This weekend my ballet studio is performing Swan Lake. It’s the first time I’ve set the ballet but it’s not my first experience with it. I danced in it as a village girl when I was a young student, I did the Odette variation at Youth American Grand Prix when I was 13 (what a disaster it was! but that’s a story for another time!), it was the first ballet I danced in while in Colorado Ballet (we did it a couple seasons while I was there) and I performed Odette nine years ago with my mom’s studio that I now manage in conjunction with her.
My students have heard it so many times that they’re probably so sick of me telling them “This ballet is so special. The music is everything. It’s worth all of the work and struggle and foot pain!” But here I am this morning, sewing some final stitches on the Odile tutu, and there, is my name embroidered on the tutu…..and I know in my heart why those statements are true.
***Side Note because you’re probably like why is her name on the inside of the tutu her student is wearing–when I was a teenager I was lucky enough to have a few custom tutus made for me and like the extra human that I am, my name was embroidered into all of them. ***
Now…. I have taken this black tutu that I originally used for Don Quixote and redesigned it to work for Odile (self taught seamstress right here! don’t be too impressed– I’m seriously winging it! …..*pun intended: Swan Lake! Get it?!*) and as I sat there this morning, working on this tutu, seeing my name on the inside, remembering that girl in high school that wore it and now knowing what has happened in the years since I wore it– those performances of Swan Lake, the life that happened, the experiences I’ve gone through to be here and sharing this ballet with this beautiful group of students? My little sentimental heart can barely take it.
The ballet IS special. It’s hundreds of years of classical ballet passed on to me like I am passing on to them. Verbally, through coaching, through feeling, through passion, through memory, and careful planning and staging.
The music IS everything. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful, full, sweet, painful, happy…. there’s not a day that it plays in the studio that I don’t get goosebumps. It’s pure gold to dance to that Tchaikovsky music and lose yourself in it.
It IS worth all of the work and struggle and foot pain. Swan Lake is a testament of beauty and passion. In running it over and over again, standing on the side of the stage as a Swan in Act 2 for 10 minutes so still, and feeling your leg cramp up and then having to jump in the coda off of that one leg? It’s a level of discipline, self reflection and torture that is unparalleled. But to do it, to put yourself in a that bigger picture, to be in Act 4 and flapping your wings and running with your fellow swans, knowing you made this ballet happen? I carry that respect for myself that I did it, every day. It’s something to be proud of, and it’s so much more than dance.
It’s a labor of love this art form, and I’m so grateful to all of my teachers that passed down what they knew to me. But this weekend, I hand it over to them. Tutu, experiences, music, passion, love, and the pride and excitement for what they will feel during this run and when this is all over.