By AIMEE PLAUCHE, GB Youth Board | Published January 22, 2004
Though we have already hit the New Year, Christmas still leaves its magic dancing around in our heads. The dreams it leaves are individual to each person: some dreaming about what they may have received, some dreaming about what they did not, some just lingering in the leftover haze.
The dream that lingers for me is of “The Nutcracker,” a classical ballet almost synonymous with the Christmas season. This year marked my first Christmas in that performance. I didn’t have a huge role, yet even so, seven performances in four days left me completely drained. But even as my muscles and toes complained, my soul rejoiced.
Last year at this time, I was at a different studio. Their approach was more casual, with almost no focus on ballet. It was my seventh year at the studio, and at a time when I was realizing that I wanted to be a dancer, and nothing but. Yet I was miserable, and I couldn’t understand why.
It was my first year in that studio’s competing company, in which I traveled once a month from February to May to perform. I was bored to tears at every competition, frustrated with the long hours, the uncomfortable dressing rooms and the hundreds of dances that quickly began to look the same. I wondered why I had even gotten myself into this and eventually convinced myself that I was the problem, I was the one not having fun, I was the one who wasn’t trying hard enough.
I would’ve completely fooled myself, too, had I not entered our school talent show. I had been preparing for the April show since January, determined to do something to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. I had chosen the song “Losing My Religion” by REM, a song not about losing faith in God but about struggling with failure, which spoke to me in a way I didn’t fully understand. By audition time I was prepared and easily made it in.
The performance wasn’t as easy; it was downright terrifying. The stage was rickety, uneven and slippery, a temporary structure that didn’t look as though it would hold up if someone blew on it. But with my heart pounding in fear, I began my dance. To this day, the memories of that performance only come back in fragments, a sign of a fantastic show. I even impressed my grandfather, a notorious amateur dance critic.
But I knew it couldn’t have been me up there performing, who everyone said was so wonderful. Performances were supposed to be a time when you remembered every mistake you made and then beat yourself and others up about it.
Even so, after that day my eyes opened. Although part of me didn’t want to leave familiar people and a familiar studio, I also began to yearn to experience again what I had felt on stage. I struggled when I saw negativity and boredom, or a desire to get out of dancing’s hard work, when this should be a dancer’s art and a dancer’s joy.
What was I going to do about it? I can’t change other people; I can only change me. But I can’t switch studios next year—I’m going to high school, and that’s enough change.
So I simply promised myself I wouldn’t compete the next year.
But the misery only grew during summer, when at camp we barely did any ballet, even during designated ballet class. I was really upset and began having a raging internal battle.
I can’t change studios now—I’ve been there too long, I’ve just reached the highest level, I know everyone there. It’s just not right…
But a second opinion drifted in. Is it right to be angry and depressed doing something you love? Do you think God wants you to hate yourself when you are just unhappy where you are dancing?
I knew that voice in my head was right. That night I trekked downstairs into our family’s sunroom, my designated dance space, and listened to “Losing My Religion.” Remembering that one performance where I was sure God had interceded, I knew that I had to feel that presence whenever I danced.
I switched dance schools within two weeks, and the happiness it has brought me is always present.
God wants us to have joy while we’re on this earth, and if you ask, He will bring joy to you. I found happiness in a roomful of hardworking strangers that I would have never uncovered alone. Do not tell yourself you’re content when you aren’t—rather, let God into your heart, and He will lead you to where you need to go.
Aimee Plauche, a freshman at Brookwood High School, is a member of St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn.