Following technique at the barre, an adagio, and perhaps some turns, my favorite part of each ballet class finally arrives--the petit allegro. Petit, of course, meaning small, and allegro, meaning moving at a brisk tempo. At 5’2”, I don’t have long legs that extend gracefully for miles and create picturesque lines, but “little jumps” are just my speed. Beyond my physical inclination, petit allegro resonates with how I live; I move at a brisk tempo. My schedule is always booked, my days are always full, and that’s how I thrive--most of the time. When I’ve over committed myself (again!), I walk in the studio and dance. I disconnect from my to-do list, focus on foot, arm, and head placement, and create art. I walk out better than I walked in. That’s what dance does for me; it makes me better.
Unlike most dancers, I did not start at the age of three in a frilly tutu spending my time trying to find my spot on the stage. Rather, at an audition for a theatre group when I was approaching middle school, the director asked me to dance just to try it. I loved it! And she saw potential. Year after year, I worked hard to catch-up to the level of my peers. Then, other than a brief season, dance left my life in a formal manner for about ten years after high school when college, a job, and a marriage took center stage. Only after that marriage failed did I venture into a random studio and ask if they had classes for adults. When nothing made sense, and the future I thought was written had been erased, I found dance again. I had missed dance; I needed dance. My mind remembered the technique until my body caught up, but the stage--the stage brought new life!
Not coincidentally, I met Shannon at this time, became an inaugural member of Stavna Ballet, and have been dancing ever since. During my time with Stavna, I’ve remarried, and we’ve welcomed the light of our lives--our sweet girl. Once I’d remembered the thrill of performing, of telling a story, of portraying a character, of connecting with an audience, I wasn’t ready to give that up. Therefore, I took the stage as the Cowardly Lion with a cub on board and then as the White Rabbit with a six month old. Even when sleep-deprived, maybe especially when sleep-deprived, dance still makes me better. I hope my daughter learns the value of discovering and bettering herself as she sees Mom’s continuing to dance.
While I love dance, my day centers around books. In the fall, I’ll begin my 15th year teaching middle school English. Though I entertained other ideas, I think I always knew at my core that I’d be a teacher. Little inspires, motivates, and fulfills me as teaching does. From the planning to the instructing and even the assessing (though the time is exhaustive!), I truly love my job, and the best part is discussing books with my students. My passions for reading, teaching, and students meet daily; how lucky am I! Even in this, dance makes me better, for I don’t teach dance. Other than some choreography, I maintain my role as a student when it comes to dance. I am reminded routinely of what it is like to be a student when you’re having a bad day, to struggle with a skill, to receive feedback, and to collaborate with others. Being a student of dance returns me to a role that teaches me how to be better every day.As I continue to take “little jumps” from home and family to work and dance, my life is abundantly full. I never expected to be wearing pointe shoes and tutus in my mid-30’s, especially with a toddler, but I’m thankful that I returned to dance and found the balance only it provides.
A HUGE thank you to Ann and our friends at The Library of Virginia who opened up the library to us and kindly and lovingly welcomed us to use their amazing space!
Photo credit: Katrina Boone, Gianna Grace Photography