Finding my inner artist

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's always interesting to me how Jana and I tend to experience similar things at similar times with our dancing, even now being hundreds of miles away from each other. Reading her blog post about being shy sounded so much like what I have been feeling.

My relationship to the dance world has come in waves. I became a professional very young, then left, then went back, then had a baby, then went back...then decided I would never, ever leave the dance world again. A lot of amazing things have happened in my life that I would not trade AT ALL. But there are definitely big moments of regret about the dancing, if I could somehow remove the dancing part from the rest of my life (which of course, I can't).

What has been many, many years ago now, I danced among some really amazing people. People that have gone on to be principals and soloists in companies across the country, and who have received accolades they absolutely deserve. I'm sure our director keeps up with us all, but I have to wonder if he realizes the full extent of his success, not only as a ballet director, but as someone who trained us all in life. When I hear these people mentioned, there is talk about how they raise everyone up around them. I think our director knew how to look for that spark. The success they have seen is well deserved in every case, and the fact that I got to see them when they were young, and see how hard they worked, is still incredible to me.

Then there's me. In and out of the dance world. Dancing professionally at 17, only to leave it behind and never return to a full time professional company. Don't get me wrong - I love, love, love my life. But, it's hard to turn off the little switch that says, "That could have been you." That, no, I don't get to wake up everyday and go to a place where I watch amazing dancing all day. I didn't make the progress that those who continued professionally made. Sometimes, the fact that I even still try to call myself a dancer makes me feel like a fraud. A has been. A never was.

Now, I have this amazing second chance to still be dancing. Getting the opportunities I have now is unheard of. The problem is that I was never trained beyond the corps. I always wanted more (don't we all?), but I left the dance world the first time so young. Now I'm getting more, and I'm so happy, but there's this lingering doubt about whether I can do it or not. I used to be fearless - I would try anything, and go all out every time. Now I feel like I play it very safe. Granted, I think I need to in order to avoid injury, but I can feel I'm holding back. It's not just holding back physically, it's also the emotional. Of course, these two go hand in hand for dancers because it's the physical we use to demonstrate the emotional.

The question I am facing is how to become the artist. This is something every professional artist works through, but usually much younger than me. I'm facing this huge internal struggle of being so thankful I still have the opportunity to become what I know I can be, and being so frustrated that I allowed myself to put it off until now.

I know many adult dancers I talk to have similar frustrations: wishing they had started earlier, had done more, could do more, etc. While I am every bit the advocate that we can and should keep working, I also understand this struggle. Sometimes I feel like the artist that cannot stop painting the canvas and call a picture complete. Will I ever feel like I have done enough?

It's difficult to open up about this, but I also feel like it's an important dialogue. In many ways, I would rather not talk about it, and just try to seem like I have it all together. I have had many days when it seemed like it would just be easier to walk away from it all, and I did just that. Now I feel like I'm out of time - if I walk away again, I won't be able to go back. Physically it would be too difficult. But more than that, every time I have left my dancing, there has been an emptiness, and I don't want to be empty. Every heartache and frustration is worth it every time I step into first position.

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