For years I cringed every time I heard even a few notes of Nutcracker music ringing out in stores and on commercials this time of year. Having spent the better part of two decades listening to the entire score from September through December, it was all I could do to tune it out once I got into my twenties and ‘put ballet behind me.’ I told myself it was similar to ‘It’s A Small World’ – something I just couldn’t get out of my head. A jingle that grated on my inner ear.
The truth, though. The truth is I miss it. So much. And for many years it was just too painful to be reminded of it, knowing I had ‘put ballet behind me.’ I miss being part of a tradition so much larger than me. Focusing on a singular goal for so much time, all leading up to sharing a timeless joy with so many audience members. The hours upon hours of rehearsals and classes, the waiting to find out what parts we would be playing that year – it could be agony to be sure. But also something so special I craved it – still crave it. Nutcracker was synonymous with Christmas for me. And then when it wasn’t I went in search of all kinds of other holiday traditions that just never seemed to fill the void.
I tried putting my pointe shoes on again the other night. (I posted pics HERE.) To be reminded of what it felt like to be a dancer. It hurt. More than it used to. And I may never put them back on and return to the stage to delight audiences with my fancy footwork. But I also know, now, more than ever, that I will never stop being a dancer. It will never be behind me. The torture I have felt throughout the years when I have made the conscious – or not – decision to turn my back on dance, it was because I was being untrue to myself. I can’t ever separate me as a being from me as a dancer. We are one and the same, even when the perfectionist in me doesn’t feel my current state lives up to the dancer I once was, or could have been.
But I digress. The point of tonight’s post was, that I was reminded today of how much joy Nutcracker has brought to me throughout the years. And while the holiday spirit didn’t quite snatch me up this year, reminiscing about my dancing days did bring a smile to my face. And it brought me to the below picture, which also made me smile.
I had no direction, no intention. Only fear. Of not being good enough.
There is the mantra about practice – that as an artist our first many rounds of practice will not produce good art. It is only through repeated practice, and willingness to fail, that we will get any better at our craft. I know this. I believe in it. Except.
The thing is, I have never been good at letting myself fail. (Which keeps me from doing many, many things because I give up even before I give it, or myself a chance.)
I have also been at this dancing thing a long time. But hardly ever as the one pushing the creative vision. That’s what scares me. So the idea that I would now need to practice, and possibly produce not-so-good work along the way, is a difficult reality to swallow.
I’ve gotten much more comfortable SPEAKing here, on this blog, over the past 80 days, but that has yet to translate to my dancing. I’m working on it. This time, I’m not in the mood to give up.
Some dance inspiration that came my way today. Which I am now passing along to you.
We are always so quick to want to inspire younger generations – to impart our wisdom on them. But sometimes, it’s important to step back and realize just how much they can inspire and teach us. Case in point, this video. Let’s be clear that BOTH of these young dancers did their thing. But man oh man, this little lady sure did own that stage.
And these photos, courtesy of my dad, who recently returned from a trip to Buenos Aires:
So I have a confession to make: I didn’t get very far with the choreography I was “supposed” to start today. The song selection – Ready For Love – it feels a bit too close to home somehow. Which is why it’s so good for me. But also makes it hard to start. It feels like it has to be just right, this choreography, as if my life depends on it. Because in some sense, maybe it does. Because I don’t know if I’m ready to love, in real life. But I want to be. So it feels like possibly one depends on the other – me learning to be ready to love, and me learning to create a dance piece again.
Loving myself, that’s where the work is first. That’s what this project has been teaching me thus far, in amazingly unforeseen ways. So I’ll keep at it, I just have to continue to remind myself that this structure I keep imposing on myself, these rules, I need to let them go. And the creativity, and dancing, will come, when it’s supposed to. Even if it’s on a different timeline than the one I have set for myself.
So instead of my own work, tonight I’m sharing a bit of outside inspiration. My friend showed this video – a blend of ballet and yoga – before our yoga class this evening. It’s beautiful and skillful and well worth the five and a half minutes it will take for you to watch the whole thing. I present to you:
Phillip Askew & Lydia Walker – Variations On Surya Namaskara – YOUTUBE LINK
It has been a long time since I took a ballet class. I mean really, took a ballet class. I was rusty to say the least. Some of it, though, always stays with you. The way riding a bike does. Or so I’ve heard (I’ve never been a good bike rider and therefore don’t have any helpful memory stored in my muscles when I get on a bike now.)
Photo by Aanya Photography. Styling by Ali Cerullo.
It’s slightly less painful these days to look at myself in the mirror for an hour and a half straight, scrutinizing every inch. Not because I am necessarily overjoyed by what I see, but because with age seems to come at least a few more ounces of self acceptance.
The other thing that time away has afforded me is the heightened awareness of how much my body and spirit love the movement. Feeling every muscle engaged, being so intensely focused, this, to me, is LIVING. It is a feeling I wish I could bottle up and share the world over. It is how my heART speaks.
Tonight I danced. Well. Taught really. I have been teaching a ballet class at Sculpere Studio for the past few months. It’s nothing fancy. Some stretching and barre work, a few exercises in the center. A new offering at a studio that specializes in a blend of yoga and ballet conditioning. It was the first down to earth place I found in Philadelphia. I have been so grateful to take classes there, and to have developed a friendship with the owner, Cristina. The studio is cozy and inviting and the ladies who come are wonderfully sweet. Tonight was actually my last class – bigger and better things are about to pop off in my place. But it’s been a nice way to ease back into the dance world and I am happy for the opportunity. Tonight, in the spirit of saying goodbye, we got a little crazy… I threw some unconventional combinations at them. And they just smiled and nodded and went along with my slightly delirious self.
I look forward to the next time I will be hitting the studio to get my dance on…
and you can be sure I will record it here.
If you are in the Philadelphia area looking for yoga or a dance workout, or both, you should check out Sculpere. If you are anywhere in the world and do yoga or pilates or any type of mat classes, you should check out Blake Brody shoes (what I’m wearing in the above photo.) They are awesome. And bonus, they are eco-friendly.