It’s after 1am. I just posted another video on my YouTube Channel, but my mind is elsewhere.
I’ve been preparing for a dance competition coming up on January 9th in Missoula, Montana.
And I’m really excited.
And nervous. This is my first competition.
Despite the fact that I never competed as a teenager, I managed to get into three ballet companies and find steady work. However, this is a challenge that I feel I must take on. It’s something I regretted not doing as a young dancer, and I want to experience what it’s like to dance in front of a panel of judges. Anxiety, bring it on.
I’ve already been coaching with Colleen O’Callaghan of ABT and Jerry Kokich of Joffrey Ballet, and I’ll continue to coach with them right up until the day before I leave for Montana.
The fact is, I’ll never feel ready enough. Mr. Kokich said it himself: if I were a ballerina in his company (he is speaking hypothetically, as he does not currently have a company) he would never give me any corrections directly after a performance. He said that I am the kind of dancer who would go home and spend the entire evening working on that one correction instead of resting and relaxing before rehearsal the next day. Colleen told me she doesn’t know of any other dancer right now who wants ballet as much as I do right now. You see, they don’t realize how high the stakes are for me. They’ve always been high stakes. Even at 14, I was scared it was too late for me to succeed as a ballerina – if Suzanne Farrell was already in NYCB at 14, then I didn’t stand a chance. Yeah. High standards. Too hard on myself. I get it. But it’s in my blood and part of my nature. So, if I can’t change it, how can I channel it into something healthier?
I am learning to accept compliments. I am learning to allow people to enjoy my work. I am learning to focus on just doing the work and then enjoying the performance, no matter what happens.
When I did Sugar Plum Fairy this year, I felt more anxiety than I have in previous years leading up to show week. Various reasons. Suffice it to say, though, that when I got out on the stage, I let it all go. All I could do was embody the Queen of Nutcrackerland and enjoy the ride. I made tweaks when needed, adding jumps and removing turns if I felt my body was not up to it. Anxiety can be draining. But what was more important to me? Doing multiple turns with a frown on my face, or reveling in the music and taking the audience on a journey with me to the Kingdom of Sweets?
When an audience member came up to me and said “you’re the best SPF I’ve seen here in at least 3 years” and another came up to say “you’re the first person I’ve seen do bourrés that way – they were exquisite” I knew I was doing it right.
That’s what I’ll do at the competition, too. There will be incredible dancers there who can turn, kick, and balance me under the table. That’s not why I am there. I am there to compete with my inner demons – to let go of my self-doubt and share my passion for the dance.
I hope my audience enjoys it.