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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Ballet Story: Part 2

Ok, so on Monday, I wrote about my ballet life from age 4 to about 11.  From 12 to 17 is where it gets a bit more interesting.

If you missed Monday's post, you can read it here.

So anyways, at age 12, I was chosen to be Clara in the Nutcracker.  This was SUCH a big deal.  There were actually three of us chosen to do the role.  After all, we did shows in Iowa, Detroit, and Indianapolis that year.  Each cast would rotate, but when you weren't dancing "Clara," you were most likely performing another role.  Mostly, there were two shows a day. So not only was I keeping a full class load at school, I was adding even more rehearsals on top of ballet classes six days a week.  I kept this up (being Clara among other roles) for three years.

Nutcracker season was hell and the most fun I've ever had all wrapped into one.  I LOVED Nutcracker season.  The rehearsals, the music, the costumes, and now, I had the lead role.  It is extremely rare for a child to have a lead role in a professional production, but Nutcracker is an exception.

The best part about Nutcracker was theater week.  During theater week (the week before the show opens) you have technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals on the stage in the theater.  It meant that you were so close to being able to perform on stage.  When we were younger, we would play hide and seek in the unused area of the giant, old theater.  There were times that they would keep us in rehearsals until 11:00 or later on a school night.  I didn't care that I went to school dog tired and had to work on my homework backstage.  I was having the most fun of my entire life.  I was doing what I loved.  My parents were incredibly flexible during this time and did everything in their power to make sure that I was happy and succeeding in ballet AND school.

School got tricky around this point.  All of the girls in my class were homeschooled except me and one other girl.  They had more relaxed schedules to make dancing in the professional productions a little more bearable.  When I reached high school, I was able to make a deal with the administrators to let me leave two hours early every day.  I had taken enough high school classes in middle school, that I would be able to graduate on time, with academic honors with just enough credits.

Soon, my ballet days were starting at 2:30 and ending closer to 9:30.  During my freshman year, I was able to travel to Taiwan, among other cities, to tour with the company.  They needed extra dancers for one of their ballets, and a small group of us were chosen to go with them.  Touring was a definite perk of putting in all of the long hours.  I was able to see parts of the world and country that I may have never seen otherwise.

Around this time, my friend and I were asked to start training for a competition.  It is called the Youth America Grand Prix competition.  It is a competition for dancers 18 and under, and participates come from all over the world.  There was recently a documentary made about YAGP called "First Position." Watching this trailer is SUCH a good way to sum up the stress that we went through.

I HATED competing.  You worked for months, nearly a year, on about 10 minutes worth of choreography- two classical variations and on contemporary.  If you were having an off day when competing, then that was it.  Your whole year of work was down the drain. 

I used to get so stressed out and nervous.  I would come home and cry because I was freaking out under all of the pressure.  I would wake up, tired, go to school, get home, and change into my ballet stuff as quickly as possible before heading out the door to ballet.  I would go to rehearsals, class, pointe class, then other required dance classes (like modern), then rehearse one on one with a coach.  Between all of these, I would try to get homework done.  After that, my parents would pick me up, and I would eat my dinner in the car on the way home.  I think it was at this point where I started to stop enjoying ballet as much as I had.

But back to the competition...

If you make it past your preliminary competition (they host competitions from Russia, to Chicago, to Hong Kong), you were on to the finals in NYC.  Every participant in the finals was good.  There were a 100 other girls who looked just like you, but were faster, stronger, skinnier, prettier, and all wanted to win.  The Japanese were probably the most focused.  These people were life or death serious. 

I remember not even wanting to dance at some points.  There were classes that participants could take with the judges watching, and I always dreaded them.  You had to dance the hardest that you could, alongside some of the best dancers in the world, just trying to sell yourself and get noticed for a scholarship.  It was too much.

Me during my classical variation at YAGP
Right around this time, during Nutcracker season, I received a phone call that would change my life.  I was 16 years old, and I had just gotten home from school and was doing my daily, get-ready-as-fast-as-you-can before I left for ballet.  

I think that this is probably a good stopping point.  It looks like I'm going to have to turn this into a three parter. Part three on Friday. :)

*Also, I'm leaving for Alabama tomorrow to run the Rocket City Marathon.  I'll be posting updates on Instagram here. Getting excited!


  1. Ah man you left us in suspense again! It's amazing you were able to do all that and continue with good grades in school. Can't wait for part 3!!

  2. No! Leaving us hanging..... ;))

  3. what a cliffhanger!!!!

  4. What?! What happened!!! That is no joke some serious dedication! I don't know how you did it!

  5. Ohhh I can't wait to read the rest!!! And I can't wait to hear about the run :)

  6. Ah the suspense! Good luck on the marathon tomorrow!!

  7. GAH! Such a cliffhanger! You had such dedication to go through all that. Especially at such a young age! I can't wait to hear the rest. Good luck on your marathon! Will be following along for updates :)

  8. I have such a love/hate relationship with spoilers! I seriously can't wait to hear the rest of this!!
    AND A HUGE GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR RACE!!! Thinking about you!!

  9. Yes! Loving these posts. Can't wait to here more.
    Good luck at the marathon!

    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle

    FYI - giveaway at my blog!

  10. Loving it! I'm sure you could turn your whole experience into one heck of a book! See ya Friday!

  11. AHHHH!!! Can't wait!!! And best of luck on your marathon!! I'll be following along on IG!

  12. oh my goodness what a cliff hanger! Haha :) That is amazing that you were able to travel the world doing something you love!

  13. Cliffhanger! So mean! Can't wait to read the rest. I had no idea you were so talented! GOOD LUCK ON YOUR RACE! I know you'll rock it!

  14. Oh you sassy girl...You are good and keeping us hanging.
    Good luck on your race!

  15. Good luck on your race, girl!!

    That video is jaw-dropping. I admire you and anyone else with that much dedication to anything.


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