My Weakness and My Strength

“How can an industry that promotes such beautiful art also make us feel so badly about ourselves sometimes?”

Dance is my weakness and my strength.

Sometimes I wish I had fallen in love with a different occupation – something that truly pays the bills and/or something that doesn’t require giving so much of yourself (/ALL of yourself). Unfortunately, there were many moments in my life when dance made me feel bad about myself. I spent a lot of my company career trying to satisfy someone else, to fit in, to not disappoint, to match, and to blend in. I thought all I had to do was “hunker down”, neglect my own needs, and put in my time. But even then I did not always receive the reciprocated respect I was hoping for.

I write today in response to Kathryn Morgan’s brave and necessary reflection on her experience with Miami City Ballet. It was instantly clear that the content of her video resonated with many of us from the ballet world. Ms. Morgan boldly spoke about the toxic body shaming the dance world still perpetuates. Some companies unfortunately still promote the concept that you must be a certain size or fit a certain mold to be valued. Her words and her honesty made me want to get involved in the conversation.

I admit that I did not realize how deeply embedded ballet was in my brain until I started seeing a therapist for my mental health (Happy belated #worldmentalhealthday). All these years I naively thought that I had done a good job of compartmentalizing, keeping ballet in the studio and living the rest of my life according to me. But that was not the case. The situations that always bothered me the most, that would eat at me longer than necessary, were interactions I had with others in which I felt that I was not meeting their expectations. The thing that would drive me to anxiety wasn’t, “Is this what I want? Is this what I need?” But rather, “What will they think of me now? I’m letting that person down. I feel so bad.” The chronic need to please, a toxic personality trait that stems from my experience with ballet, had seeped into my regular life. What I am now trying to relearn essentially is how to care for myself and meet my own needs first. This is something I am still working on today and something I will always have to work at.

“I want my students to know that ART DOESN’T FIT INSIDE A MOLD.”

I do not regret my relationship with ballet. There are many moments that hurt me and are still etched inside my brain, but those moments made me stronger and wiser. Ballet dancers are strong, confident, perseverant, daring, and efficient. But the attack and the bravery that you may see onstage does not always directly translate behind the scenes. You may be surprised to find that offstage and in the real world, many dancers exhibit completely alternate qualities when it comes to addressing personal and social situations.

As artists we must strive to eliminate stories like Ms. Morgan’s, stories in which beautiful, hardworking artists are belittled and shamed. Mental stress, depression, eating disorders, and anxiety are all real experiences that all humans are susceptible to, especially dancers. We must eliminate the stigma associated with mental health and stop expecting every shred of a dancer’s mind and body to be strong. I want my students to know that ART DOESN’T FIT INSIDE A MOLD. It’s about movement, artistry, individuality, and diligence. An audience wants to watch someone who is real, who breathes and feels and has flaws. And we don’t choose dance because it’s easy. We want to feel everything, the highs and the lows – the fear, the pain, the love, and the joy.

My Thing: Confessions Of An Artist…Ballerina…Teacher…Work In Progress…& Human Being.

“It is comforting to know that I am not alone.”

I’ve always done the same “thing”. For years I haven’t wavered, wondered, or had to get creative (from being creative). It’s just the way my life has always been. I knew exactly what I wanted, how to get there, and what my most immediate plan of action was.

I have always been a dancer and a dance teacher…an active participant in the arts. However, I also always assumed that when the time came for me to move on to my next “thing”, I would know exactly what that should be and how to seamlessly transition. I thought it would be obvious how to achieve my next goal, and it would make me nearly as happy as performing…a close second, let’s say.

I’m still dancing now. It’s nowhere near the commitment and schedule I used to juggle as a performer, but I just don’t want to fully give up yet. I completed my first gig as a freelance artist last year and hope to dive into other similar ventures in the future (wink, wink). But in this new-ish phase of my life, there’s the nagging question, “what’s next?” I rack my brain frequently. For a few months this winter, the question kept me up at night. I’m always searching for answers and ideas that I might not have uncovered yet, in my quest for self. “What else can I do?” “What else am I good at?” “Do I want to go back to school?” And the ever practical, “Can I make ends meet, in the process?” I know what’s meant to be, will be, but I have never been the patient one who is willing to relax, loosen the reigns, and find out.

“There is also a huge…part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place.  It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect.”

 

I’m so happy to be back in this blog-space of mine, and I apologize for the huge delay. I have been at a loss..for time and for the right words. There is also a huge (more than I’d like to admit) part of me that has been very afraid to come back to this place. It’s hard as a perfectionist to admit when you feel so much less than perfect. But the further on I venture, I am able to realize and make peace with the fact that no one and nothing is perfect.

It is comforting to know that I am not alone. My professional life as a dancer has been spent surrounded by AMAZING, CARING, BRILLIANT individuals. As I reach a pointed toe out for the next stepping stone of my life, I know that I am not the first to make this type of journey, or experience the vast array of emotions that come along with it. Many of my friends no longer dance professionally, or, like me, are currently trying to figure out what’s next.

Admittedly, I still feel at a loss at times…overwhelmingly sad and disappointed. Supporting and sharing my knowledge with my students means the world to me, but I envy all the days they have ahead. Those terrifying, exciting, nerve-racking shows, auditions, classes…I wish someone had told me to truly relish in them…or at least that I had listened.

It’s scary not to know exactly what’s next. But for every confusing, difficult, heart wrenching moment when I miss the intensity of the life that I had, there is another moment in which I appreciate what is wonderful now. I still have “my thing”. I am able to experience ballet…What if nothing else makes me happy? {At least I’m still able to fly.}

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.

Keith collage 2

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.

IMG_3154
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.

IMG_3129
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!

~

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. ❤

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/

versatile-blogger-award

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)

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.

fullsizeoutput_168c
My 4th Birthday Cake – Someone clearly messed up my name on the cake though because “my name is Belle”. PC-Mom & Dad

fullsizeoutput_168d
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.

IMG_2933

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.

Permission Granted.

“…grant yourself the permission to be who you are at this very minute.”

I have an innate ability to “beat myself up.” Self-criticism is a pastime that many of us engage in, however, I feel that my brain takes this task very seriously. Some may call it drive, some may call it self-discipline, but it can easily be overdone, bordering on the line of self-abuse. In light of the previously “celebrated” occasion of World Mental Health Day (there truly is a day for everything now, isn’t there?), I’m taking the liberty of dedicating a post to granting myself permission. Permission to explore, permission to take care of myself, and permission to not be certain of my path.

I am fortunate that for the past 27 years of my life I have known what I wanted. My journey has felt fairly straightforward and has not sent me reeling with discontent or uncertainty that often. The chain of events that propelled me into my current state was something I always knew could happen, but that potential was easy to ignore.

“I feel off-kilter because of the oddity of all this, [but]…things could be worse.

As I embark on my first full season sans professional dancer contract, I don’t think I’ve lost too much physical momentum. However, mentally, it all feels like a whole new playing field..which it is. But while I feel off-kilter because of the oddity of all this, I also must humbly admit that things could be worse.

For starters, the injury that literally knocked me down a little over a year ago has healed up pretty well (I’ve had my share of scares-ankle rolls for life-and the ache may never go away, but I feel infinitely stronger than this time last year). And while I am not currently performing, I am still able to rely on my art form (and my B.F.A.!) financially, as I now focus heavily on my teaching.

I still make the time to step into the studio four to five times a week. But I now have the time to really focus on myself. While I don’t love having extra time, the luxury can be amazing. Time for self, time for consideration, time to enjoy things and appreciate, rather than resent…

As I remind myself, I also remind you – grant yourself the permission to be who you are at this very minute. Continue to push forward without aggressively picking yourself apart. Resist the temptation to turn a transition time into a crisis. Because it’ll be okay. Remember that everything really does happen for some (crazy) reason, and, hopefully, whatever hardship you are experiencing will become just another tile along your board of life. It’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to have questions. Slow down if you need to, but don’t stop.

typorama

Back To (Ballerina) School

“I love this time of year. I thrive off the thrill of day one.”

September looms before us as students, young and old, head back to school. The nights are a bit more crisp, school sales are underway, and Halloween decorations have somehow crept onto store shelves. Bear with me, because this all makes me rather nostalgic. A truth has hit me (and I accept it willingly, but need to talk it out of course): this is the first year of my life since I was five years old that I will not be “going back to school”, so to speak. Obviously, for 17 of those years, I was truly attending an academic institution of some kind. However, the past five years of my life I have started each late August with a “first day of school” as well. “Ballerina school” – five years of company life.

IMG_0919_2
Just another day at school – happy ballerina – April 2015

I know I’m not the only one that treats the first day back for the company season as the fantastic fresh start that it is. Just as a student preps with a backpack full of fresh notebooks, their coolest outfit, and the yummiest lunch, a dancer preps their shoes, their best leo, and the lunch and snack that will fuel their long day back. It’s clean slate time. Although not all mistakes may have been forgotten, the purity of summer allows even dancers a chance to unwind and be real people. The possibilities are endless now, there are new faces and old friends, spirits are high, and the road that is the next year of your life is laid out before you.

I love this time of year. I thrive off the thrill of day one. Freshness (I’m convinced I have a low grade case of OCD), new beginnings, organization, and plans, plans, plans. But this year is not like the rest. There will be no first day of school for me (for those of you who haven’t heard). It is not ideal, and, honestly, it makes me sad. But it’s what’s happening. A year ago today I took a fall (Balanchine loved dancers who fell, by the way). It was obviously a stumbling point, and it has caused me to stumble again and again, but I won’t let it be an end point.

“What if nothing else besides dancing makes me happy?”

I don’t know when I’ll have another opportunity to be on-stage…another opportunity to pour out joy and emotion and leave it there for the taking…but I know that the skepticism I have about the road ahead is okay and it’s natural. Sometimes this is where the true magic lies–in the unexpected.

I admit I am questioning things. Because I like to know what I’m doing…I like a good plan. Not knowing what I’m meant to do next is killing me. What if nothing else besides dancing makes me happy? (teaching dance makes me happy, but in an entirely different way-that’s a convo for another time…soon) What if there isn’t a replacement, a supplement for it? I’m afraid that I won’t be content with anything else…But I’m trying to figure it all out because that’s what I do. That’s me.

So to all my good friends who have started school – regular schooling or “ballerina school” – good luck. Put your best foot forward and plunge into the new.

To ballet company life – this isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.

IMG_2208
“the true magic lies-in the unexpected.” PC – Wendy Grande

Oh Merde…

“Whatever you choose as your comfort and encouragement, make it personal…”

Routines, lucky leotards, good ol’ wishes of “Merde!” – we all have our superstitious rituals that we think ensure us a shot at a perfect performance. But do all these drills really guarantee our success? Not at all, but the peace of mind that comes along with them certainly can’t hurt.

What brought this topic to mind this week was my leotard selection Monday morning. To anyone else, it was a peach colored Yumi (short for the popular brand Yumiko, for the non-dance folk) with sky blue trim. Style – Noe. It’s gorgeous and gets constant compliments, but to me it’s not just a pretty little number. It’s also the leotard I was wearing when I brutally sprained my ankle four and a half months ago. I’ve honestly completely avoided it until now. Seeing it just made me sad and angry, and also terribly afraid that it was jinxed with injury. But Monday morning, I went for it. Audition ready for a guest artist at Charlottesville Ballet, I donned the dreaded, beautiful Yumi, put up my hair in my favorite Sarah Lamb copycat braided hairdo, and strapped on my pointe shoes. And I got it – a role in a beautiful classical, pointe piece, awarded to me by a completely outside party. It was the proof that my mind needed that not all hope is lost. Leotard curse – eliminated.

snow sticks
Snow sticks. In a Facebook post on November 20, 2012, I stated, “They look vicious even lying there. So evil.” So true.

Another superstition example that comes to mind is a ritual I used to participate in during Nutcracker. During my time at Ballet Theatre of Maryland, performing snow was an experience. Intense. Hats off to this version, for sure. My second or third season at BTM though, a good friend and I developed a small tradition that we felt guaranteed success. Whether in the studio or backstage, we would take our “snow sticks” (small wooden props outfitted with blue and silver tinsel, one for each hand, giving the illusion of icicles onstage), tap them against each other’s, and do a little whispered chant – “J.O.D., J.O.D., J.O.D.!” (needless to say this is where the inception of my blog occurred, as well…). Three reps would complete the chant, and we then wrapped it up with a little nuzzle of tinsel against both sides of each other’s necks. To an outsider, or even to our colleagues in the company, we looked crazy. But we did it every time. Did it affect our execution of the steps or guarantee smooth sailing? No, but it cheered us up, gave us a good laugh, and boosted our spirits for the chaos about to begin.

” ‘Merde.’…the most honorary of wishes for ballet dancers worldwide.”

IMG_0502
J.O.D. is born, original merchandise made for a dear friend

If you’re not a dancer, I’m sure you’ve wished dancers a good show in the past by saying, “Break a leg!” Don’t. Never. Will the dancer actually break their leg? Most likely, no, but know now that this phrase is for actors only. For dancers, no thanks, too risky. You should instead be prepared to say, “Merde.” Upon research and translation, you will find that this term does in fact mean s**t in French, however, it is the most honorary of wishes for ballet dancers worldwide. Opinion varies on why we actually use the term, but there are two tangents of thought. The first – that ballets and operas in the past, involving actual live animals onstage, led to spectators yells of “Merde” to warn performers to watch their step to avoid the droppings. The second – that a successful performance would see a great deal of carriage traffic outside the theater, and therefore, a large quantity of horse droppings – the more carriages, the more poop, the more people who attended, the better the show, the better the luck! Makes sense!

11951397_10154054608513912_3559579981194048656_n
First day in the peach leo…no longer the last…Photo Courtesy of Emily Mott

So regardless of what you wear, what you do, or what’s said to you, anything can happen when you perform. Whatever you choose as your comfort and encouragement, make it personal and make it something that lifts you up. Maybe a warmup that literally lifts you and gets you “on your leg”, maybe a special pair of earrings, maybe a prayer, or even just a hug from a friend…don’t worry how silly you feel, or who’s watching or judging – do exactly what you must do to succeed and to triumph.