Every part of my body aches, from my swollen feet to the nape of my stiffened neck. A strange soreness shoots daggers through my poor pinky toe at the slightest touch. My right forearm has inflated considerably, just another physical sign of my recent time spent wielding a steel sword and fighting off pirates. The sweet score of this ebullient ballet beats incessantly on my eardrums, choreography dancing around my mind every time I close my eyes. It bounces up, down, left, right, rebounding off the inside of my skull tirelessly, on repeat, on autopilot, without my instruction. At night my dreams are filled with sideways visions of dark houses down below, as I swing from the top of the VETS stage, clutching to the hand of a boy who won’t grow up. During the day, I’m waist deep in fairy dust, looking down to see my feet being swallowed by pointe shoes more often than not. I’m utterly exhausted, yet completely content. In less than two weeks, I’ll take the stage for the most important premiere of my life. Now seems like a good time to do some reflecting…
These past few weeks I have trained longer and harder than ever before. The level of self discipline required of a ballet dancer is nothing new to me, but this volume of work certainly is. Most of my days are spent dripping in sweat, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, navigating each ache and pain as I weave my way through the challenges of dancing such a major role. I’m learning as I go, teaching my body to find moments of relaxation and breath so that I can carry on dancing through to the very. last. scene. It’s impossible not to grow through an experience like this one, but I could have never imagined a personal evolution as substantial as this.
When I compare this process to my physical status at this time last year, it’s almost hard to believe. One year ago I was fractured, broken…crippled on the couch. And now, I feel stronger and more able than ever in my life. Ballet has this amazing power to nourish you, if you’ll let it. Its provocation feeds you not only with physical fortitude, but with a mental resilience to rival your darkest of days.
Now, as I alternate between nerves and excitement, I keep reminding myself that- for better or for worse- performing this ballet will be a huge milestone in my career, and I must do all that I can to diffuse the stress and enjoy this moment. Because once you leave Neverland, it’s hard to know when you’ll return.
[photo by Christine Manory]