Friday, May 29, 2015

When Your Ballerina Hangs Up Her Slippers

Today marks the beginning of the end of Emma's dance career.  Though ballet has always been her first love, she had been planning to take a break to try something new in her freshman year of high school in 1 year.  She was adamant that she would dance in her 8th grade year.  But when I returned from the parent's meeting and explained the new requirements and the hours she'd need to put in to meet those requirements, her face, and I suspect her heart, dropped.  She loves ballet. She's danced since she was 4.  The transformation I've seen in her confidence and grace over these many years has been well worth the aggravation of driving her to classes and rehearsals for the past 9 years, though it didn't feel like it at the time.  I remember watching her in children's ballet, yawning and watching all the other kids' feet, questioning why we enrolled her in something we weren't sure she enjoyed. I remember seeing her face the very first time she danced on stage at her first Spring Performance in Ballet 2.  She was absolutely radiant. I remember her Nutcracker audition rejection letter, which was so kindly worded that she felt fine.  I went in my room and cried for her because no one wants their child to be rejected.  The next year, she was accepted and I called my friend Julie to come down and record me giving her the great news.  Emma was thrilled.  She was accepted 2 more times after that and it was wonderful every time. These days, she dances across the floor in the hallway gracefully. It's really a beautiful sight.

There have been many tears shed in this house since the decision was made.  There have been late night talks and early morning conversations trying to help her through this process.  There has been anger on my part at her having to make this decision at all. I have shed tears for the pain she is experiencing. Just thinking about her walking away from something that has brought her so much joy breaks my heart. To say we are grieving the loss of this special part of her life is accurate. But there is no great loss without some small gain.  Many dancers, even girls her age, are forced out by injury. Though it's not the way she'd imagined, she did get to make her own decision to retire. There is something to be said about knowing that your last classes, rehearsals and performances are the last. Her 8th grade year is going to be one she can enjoy to the fullest, exploring new interests and spending time with her friends before they scatter to different high schools.  Every September through December of the last 3 years has been booked solid with classes and multiple rehearsals on the weekends.  We've worn a rut in the road that leads to BalletMet.  We've probably driven thousands of miles between here and there over these 9 years. This fall she'll fill her time with the unknown.  What new talent, hobby or interest will she discover now that she isn't dancing what felt like every waking moment?  What might our family be able to experience in these precious few years we have left with her at home now that our weekends won't be booked with rehearsals?  Watching your children grow up and make hard decisions makes moms and dads grow up a little more, too.

Tonight she begins the final series of performances of her career.  Tomorrow night our family, her dad and I, her brother and sisters, her grandparents from out-of-state and her grandmother whose legs are troublesome, will be in attendance for her swan song.  How much of her performance I'll be able to see through my tears, I don't know.  Even thinking of her final curtain call is almost more than I can bear.  All I know for certain is that Emma is becoming a disciplined and confident young lady, thanks in no small part to BalletMet. And I am grateful.

Such little dancing beauties.  Emma is probably 8-years-old in this picture.

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