Boot camp!

Had the first day of Nut rehearsals for the year.

Or, as one of my fellow dancers put it: Nutcracker Boot Camp!

Yep, I’d say that description was entirely apt:

Beforehand you experience elation at being picked and excitement for the adventure that will soon ensue.

You’re nervous about the unknown, but there’s that irrational side that says, “It can’t really be that hard, can it? All those people who complain about how hard it is, well, I am of much hardier stock than they, and I will be juuuust fiiiine.”

Of course you know deep down that you’re being delusional; I argue that such delusions are necessary. Keeps you from throwing in the towel before you even begin.

So you show up for that first day thinking, “Okay, here’s my chance to prove myself. I’m going to show them all they made the right choice in picking me. It’s gonna be juuuust fiiiine.”

Then someone gets up in your face and yells, “Drop and give me 20!!!”

Okay, that didn’t really happen.

But it is mentally and physically exhausting.

Mentally because you’re trying to remember all this new choreography. In class you only have to remember a sequence for a short amount of time and once it’s done you can purge it from your memory and move on to the next thing. Plus, you can rely on the power of the many. If you forget a section, well, you just take a quick look at your peers in front of you or in the mirror and get back on track. Performance pieces don’t allow you to act like a sheep, though. You’ve got to know your own part. No cheating!

Physically because, well, it’s a lot of dancing. Instead of relatively short combinations you’ve got anywhere from 90 seconds to 6 minutes of nearly continuous dancing. And the pieces I’m in aren’t the “stand still and flap your arms about while gazing beatifically at the audience” either. It’s jump, turn, waltz, saute, contretemps, rinse, repeat. Which is cool… The first time you do it. Then still kind of cool the second time. Then you notice that your entire body has taken to trembling, your ankles threaten to collapse, and the blood is pounding in your ears.

“Let’s run it a few more times.”

Sure. Of course. Let’s do it.

There are times you really wonder what you managed to sign yourself up for. This seemed all well and good when you made the decision to audition. You misguidedly thought that getting in was the hard part. Then you realize that acceptance was just step one on the journey to being all that you can be. There’s still plenty more proving to be done here, plebe!

But wait… to whom are you proving yourself worthy? The judges decided, based on the evidence at hand, that you were suitable for this role. You’ve already done the proving to them. Now it’s up to you to prove to YOURSELF that you deserve to be here. The choreography isn’t holding you back. The tempo of the music isn’t holding you back. Your fellow dancers aren’t holding you back. The only thing between you and performing to the top of your ability is your own faith in yourself.

Not that namby-pamby, “Believe in yourself,” malarkey.

It takes hard work, mental and physical stamina, and just plain showing up.

But seriously.

It can be way too easy to discount yourself.

“I’m not strong enough.” “So-and-so is a better dancer than I.” “I’m getting too old to do this anymore.”


The people who chose you didn’t say, “You know who we should put in this role? The weak, old lady who isn’t very good.” That’s absurd! You didn’t audition for the Gong Show here!

That’s what I mean by “believe in yourself.” Doesn’t mean there won’t be blood, sweat (LOTS of sweat), and a few tears along the way. This is a growth process, after all. But if you give it your all (and by all I don’t just mean your brain and body… you need to get the emotions in there, too!) then you will find the joy that comes at the end when you are performing on stage. The joy that comes from realizing that you are living out not only your own dreams, but those of many others, maybe even sparking some dreams out there in the audience.

Keep on soldiering through!


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