It’s been over a week since I walked through the doors of the Colburn School in Downtown L.A. I have been following this music academy on Twitter for months, but had not found the time to visit. Enter Fate.
A dancer friend casually mentioned an upcoming master class with Clinton Luckett – ballet master of ABT Ballet!!!! – and I asked when it would take place.
“Tomorrow morning,” she responded.
Immediately, thoughts began to flash through my brain:
You’re not ready.
You’ll make a fool of yourself.
This is your only chance to meet Mr. Luckett – you’ll never get through the doors of ABT to take class with him, who the hell do you think you are anyway?! – BWA HA HA HA”
So, I decided to go. I signed up online (surprisingly, the class was not full – somehow, the gods wanted me to go). A fresh wave of nausea washed over me as I pressed the “confirm” button on attending this master class.
Cut to: Friday morning one week ago, walking up to the school entrance. It’s a beautiful campus – places to sit, a café, trees, graceful architecture – it reminded me of Julliard at Lincoln Center. Thankfully, there were four dancers there with which I had a connection. One of them, Brandon, I’d danced with on previous projects, and he always knows how to start a conversation with anyone, it seems – a very likable guy. This made me feel a little less barfy. My dancer friend who originally suggested the class was also there – she’s an amazing dancer and it felt good to have her standing in front of me at the barre.
The room itself was spacious and inviting. Big mirrors, big windows, lots of light, and that feeling of “this is a professional ballet studio” that just makes you want to stand up a little straighter.
Several representatives of the Colburn School came in to greet us – many of the young dancers were resident students – and then, in walked Clinton Luckett. He was quiet, had a kind smile, and a sense of authority about him, but it wasn’t off-putting. I thrilled at the anticipation of taking class with this man who has been a professional dancer and now ballet master with one of the greatest ballet companies I’ve ever seen.
I freaked out. Well, actually, I held it together pretty well at the barre. I felt good about my new-found posture, my leaner legs that I have recently achieved from my focused training with my coach in Torrance, and the fact that I was wearing nothing but pink tights UNDER a black leotard. All in all, barre went very, very well. I breathed. I used my epaulment, and I had fun.
When we went to the center, I put on my toe shoes, and then I proceeded to… freak out. Yep, I’m repeating that earlier phrase because it really hits the nail on the head of how I was feeling. I don’t know if anyone else saw it, but in my own little world, I felt SO. NERVOUS. I was lucky to pull of clean double pirouettes. My extension went down at least two inches. I was doing my best to keep my work clean and confident, rather than take risks and fall on my ass.
I actually started laughing at myself: “wow, you really are nervous, aren’t you Georgia. Keep breathing. Relax. Have fun!” and my body would reply
Mr. Luckett gave a wonderful class. His corrections were succinct and meaningful. He seems to know just what needs to be said to get to the heart of the matter. Sometimes, it feels like teachers give you a ton of notes on each combination, and you end up so much in your head that you cannot dance anymore without worrying whether or not you checked off every correction in the list. Not so in this class. He’d give one, maybe two corrections, offer an idea here or a bit of inspiration there, and then he’d let us dance. It was inspiring. And, he is lovely to watch. He has beautiful lines and such control of his arms – he puts them just where they need to be, yet they flow in and out of each position seamlessly. And this is a man who, like many teachers, is wearing jazz shoes and warm-up clothes. But none of this hid his talent. This is what makes the great dancers in these great companies EVEN GREATER: they have the best of the best teachers, or so it seems to me.
I managed to thank Mr. Luckett after class. He smiled, but that was it. A part of me wanted to race up to him, ask him “am I good enough? Did I do okay? Do I have a shot at ABT?! Am I too late?!!?!?” Dear lord, the desperation I felt in that moment was palpable. I turned away quickly, hoping he didn’t catch a whiff of this treacherous perfume – the need for approval stinks, y’all.
Afterwards, I felt elated.
I started to feel a sadness well up in me that I have not felt for a long time. I realized, “the stress I felt in that room was the same stress I felt in the companies I danced with years ago. A sense of fear, a sense of unrest, of worry.” And, I wondered to myself, does this mean I am not company material? I thought about it for awhile, and thankfully, that voice of reason that is always there, waiting to whisper should you be patient enough to hear it, said something I loved. It said, “you weren’t in those companies long enough to plant roots. Getting to a place of confidence, trust, and love takes time, in any endeavor, and there will still be times when you will be tested. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. And, congratulate yourself. You showed up today. You danced in a room with people who are half your age, with a teacher that most dancers may never meet. You took a risk after all, and you DANCED.”
I learned a lot from this experience. I know now what my marching orders are for the next six to nine months before I begin my audition tour of ballet companies. I feel empowered, and although there are still traces of fear – fear of the unknown, mostly – I recognize that in the long run, all I have to do is show up.
Show up and dance.