It’s interesting how dance can consume a person. I wrote a post about how some people just have a passion for dancing that cannot be ignored, and how this passion drives us to push ourselves through trial and error and pain and suffering (sometimes, from injuries). But at some point, our bodies age and we have to move on…if we’re lucky enough to continue working in the field we love, we become teachers or choreographers. However, for some of us, we move into a completely different arena. We become mothers and fathers, we work jobs with regular people…that is, people who don’t have flashbacks of Nutcracker performances when they hear Tchaikovsky’s score on the radio or in the mall. We find dance career alternatives.
When I first stopped dancing it was because of Achilles tendinitis. I also had a husband and a new baby that naturally changed my priorities in life. We lived in Lexington, Kentucky where I had performed a little with the ballet company, so when we went to performances I was watching all my old dance friends on stage. I cried every single time we sat in the audience to watch a performance. Deep inside I was grieving the loss of dance in my life. Sure, I was teaching. We started a dancewear store so I was in contact with dancers all the time. But I knew that I would never again put on my pointe shoes and dance on stage. It was like a part of me—a huge part—had died and would never come back.
We moved from Kentucky to North Carolina where my in-laws lived, and I took a job at a bank. I thought about teaching ballet in my new town, but I was working a full-time job for the first time in my life and was pretty exhausted at the end of each day. By then we had two little girls and I wanted to spend time with them in the evenings. Years went by and I really lost my identity as a dancer. No one knew me as a dancer. I was just another coworker, my girls’ mom, a wife. I wonder how other people deal with such drastic life changes. Maybe because we moved to a new town where no one knew us it was easier to simply make a new identity for ourselves. We enrolled our girls in ballet and I sat in the lobby with the other moms during class, viewing dance from a totally new perspective.
Then comes Facebook. I am friends with my old dancing buddies again! I’m being tagged in pictures and uploaded a few videos from my dancing days. Now my new friends and coworkers begin making the connection that I was a dancer in what feels like a past life. Now they really know me. Because even though I’m not dancing and I’m not teaching, I am a dancer. It is what makes me who I am. I still make up combinations that I can post on this blog! I can feel the rhythm and the muscle action and musicality like it was only yesterday I stood at that barre myself. I can feel the adrenaline when I think about how it was to stand in the wings with side lights burning on my back before stepping on stage. I remember how satisfying it was to dance grand allegro at the end of a great ballet class…the little high I’d be floating on when we did reverence.
I taught at a ballet school a few years ago. I had my own class of middle school kids once a week and I stepped in to substitute occasionally for other teachers. My feet would cramp up when I demonstrated and it was so very exhausting. I later learned that my pain and fatigue were caused from Fibromyalgia. Maybe I’ll start a blog about that one day. It’s a new identity for which I’m learning the ropes. I’m hopeful that I can get it under control enough I’ll be able to teach ballet again at some point. But until then, I have this blog. I can still create combinations and build an online community of dance friends. Because after all, I was a dancer, and I always will be.