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Finding Lost Dreams • Part Four • Dancing Through it

Posted on: August 28, 2015 by Naomi M. Pridjian | 3 Comments
Finding Lost Dreams • Part Four • Dancing Through it

Finding Lost Dreams • Part Four • Dancing Through it

“You don’t enter a dance studio and say, “I can’t do that.” 

If you do, then why are you in the studio in the first place?”

~ Ruth Jamison, Dancing Spirit: An Autobiography

 

In my previous posts, Finding Lost Dreams Part One, Two, and Three, I shared the beginning and middle of my personal dance story. This is Part Four of that story—not the end by any means, but an update: where I am now and hope to be for the rest of my seventh decade.

 

“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back,

no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls

and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold,

nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

~ Merce Cunningham

 

I love my ballet classes. I love the experience of centering wholeness that connects me to a sense of the source of all being. I am learning a classical art form with steps and positions codified prior to the 1800s. While the tradition passes on from one to another, technique is constantly evolving.

 

Dressed for class in my pink tights, black leotard and soft leather ballet slippers, I travel to another place. Moving through time and space, I become another me—the best me. Ballet training is very hard work, not a walk in the park by any means. At 70+ years, instead of 7 years of age, it is challenging in the extreme, but I do it for me—for what I receive. It is a spiritual practice—all I wanted or needed.

 

This euphoria was interrupted midway through my first year at Northwest Ballet Academy with this announcement:
 

“Ballet is a performing art! Although not mandatory, all students are strongly encouraged to participate in our Annual Spring Concert.”

 

All students were strongly encouraged (expected) to participate in this concert recital at the end of the school year. Instantly my mind became a carnival of performance failure— frozen in time: Recital…oh dear god…horrible; I won’t be able to remember the choreography; I’ll die of humiliation; I can’t do it! As it happened, stressful family matters kept me from participating in the event and I was excused.

 

I knew this would be a yearly event. After all…ballet is a performing art, and I understand that, except for me it was a private, spiritual practice. When the announcement came again in my second year, I was nursing an injury and felt I could easily decline, but this decision was met with raised, querying eyebrows by my teachers. It was not a response of nurturing understanding. They couldn’t fathom why I would not want to participate and this began to sit rather heavily with me. After a couple of weeks—encouraged by the director of the school, who exuded confidence and assurance that it would be e-a-s-y—I consented and signed up with the rest of my class. Those readers who have followed along in my Finding Lost Dreams posts know that performance anxiety is my Achilles heel, my hounds of the Baskervilles, my haunting nemesis. To keep these traumatic memories from gaining ground in this endeavor, I had to create distance. I just kept thinking:
 

“The performance is in June…June is a long way off and I won’t think about it…
just won’t think about it.

 

We were doing an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. I had a very small part as one of the court ladies in the Prologue. All went well until rehearsals started in earnest. My aging, porous brain (poor on short-term memory so necessary for executing choreography), gave me a lot of trouble. Performance anxiety became overwhelming at times. Everything was so new to me, as well as scary. It was a trip down traumatic, recital-memory lane. I needed to focus on the task at hand and couldn’t seem to do it very well. I was grateful for the younger students with quicker brains who kept me moving along until I could get it into my body and keep it on my own. It took a deeper commitment than simply not thinking about it. It was a matter of intent, focus and practice.

 

What I didn’t know at the time is that something magical happens between people sharing in a common, creative effort. People become bound together in a type of community— an esprit de corps. Learning the dance and stage sequencing was hard work. I was physically exhausted during rehearsal week and throughout the three performances, but the hardest part (by far) was working through the nightmare of performance failure. I can’t say that it’s all over and now I love the stage…no! I am merely making deposit entries—re-writing the ancient scenario of being the only child on the recital stage that didn’t know the steps.
 

Sleeping Beauty_Prologue_Court ladies_bow

 

“I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.”

~Sharon Olds

 

3 Responses

  1. Anne — August 28, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    I can so relate to the Merce Cunningham quote. That feeling of being alive is what I miss most. So glad you’re still able to pursue this passion.

    Reply
  2. Judy — August 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Good job, NP!

    Reply
  3. Korin — August 30, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    We were so proud of you!

    Reply

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