Artistry

To me, there is one key element that separates a dancer from a performer: artistry. Artistry is the visible emotion a performer exudes to help better tell a story. It takes a piece from just steps and movements to a piece of art. It is like the icing on the cake, so to speak.

I’ve always been an emotive dancer and have developed my artistry over the years by observing other dancers. My absolute favorite company to watch for inspiration is the Paris Opera Ballet. Not only are their sets and costumes gorgeous, but their dancers have impeccable technique and artistry. The dancer’s artistry helps to connect with the audience on a deeper level. In my senior year of high school, I studied many French and Russian dancers and companies to get inspiration for a ballet I was performing. No one taught me about artistry, rather I learned on my own. After my last performance, a parent came up to me and said that my dancing was so beautiful that it moved her to tears. She said she had felt my heartache and mourned my on stage death. I have never received a more beautiful compliment than that. All of my hard work had paid off and I had achieved what I had been working towards: making the audience believe the story I was telling.

Dancing is a form of story telling. No audience member wants to pay money to come to a show and fall asleep from boredom. I stress that to my students all the time and encourage them to dance from their hearts. Saturday mornings I teach a Variations class. This is a class where students learn short dances from different ballets and get the chance to perform and learn about performing. Hands down this is my absolute favorite class to teach because I get to be more expressive than in a technique class and I get to teach my students how to be well rounded dancers. It is hard to teach a dancer how to use artistry and feel emotion, especially if it is a feeling they have never felt before.

Developing artistry takes time and once learned, will change the who dynamics of a dancer’s performance.

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Starting Over

The last three weeks have been all about starting over and trying new things. I am doing things I never thought I would be doing and I’m quite comfortable with my decisions. I’ve started a new job teaching and I’m in a new relationship with a man I thought I would be searching my whole life for. I’m living back in my hometown and I’m living in a beautiful house. Things feel like they are finally starting to go my way.

Starting over is never an easy thing. Letting go of the past and coming to terms that things have to change for them to get better is always the hardest part. Separating yourself from everything and looking at it from other people’s eyes is not something people do willingly because they know deep down that what they see is the truth. For years I have been living in denial that the place I was in in life was the best one for me. I was so in love that I was blinded by everything. I was turning into a robot by going through the motions without true feeling. I knew deep down that I needed to get out but I kept making excuses as to why I should stay. The thought of having to start over was so scary. I was afraid that I would spend the next several years being single and lonely. Well…I could not have been more wrong. Three weeks ago I met the most amazing man; he’s level headed, selfless, caring and genuinely wants to take care of and love me. Yes, LOVE me! Starting over and learning to love again has been just as scary as I thought it would be.

I started teaching again last Monday and my body was hurting come Wednesday. It has been years since I taught back to back classes more than one day a week and my body was yelling at me for taking so much time off. I am teaching contemporary and modern classes to all levels and ages. This is the first time in my life I am teaching modern classes and it is coming to me a lot easier than I thought it would. I teach a very traditional class and I can tell my students are not use to it. But it is good for them! I am finally getting back into the groove of teaching and I love it so much. I finally have joy back in my life. I doubted myself at first in regards to having the creativity to teach anything but ballet. I had not spent a lot of time teaching and choreographing outside ballet. After watching many youtube videos and videos of my beautiful friend Patti, a beautiful dancer I mentioned in my previous post, I am inspired and ready to keep improving as a contemporary and modern dance teacher.

Starting over is always a good time to dive into things you may not have considered before. Change can be scary but it’s a good way to stay inspired and in love with the things that mean the most to you.

Boost of Confidence

During the last two years I have been questioning my ability as a dance teacher. I know I do not have the professional experience or certifications and I sometimes let that get to my head. After watching teachers at my last job, I really couldn’t compare myself to them and their level of experience. I did not think I would be hired to teach the highest levels, but I certainly did not think I would not even be considered to teach the lowest. The day I was told I was more valuable at the job I was doing was the day I thought, “Maybe I’m not a good teacher”. Here is this person who has never even seen me teach and they’re basically telling me that I’m not good enough to teach for them. It was definitely a blow to the stomach. I know I had not been teaching long, but I was more than willing to learn how to become a better teacher.

Since my departure from my last job, I have been observing at the studio I currently teach ballet at, trying to learn as much as I can – one can never stop learning nor improving. I would love to eventually get my certification in the ABT training method. It is a reputable company that has built a strong curriculum that encompasses the entire education of ballet from nutrition to technique.

Since my recent return to the teaching only world, I have been thinking about those who have doubted my teaching abilities. I’ve looked at the students I’ve taught and where they are at and realized that I am a good teacher. Tuesday I was offered a teaching job at a local studio as a Lyrical and Modern teacher at the Int/Adv level and that was so amazing to hear. Most of my training growing up was in traditional ballet with a little bit of jazz and modern. It was not until I reached college that I developed my contemporary style to what it is today. I also have my beautiful, and recently engaged, friend Patti Hogan to thank for helping me develop it. I’m not even sure she knows how much of an influence she has been on me. Middle of next week I’ll have an interview at another studio in regards to teaching ballet classes. Eeek.

All of these new teaching opportunities have been quite the boost in confidence that I have been needing. Every teacher is different and can bring something out in their students. My goal is to give my students the kind of attention and training that I was not given when I was their age. I want to give them the best well rounded training and real life advice so that they will be happy and succeed in any genre of dance.

The Next Steps

The last few months have been nothing but constant change. Just when I think I am at a place where I can finally start moving forward, I fall back several steps. As lame as it may sound, turning 25 last December has been really hard on me. I had trepidations about it because it would mean I’m half way to 50. If you would have asked me five years ago where I would be, I would have told you I would be married and either pregnant or already have one kid and working a great job. My life could not be more different; I’m single and only working my part-time job. And to be honest, I’m not as crushed as one might think.

Being recently single, I find myself trying to figure out what I really want. I’m slowly starting to get back into the dating world and it feels weird. I feel like I need to start a whole other blog just to explain how horrible and awkward that has been for me so far. From Tinder to Plenty of Fish, I have only met men looking for hookups or men who are stage five clingers! It has definitely been exhausting. I have to force myself to go out with friends so I can meet new people. I already feel like I need to take a break from all of this because I’m tired! Right now I think I’m more interested in being friends with someone and seeing where it goes from there.

Now for the other major change in my life…being some what jobless. As of last week I am only working my part-time job: teaching ballet. Dance has always been part of my life and it is what makes me happy. I never thought I would thoroughly enjoy teaching kids nor that I would find the most amazing employer. The woman I teach for has been nothing but amazing to me for the last two years and has also become my friend. I want to make teaching more of a full-time job and I am willing to hustle and make that happen – I’ve done it before. It it nice to be able to just focus and work on my creativity. My full-time job really robbed me of my creativity because I was so use to doing the same things over and over every day; it was becoming mind numbing. I forgot what it was like to be creative and edgy. Yes, leaving my full-time job was very hard but it did not exactly blind side me. I had been unhappy with my life for several months and all I wanted to do was retreat from everything. I had even contemplated moving to Florida so I could live at the beach. I actually still think about it. Along with being unhappy came laziness and carelessness. It was the first time in my life I had felt that way and I did not know what to do to fix it. I tried several times to make changes but they did not stay. Now that I just have teaching, I’m some what relieved. I can now focus on making teaching my life and keep moving closer to my dream of opening up my own dance studio. I met a friend recently who has really been opening up my mind to seeing things in a better light. He has been reminding me to not let others determine my happiness and that I should know what I want from a relationship before I go and seek one. He said  I should not focus too intently on one relationship or another because I might miss the one that is really right for me, and that I should work on me and not say I’m ready for a relationship because I may also miss something. We both have hard breakup stories and it has been liberating, and a bit scary, to open up to someone and cry like a make-up free fool in front of them. This is another first time in my life where I have let another male see me in such a raw state. I have to say, it has been really nice to not have to get all dolled up to hang out with him.

Though age is really just a number, 25 has been one bitch of a number so far. I have been experiencing life like I never thought and I am learning to take each day differently than the next. No two days will be exactly the same and I have to start each day fresh and with an open mind. Having my mornings to reflect on everything is getting me in the right mindset to be truly happy again. Reality is hard and I am just becoming stronger!

So I Stayed

This year started a little differently than I had expected. Though, in a way, it started very similar to last year. I had thought I would be spending the night two-stepping and having a good time but instead I spent it inside with my boyfriend. He had the flu so going out was not really an option. It was kind of nice to wake up the next morning and not feel like I had been hit by a train.

Since my year started a little slower than previous years, I thought it would continue to. It sort of had until last week. My boyfriend has been out of a job for a good seven months. He sat me down one day and said he had quit his job because he was unhappy. I just sat there stunned and could feel tears begin to fill my eyes. I was trying to be supportive because I knew what it was like to have a job that you completely hate it. But I also knew that as a 26 year old man, quitting your job because you hate it is not really an option. Especially when you have financial responsibilities and no other job to fall back on. With that being said, I did not support what he had done.

For the next seven months, almost daily I thought about what my life would be like without him in it. Some days I wanted to stay and be with him and others I wanted to walk away. What made it even harder was that we had just re-signed a 10 month lease on our apartment and I did not want to pay penalty costs for breaking the lease. So I continued to love him and financially support the both of us. A part of me died inside because I felt like I was becoming the man in the relationship and I didn’t feel special. We hardly went on dates and there was little to no intimacy. But I still loved him.

Sometime in October, the first big “punch” to the stomach happened. I got home early from work and noticed my boyfriends phone laying on the couch. I guess that’s why he wasn’t answering the phone. I couldn’t help but look through it and there it was. A text between him and a girl he had met while in Houston with some friends. They had sent suggestive pictures and words back and forth to each other. This had been going on for two weeks. I had thought something was going on because he became more protective of his phone. He began sleeping with it under his pillow and taking it with him from room to room. Confronting him was hard because I really just wanted to end things right then and there. Yet again he begged me to stay because he wanted to show me how much he loved me. He kept asking for more time. So I stayed.

The holidays came and went and things seemed to have gotten better between us. I could feel myself falling back into the love I had for him before. It was nice. I was happy. But deep down I could feel myself still wanting more.

My boyfriend finally started a new job this January and really liked it. A month later he interviewed for a different position within the company and got the job. This meant that within two years he would need to move to Houston. This meant that within two years I would need to move to Houston. This was the man I was going to marry one day when he eventually asks. When we are literally the last single couple of our friends. When he finally gets the money together to buy a ring. The next week I was proven wrong.

I can still hear the words that seemed to drip out of his mouth. He told me that in six months when our lease ends, HE is moving to Houston and that would mean I would need to find a place to live. The words WE never left his mouth. He said that he was going to live with a friend because he needed this time to live on his own. He had never lived away from home or away from his parents. And now he decided that he wanted this time to really focus on himself and his job. What he said next will stay with me forever.

“I’m not ready to get married. I don’t want to marry you right now.”

It felt like he was saying that he didn’t really love me. That the last four years didn’t make him realize how much he loves me and that he needs me in his life. That he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life with me. I have never felt more hurt in my entire life. I was happy he found a job he loves but I was not ready leave the life that I had been building for the last two years.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I know what I want. I’m 25 years old and I do not want to keep moving cities every few years or be with a man who does not really know what he wants from a relationship. I know the kind of man I want to marry. I’m not going to stay in a relationship that is no longer working.

For so long, the thought of letting go seemed extremely hard. So I stayed. But to be truly happy and achieve what I want in the next five years, I have to let go.

So I left.

The Word Independent and The Meaning Of.

What does independent really mean? Living by ones self and paying all bills by ones self? Living by ones self but only paying partial bills and still relying on others for help? It really depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I’ll tell you I’m independent but my dad pays for my health insurance and that is it. I have a car payment in my name, school loans I’m slowly paying back, I file my taxes as an independent and I even pay my own phone bill. I know people who are 30 years old and their parents still pay their phone bills and their school loans. I even have friends who recently built their dream home with major help from their parents. I guess it must be nice to live with your parents when your that age and save money. Then on top of all of that, have them pay for your new home. To me, that is not independence. That is still “sucking from the teet”. I can understand parents help their children with some of the expenses but not a majority of it. There is no sense of pride knowing you did not work for what you have.

If you look up the word Independent in the dictionary this is what you will find:

a (1) not subject to control by others

b (1) not requiring or relying on something else: not contingent

I will admit, there was a time in my early 20s that I relied heavily on others to help me out. The only part of me that was independent was my self choice. But since then I have gotten a stable job and am financially responsible for myself. By this time next year, I will be the most independent version of myself that I have ever been. And that scares the living daylights out of me. Being an adult is somewhat overrated.

The Hard Truth

In the dance world, this is the time of year when dancers find out if their contracts will be renewed for the next season. It is also when Trainees and Second company members hear if they have been promoted to the full company. It’s also a wake up call for some to see where they are where they have to go to get what they want. It’s a make or break kind of time. 

A few weeks ago, I saw some of the Trainees, or Fellows as we call them here, came out of the conference room looking rather defeated. Some of them said they were told to look into contemporary ballet companies while others were told they really need to work on their technique or that they had not improved enough during there time here for them to continue on. For those who have given up going to college in order to pursue a career in dance, this is everything to them. They HAVE to make it. And if they don’t, like some this year haven’t, they have to move back home and weigh their options of smaller companies or teaching. I have a number of friends from college who are teaching now because they didn’t make it in the professional world. I also have a number of friends who are touring the world on cruise ships. 

For me, I chose not to pursue a professional career dancing because of the health reasons and because I had lost my passion for it. My mother was the only one who had told me the hard truth. But who want’s to listen to what their mom has to say. It’s a lot harder coming from someone who could possibly be giving you a job.  

Woman In The Mirror

Since I stopped dancing everyday, I have become more and more comfortable with the image I see in the mirror. I no longer stress about how flat my stomach should be or how much of a gap needs to be in between my thighs; AKA “thigh gap”. Though, every year when swimsuit season comes around, I get stressed about showing my pale, jiggly thighs. Sometime in either high school or middle school, I got fat and my body grew out quicker than it did up. I was never overweight but I was pudgy. So now I have ugly little stretch marks on my outer and some on my inner thighs which I am very self conscious about. It’s even kind of hard to confess that I have them.

During the last month I have been eating better and working out at least three times a week. If I had more time and energy, I would do it more. I am not trying to get into shape for anything, nor am I trying to lose weight, I just want to tone up and look good. I spend most of my days sitting on my rear typing at a computer so I have basically become what is known as “sedimentary”. Since I have been working out again, I have been feeling better about myself and even have a little more energy. I have not seen any results yet but that all comes with time. The best part is that I don’t feel like a puffy blob. Cutting out heavy foods at lunch and eating oatmeal or protein shakes for breakfast has also helped.

I know I will never get back into dancing as intensely as I use to, and I am fine with that. What I am not fine with is becoming a jiggly, saggy blob. Choosing to no longer pursue a career as a dancer has helped me to live a less stressful life of constantly battling the image I see in the mirror.

 

 

Working to Keep What You Have

In addition to my full time job, I also teach ballet once a week for two hours. If there was more time in the day, I would be teaching more; trust me. The director at the studio I teach at asked me a few weeks ago if I could teach more days. I instantly teared up and choked through my conversation with her. This is the first time in my life I have been able to pay my bills and still have spending money without worrying about which bills can be paid now and which ones can wait. I’m hoping she will give me another class. I’ve noticed that just teaching once a week throws me off on preparing my classes. My memory is not what it use to be. But what I miss most is choreographing. Whether it’s ballet or contemporary, I just want to set a piece on my students. The other night I got a glimpse of what they could do when i saw them working on their student choreography pieces. It would be amazing if I could set contemporary and classical ballet piece on them. 

 

Being a grownup is not all I thought it would be. One day I hope to make my full time job being a studio owner and teacher.  

Her Life After Dancing

I recently fell back into contact with a friend I met years ago at a summer intensive in North Carolina. She was the sweetest girl from New Jersey. And yes, she had an accent. She graduated from college a few years ago with a dance degree and joined a small ballet company in northern Virginia shortly after graduation. After a year with the company, she realized how damaging her dream was becoming to her health. She was not eating right, she was losing her self confidence and she began to HATE performing. It was not what she thought it would be.The competition and the way the dancers treated each other pushed her to leaving the professional world. This is not to say that all companies are the same. She now works on the other side of the curtain doing Arts Management and Development.

 

Though I never danced professionally, I can relate to how cruel dancers can be to one another. It’s a constant battle to fight and keep what you have or claw your way to the top. The health part of it was also very challenging for me especially since I do not have a naturally thin body. 

 

I am glad my friend is doing something that she loves and is still keeping the dance world part of her life.