all this has happened before, and it will all happen again

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Growing up, I was a Disney kid.  Some lived for Nickelodeon, others were Looney Toons Lovers, but in my world it was only Disney.  And I don’t mean Disney Channel, no, my little heart beat only for the animated musicals that began with a blue castle and ended with a lesson well learned.  Princesses, pirates, animals that can sing…in my wide eyes, Disney was the stuff dreams are made of.

My mother kept our impressive collection of Disney videos stacked in a big wooden cabinet in the living room.  Some of their cases were torn and faded, a sign of that movie’s prominence in the rotation (and probably residual stains from being clutched by my grilled-cheese-greased hands).  One of these “more loved” cases was the one that held Peter Pan.  Disney’s 1953 version of J.M. Barrie’s classic play-turned-novel(turned movie-turned broadway musical-turned ballet) was always one of my favorites, indulging my young imagination with its constant adventures.  Now, taking a trip down memory lane with Tinker Bell and Netflix, suddenly I’m enlightened.

Rewatching Peter Pan in my 20s, I realize the message here is so much deeper (and a bit more racist) than what’s seen on the pixie-dusted surface.  In the opening lines (the title of this post), the narrator suggests the cyclical nature of this story; The audience is joining in a little late, but this will not be the final telling.  Peter has visited the Darling house before, and you can bet your second star he’ll be back again.  His life is a succession of new children, new friends, new stories.  Saying hello, and saying goodbye.  It’s really quite sad when you consider it.  I was never truly able to wrap my head around the story’s meaning as a youngster, but suddenly Peter’s fear of growing older and Wendy’s dreams of a land where kids stay kids forever sound like a page from my own diary…

At some point I think we all feel a nostalgia for younger times.  But then maturity sets in, responsibilities take hold and we realize that growing up isn’t so scary after all.  What makes this story worth hearing is the contrast between Peter’s unyielding grip on youth and Wendy’s choice to ascend into young adulthood.

Of course, as the reality of my fast-approaching 22nd birthday sets in, I’m still clinging to that youth, spending my days sword fighting in Neverland with Captain Hook and The Lost Boys.  How’s that for employee benefits?

{photo above of me in my younger years, c/o Thomas Nola-Rian}

work shoes

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The first full week of Peter Pan  rehearsals has come and gone, leaving a trail of battered pointe shoes and swollen feet in its wake.  Last Friday I strapped on the satin death traps and didn’t stop once.  I’m hurting all over, and we’ve only learned Act I.  Woof.

Clearly demonstrated by my lack of activity here on the blog, I’ve been pretty swamped with rehearsals and PT and getting over a cold and sewing pointe shoes and reading for my new online Physiology course and…trying to stay sane?  Am I the only one who has a hard time separating studio life and real life?  Is it hard for anyone else to transition from work time to playtime?  Sometimes I forget that the weekend is not only a time to rest and recuperate my body, but also a chance to see friends, drink wine and cheat the diet (if we’re getting specific ;).  I’m hoping to do a better job of balancing all that out next weekend…although I’ve heard rumors that a 6-day work week is approaching tomorrow…wish me luck!

a dark audition day

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In the ballet world, auditions are a fact of life.

Sometimes you’re competing against thousands of ballet students for a scholarship to a summer intensive, sometimes you’re rivaling hundreds of young dancers for a spot in a professional company, and sometimes your up against 25 of your closest friends and colleagues for a role in an upcoming ballet.  Regardless of the exact setting, the pre-audition jitters are universal.

Friday was FBP’s first full day back to work (thanks, blizzard!), and we were welcomed warmly back to the studio with an audition.  Of course, this came after I overslept, lost my keys somewhere in my own apartment and almost wiped out in the snow on my walk in.  I blame those pesky pre-audition jitters.  Nonetheless, not a particularly good start to my day…

Now, the first day back after a two-week nacho-eating-marathon resting period is a lofty endeavor in and of itself, but dancing your first class back while being stared down by Jorden Morris, the mysterious Peter Pan choreographer whom you’ve never met, is a true challenge.  I entered the studio the same way I always do, warmups in hand, back contracted and shoulders rounded to keep the cool draft off my chest, and feet scurrying quickly beneath me.  I stretched my quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, warmed up my back, did some ab exercises.  Then the waiting began.  The ballet mistress and several dancers would be arriving late, the roads were terrible, our director announced.  After 20 more minutes of excessive calve stretching and crunches, the last dancer settled into their place at the barre and we began with pliés.

Somehow we all made it through that painful first class back, only to be rewarded with a rather awkward waiting session between the audition and the cast posting.  We all shimmied back into the warm-ups we’d shed during class and rolled out, stretched out, ate apples and checked Instagram important emails, trying to keep things light and ignore the obvious tension in the air.  That’s when something strange and unexpected happened.  Our artistic director entered the green room and calmly told us that an ex-FBP principle dancer, Jaclyn Ricci, also the younger sister of a current FBP dancer, had passed away the night before.  I felt my hand clap over my gaped mouth and I froze for a minute.  She was 36.  I just saw her two days ago.  This can’t be real.  The tangible stress in the room was abruptly cut with a collective held breath.  A dark cloud hung above us.  Then the casting went up.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again; being a ballet dancer is one of the most intense jobs in existence.  Far more theatrical than the stories our bodies tell on stage, the day to day life of a professional ballet dancer is never lacking in drama.

I would like to dedicate this post to Jaclyn Ricci.  She was a beautiful dancer, warm spirit, and an inspiration to so many dancers, including myself.  Her bright smile and poignant sense of humor will live on forever in our memories.  RIP.7545_644331578962504_571349828_n

PS- stay tuned for an update on the outcome of the Peter Pan audition!