flops..)

Graceful ballerina that I am, on the way back I tripped dramatically on an uneven section of sidewalk, stubbing the very top of my big toe bluntly into concrete. The pain was immediate and the force split my skin, blood gushing out onto my flip flop and the sidewalk. Since we were just a few blocks from our dorm, my friends and I thought I could make it back without requiring first aid care. But I couldn’t make it. My sandal was now stained with blood, and it just wouldn’t stop. We made a quick pit stop at a gas station (ew), and I wrapped my toe up like a mummy, with a thick glob of toilet paper. Glamorously blood stained, I made it back.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’d nearly incapacitated one of my precious feet within the course of about three hours.”

I proceeded to panic with my suite mates for a bit about the status of my toe, and we debated whether or not I’d be able to suffer through pointe work and rehearsal the following day. I figured all I could do was care for my toe and hope for improvement as quickly as possible, so I hopped in the shower to rinse off from the day. My toe finally clean, I stepped out of the shower into the small bathroom. Now this next part I promise you I did not make up; it is the honest truth. I pulled my towel from the bar on the wall, and the wobbly hardware loosened, sending the bar down. I wish I could say I had been quick enough to step out of the way, but I had no such luck. The towel bar came down vertically and smashed directly into the pinky toe of my injured foot. The force and the sharpness of the metal, immediately sliced my pinky toe nail into two pieces, and for the second time that day, I started losing a lot of blood. I finally cried with disbelief at it all. I couldn’t believe it. I’d nearly incapacitated one of my precious feet within the course of about three hours.

Suffice to say I got some pretty weird and unbelieving looks when I explained my unfortunate tale at the summer intensive the next day. I remember Michelle Martin, the ballet mistress, looking pretty skeptical as I gave the details, but my gauzed, mummy toes sealed the deal. A visit to the company’s nurse was less than comforting, as she cautioned that I be very careful not to let the wounds become infected.

A BA first arabesque at the Capital building..PC: Mom

After taking one full day off from dancing and a few off from pointe work, I was able to jump back into my classes and rehearsals, bandaged and ready to make the best of things. The pressure of a pointe shoe didn’t bother my toes much, but with only the barrier of a technique shoe and some gauze between my toe and the floor, ‘flat’ was rather painful for a while.

This wasn’t my first unfortunate event by any means, but this episode was one of many times where I learned to grit my teeth and power through. There are definitely occasions as dancers when we need to admit defeat, give ourselves a break, and “sit one out”. However, we are also often asked to spring back into action as quickly as possible. Time is precious, and we must defend our title as superhumans, after all. We’re idyllic, graceful beings onstage, but, obviously, in the light of day we have our more human moments. Today, my little raggedy pinky toe nail (that never really grew again) reminds me of my imperfections, but it also reflects my superhuman ability to carry on.

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