In December, I found myself wearing a pink tutu for the first time in 13 years.
Ballet has had a profound effect on my life and my painting. It taught me an appreciation of music, the value of passion, diligence, discipline, and beauty. I think it provided me a solid foundation for anything I chose to do in life. And while I appreciate the influence it had on me, my attitude towards ballet has been a mixture of regret, resentment, and heartbreak.
Starting at age 8, I trained at Ayako School of Ballet in Belmont for 5 years. I spent these intense years rehearsing, performing, competing, and challenging myself. I loved every second of it at first, but something that had brought me so much joy and inspiration became suffocating. I quit 8 months before starting high school. I have thought many times about going back to the ballet studio, but so much time had passed. The voice in my head said, "There is no way to get to the level I was before, so why even bother?" I haven't done so much as a plié in more than a decade (wait, what is that again?)!
Since graduating from college, painting has consumed my life. Then my father asked me one day, "Are you sure you don't miss dancing?" I remember finally admitting how much ballet had meant to me. I missed it every day.
HERE IS WHAT I DID:
1. EVENING BALLET CLASS TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS FOR A YEAR
I started with a beginning ballet class at Bay Pointe Ballet. It was the closest school to my art studio in South San Francisco. I could head over if I was stuck on a painting or wanted some exercise. I had to build up my strength and train my adult body how to dance again.
2. YOUTUBE VIDEOS AND DANCE BOOKS HELPED ME FIGURE OUT HOW TO IMPROVE AND PROVIDED INSPIRATION.
This is a physical discipline, but I turned it into an intellectual exercise!
I learned choreography from ballets on Youtube to keep me inspired. I kept renewing the Royal Ballet version of La Bayadère from the library for the majority of the year. I did a lot of stretch videos by PsycheTruth and strengthening exercises from Lazy Dancer Tips. God, my hips were tight!
Also, the best book I found to get my strength up : Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology by Karen Clippinger. I borrowed this at the library as well.
3. YOGA EVERY FRIDAY AT PLANET GRANITE
My friends came with, and we made it a girls night with dinner after. This became my favorite ritual and highlight of my week.
4. FOAM ROLLING, FOAM ROLLING, FOAM ROLLING
Honestly, I don't know if this helped. I did it a lot, so it goes on my list!
5. EATING THE RIGHT FOODS FOR ENERGY AND STAMINA
I basically started eating a very high fat diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
6. TALKING WITH OTHER DANCERS
The dancers and instructors at Bay Pointe gave me encouragement, tips, tricks, and made me feel like I was a part of the community.
7. SMALL STUDIO PERFORMANCES
I performed at Alonzo King Lines as well as Bay Pointe Ballet in front of small crowds. This was a great way to deal with my nervousness at the idea of performing in front of people. I am still trying to work on this.
In November, my teacher Edgar told me, "You can really do this, become a professional dancer. I don't want you to waste your potential. Talk to Bruce [Steivel] about taking company class."
I followed Edgar's advice and suddenly found myself in a class with 35 professional dancers. I was (and still am) the least experienced person in the room.
A few days into it, the ballet master Chris came up to me and said,
"Are you part of the company?"
"No, but I would like to be."
"Well, stick around. You never know what will happen."
An hour later, I stepped in to replace an injured dancer for Waltz of the Flowers in the Nutcracker. In three days, I was on a bus to Reno to perform at the Grand Sierra Resort.
It was my first time on stage since I was a kid and my first time ever dancing with a professional company.
The last couple of months have been filled with dance and painting. I am still figuring out the balance between them. Late-night painting sessions have become more difficult when I have to wake up for rehearsal. Physical exhaustion also takes its toll, but it is worth it to have both actively in my life.
Each discipline informs the other and each discipline inspires the other.
This past month, I have been rehearsing for New Works which will be performed at Joe Goode Annex on March 16 & 17 in San Francisco. This has been an interesting and unexpected twist in life trajectory.
If you are a brave soul, come watch me do my best impersonation of a ballerina. Hopefully, I don't fumble over myself too much (because, hey, it's inevitable). You'll be treated to some wonderful dancing and new choreography.