"Beauty," Confidence and Wit

I am sitting here in the therapy room at McCaw Hall.
Boyd, our physical therapist has his latest victim on the table. We call him “Bender the Mender,” and he has on more than one occasion been responsible for keeping a show going – in particular the marathon ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and of course The Sleeping Beauty or “Beauty” – it’s abbreviated name.
Thankfully I’m not in here because I’m need of therapy – well physical at least, the mental and emotional I can’t vouch for. My reason has more to do with human and internet connection than anything else. It’s always a hoppin’ place here in the therapy room.

This is our last weekend of shows, and I honestly can’t tell you how I feel about that. A little sad? Yeah. A little happy? Sure. But truthfully the feeling that’s recently overwhelmed me is… anxiety. And I am ashamed – of feeling anxious that is…

You see this Saturday I will be the Wit Fairy. It will be my premiere and my finale of this part all wrapped up into one show. As my co-worker Abby would say, “Git ‘er done!” And I shall. But I find that in all this endless practicing and rehearsing I’ve developed a slight complex regarding this variation.


When I first saw that I was cast to learn this part my initial reaction was at first slight disbelief and then slight, well, for lack of a better word, horror. With speedy tempos, gallops on pointe and lots of chaînés (very fast small turns), it’s a pretty challenging variation. And since I’m going for brutal honesty here, I really felt like it was over my head, not to mention my ability. But determined to see this as an opportunity for growth, I attacked this variation with tenacity and determination.
And much to my surprise I absolutely love dancing it! Oddly enough it really suits my dancing personality and I feel I’ve certainly risen to the challenge. This is me patting myself on the back…
The end of the variation is pretty tricky: you have essentially six counts of chaîné turns and finish in a double step-up turn done without coming off pointe. You feel like an Olympic gymnast trying to stick a dismount – the goal of course being a solid, sans fumble landing. I have practiced this part of the variation over and over again, and I wish I could say I nailed it every time. Everyone’s been so helpful in offering up their suggestions, tips and corrections, but sometimes I felt like there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” if you know what I mean.
Taking everyone’s suggestions and every opportunity to practice I know I’ve improved. But as my Facebook status said today, I’ve come to realize that at this point practice doesn’t = perfect but only perpetuates my insecurity, anxiety and complex over this variation. Practice has become a barrier if you will to the one ingredient that I cannot be without: confidence in myself. By practicing over and over again, I am refusing to trust myself and my ability that I can and will do this variation excellently. Seems like a very simple lesson to learn, one I should have had under my belt a long time ago… But I find there’s always lessons to be learned and re-learned. That’s just life, right?

So all this work and for what? One show? That’s a lot of pressure. Well it is if I choose to look at it that way. There are quite a few of us dancers who have put in countless hours for just one show – one opportunity. With only nine shows and quite a few casts, sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles. But you know what? Even if it’s just one, it’s one! It’s a gift! And what else are gifts for but to be enjoyed. So this Saturday matinee, while I’m not the Fairy of Joy, I will be full of joy as I take hold of the gift and blessing it is to dance victoriously the Fairy of Wit. And I will stick that last turn. I can do it and I will do it!
To come and see many premieres this final weekend, you can buy your tickets here. But you better hurry before they all sell out!

Photo of PNB principal dancer Mara Vinson as the Fairy of Wit in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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