Writing About Dance: My Story, Part 2

“So the day after I turned 18, I got on a Trailways Bus and headed for the Big, Bad Apple . . .”

(Okay, actually I was 17 and actually it was an airplane . Actually, I’d never use a phrase like “big, bad apple” unless I was telling you a story about over-sized, rotten produce. I just couldn’t resist. )

Anyway, the adjustment to city life was harder than I expected but also easier, in a way. I became very involved in the Harry Potter fandom in New York and made tons of new friends from all over the country when I started working for a short-lived fandom website in my spare time. My social adjustment at college was much more difficult. I found it really hard to relate to and connect with any of my classmates. Although there were many nice, lovely people at my college I didn’t “click” with anyone. Because I’m a nerdy, anti-social, introverted former-homeschooler I kind of suck at going out and making friends, unless those friends happen to live miles away and really like Harry Potter. I became even more self-conscious when I realized how much of an outsider I was at dance classes and auditions. I’d always felt at home in a dance studio, but the scene in New York was so totally different. I attended classes and auditions but felt invisible, like I was barely seen. Thanks to my eating disorder, my metabolism was slower than ever and I gained that dreaded college weight. My weight gain made me even more self-conscious and I started drifting out of class, going to auditions less and less. I felt guilty and depressed. Even though I’d discovered friends and other interests, nothing felt right if I wasn’t dancing all the time.

In the spring, a choreographer asked me to dance in a few small showcases. I was ecstatic to be able to perform again, even in small shows. As I started taking class more and more, my body rebelled against me and I twisted my ankle before the last set of shows. I’d had ankle problems before, but never to this extent. I hobbled around for almost a month, took some floor barre and pilates classes, but wasn’t able to dance until very late in the school year. I gained more depressing weight and while I wasn’t over weight, I was about ten pounds above my ideal dancing weight and felt ugly and useless. My injury made me realize that life without dance was miserable and empty and I made plans to take a semester off from college and go back to full-time training. My parents opposed this plan, saying I could only take time off school if I got a job in the industry. I’m glad they squelched my existential-crisis driven impulses.

That summer I became determined to overcome my injury and eventually made it back to ballet and jazz classes in my hometown. A lot happened that summer–I met and became engaged to my now-husband for one–and by the end of it I had lost about 7 lbs. and felt ready to dance full-time again.    My sophomore year, I overwhelmed myself taking too many credits and working too many jobs. It became impossible to get to the dance studio very often which frustrated me, but I desperately needed money. I did a few more showcases that year and started getting more and more confident at auditions. Summer saw another relapse in my training. With wedding planning and working full time at a temp job, I made it to class once or twice a week if I was lucky.

Last fall I started taking classes at a smaller, more ballet and modern-oriented studio. The atmosphere is just completely different there–more supportive, more focused, less competitive. I’ve found teachers that push me and encourage me and I feel like I’ve been reborn as a dancer. Every time I try and imagine myself doing something else with my life, it always seems like someone else’s life. Sure, I want to write but my identity isn’t intertwined with writing the same way it is with dance. Writing is a field in which I’d like to succeed, but dance if a field in which I have to succeed. The other day after a theater dance class, I had the sudden feeling that the old high school me was back. Not the insecure, anorexic girl, but the girl who knew without a doubt that she could and would succeed. I think getting a glimpse at the life I could have if I weren’t a dancer was enough to make me realize that this is all I want. I guess I had a sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment only with fewer angels and Jimmy Stewarts.

Now that Graham is filling out college applications and starting to think about that phase of life, I have another dilemma. I will move with him wherever he goes to school, but I have to wonder what will happen to my dance career. Sure I’ll audition for companies and theme parks and shows and whatever else I can get, but what if I get a job offer far away from where we live? What if the town where he goes to school doesn’t have a dance studio or company or any sort of performance job at all? This is the moment. If I’m going to do this I have to do it now, jump in head first right after graduation. Even worse, what if I keep auditioning and no one gives me a job and I just fail and all those years were for nothing?

I know God will place us wherever he wants us, but it’s still nerve-wrecking. I’m putting all my eggs in this basket and I’m paranoid a big, ugly giant is going to smash the basket with his big toe. Terrible metaphor, but f’realz. Freaking out.

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4 responses to “Writing About Dance: My Story, Part 2

  1. Hey Sarah, We barely knew each other in real life, but I admit to following your internet expolits frequently – I love your writing style, your honesty, your sense of humor, your intelligence, etc . . . Your most recent blogs about dance were far from boring. I don’t really have “advice” other than to say that life doesnt always follow the plan that we set for it, and sometimes people spend so much time planning, and setting goals, and thinking ahead, and living in the future that they forget to enjoy the process of simply living. By people, I mean me, but I see a lot of that in you as well. Having been to the same high school and college that you went to and lived through a lot of what you described, and now being in a completely different life than I ever would have imagined as an insecure, anorexic, dancer struggling with a less than ideal body, perfectionism, and confusion about whether to pursue academics or dance or both . . . I want to encourage you not to forget to enjoy just “being”. There’s the whole cheesy cliche about the journey vs. the destination, but truly, I hope you can enjoy your journey even if you don’t always know where the destination will be. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but as I have gotten older, I wish I had spent less time preparing for the future and more time enjoying the present. Sorry to invade your blog, but I felt the need to comment. Good luck in wherever life takes you.
    Krystle Rivera, M.A., Ed.M.
    NESA class of ’01

    • Thanks Krystle! I’ve always thought you were incredibly inspirational and fantastic (on stage and off). Thanks for the encouragement and please comment whenever! We should be internet friends even if we were never “real life” friends. 🙂

  2. OH YEAH! And most days I think about the 15 plus years I “wasted” training for a career in dance, but then I remember the shows, the friends, the final weeks of preparation, the comraderie, the crap of high school that probably wouldn’t have been worth it anyways that I probably wasn’t really missing, the life lessons I learned along the way, and how much I loved being in the studio most of the time, and I realize that there is nothing wasted about those experiences, even if they didn’t lead up to a professional career. There are much worse ways to have “wasted” years!

  3. I’m so glad that things are turning up so much lately, compared to the past. God is on your side, and he’ll make sure you’re okay; so de-stress.

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