“Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in
is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an
eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion when I am dancing, I
have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my
spirit soar and become one with everything that exists.”
Tomorrow, our daughter takes to the stage in Swan Lake Act II and as her greatest fan, I absolutely can’t wait. She will be performing with the Central Dance Company where professional dancers fill the lead roles while the youth form the corps de ballet. This gives the young dancers a taste of what it’s like to be in a professional ballet company and step out beyond the walls of their own studios. Moreover, it also provides additional hours of expert teaching, and improvement simply through the sheer number of hours of rehearsal. If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’ll know all about that magic 10,000 hours of practice which lifts you out of mediocrity into the meteoric heavens.
“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all
obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of
inviting the perfection desired.”
However, there are some downsides to pushing yourself to the max and beyond. Not unsurprisingly when you push your body so far, there’s that omnipresent risk of injury. There’s also a fine line between pursuing your passion and giving it everything you’ve got, and flying straight into the candle flame and burning up. Just ask the moth.
Yet, in pursuing a career as a professional ballerina, staying upright on top of that pointe shoe is about the only kind of balance available. Ultimately, as in any other demanding field, you sink or swim. However, the extremes are far more intense and burn out can be psychologically and physically destructive, which was almost portrayed too well in the movie Black Swan.
“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
If you have seen Black Swan, you well might ask why I signed our daughter up for ballet. Why would I put her through all of that, when she could have followed her previous dream of becoming an astrophysicist?
The truth is that as a parent, I don’t really have a lot of say in all of this. All I did was book her into a local ballet class when she was three turning four. The earth didn’t quiver and shake as she disappeared with her teacher and the other kids behind the closed door, although I do remember wanting to go in there and see what was going on. We even have the concert video from that very first year of ballet, and while she was very cute up on stage in her tutu, she wasn’t extraordinary. She even made mistakes.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
If we fast-forward to when she was about 10, she was very unwell and also couldn’t seem to get to class or would get there with one or both shoes missing and her hair all tangled up in a veritable bird’s nest. However, despite these outward appearances, her teacher and I still managed to see the dancer within, just like Michaelangelo saw his angel in that lump of stone. It was hard to spot, but she was there. It was also thanks to a few of her friends who took her under their wing, that she was able to catch up for the end of year concert. I’m still not sure how things turned around. However, it was like a switch had been turned on. Or, she’d been struck by some kind of cosmic lightning. A passion for dance was ignighted, and she’s never turned back. She absolutely loves dance to an extent where it goes far beyond just being her thing to somehow becoming part of her being.
“Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon.”
Every time I see my daughter dance, I celebrate this progression from struggling to hold her fingers in a diamond shape above her head, to the young woman who is now en pointe and learning the cygnet routine from Swan Lake. There’s a lot of pride in that, but also an acknowledgment of the sheer hard work we’ve all put in right down to driving her to classes and rehearsals, and almost piercing my fingers and drawing blood sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes. Our swan didn’t just fall out of a box of cereal and land on her feet.
On a more personal note, seeing our daughter dance in Swan Lake in a beautiful white tutu is like a precursor of seeing what she would be like walking down the aisle on her wedding day. Naturally, I remember our wedding day. I was so happy my face was aching and I loved getting all dressed up in my absolutely beautiful dress and in a sense being the swan for the day. However, since our daughter’s arrival, I’ve had my moments of playing the dying swan. On too many occasions, I’ve been living it as I battle along with dermatomyositis and associated lung fibrosis. It is impossible to describe what it’s like as a seriously ill mum to face leaving your young children behind and you’ll never be waiting for them at the school gate again. Indeed, to be very honest, we didn’t think I was going to make it this far. Yet, despite time being my enemy, I’ve actually improved quite a lot overall and am strangely doing okay. However, that doesn’t mean that when it comes to seeing my daughter all dressed up as a white swan, that I’m not going to make the most of that. Carpe diem seize the day. This memory will be etched into my retinas and in my heart. After all, before she became my swan, she always was and still remains my girl. My family are my greatest treasures.
It is very easy to get caught up in the hoopla of dance. Being a Dance Mom and allowing your love and pride for your own child, overtake all sense of reason and perspective. Our daughter takes part in eisteddfods and of course, I think she’s the best and I felt a bit devastated when she doesn’t place. “You got rocks in your head?!!!” Of course, I don’t say anything and we talk it up. However, it’s important to keep all of this dance stuff in perspective and what really matters to me, is that my kids are decent people. That they stop and help others, don’t set out to win at all costs and are good losers. Of course, I’d love them to be happy, but I’m more of a realist and simply hope they get through life’s up and downs relatively unscathed and can keep smiling.
Above: When our daughter performs in Swan Lake, she’ll dip her toe into the very same pond traversed by the likes of Anna Pavlova (who even had her own pet swan) and Dame Margot Fonteyn.
In a sense, we have been very lucky that the dance school we attend encourages teamwork and kindness. I just took her down to the local dance school and didn’t shop around or ask for advice. Our choice was all based on convenience. However, our dance school actively promotes supportive and encouraging friendships and the parents are friendly and help each other out. Indeed, we’ve been sharing lifts back and forth to rehearsals for Swan Lake and we’ve got to know each other better. It’s been great. I don’t think we’d have stuck with dance if our studio had been anything like what you see in Dance Moms. Values come first.
“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know
if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running
through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”
Reading back through all of this, I realized that I haven’t really touched on what dance does for the spirit and how it can create that all-encompassing joie de vivre or even a sense of absolute peace. I have been doing some adult classes and really only dipping my toe into dance, but I have also had a taste of the magic which inspires my daughter. It’s electric.
So, we now only have one more sleep until our daughter becomes a swan whatever that entails. However, I know that for me, it will be pure magic.