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Dance sojourn piles daily challenges

This is the second of a two-part column by staff writer Amanda Edwards about her experience dancing professionally in Washington, D.C. For the first part, read D.C. school matures ballet aspirations.

In my junior year, I moved to a new host family who lived 45 minutes away from D.C. in Bethesda, MD. I had to walk a mile to my bus stop and soon learned it was best to arrive there ten minutes early. I then transferred to one more bus which dropped me off in front of the dance studio.

The journey home was difficult because I had to walk up a large hill in the dark, all after having practiced dance for five or more hours. I really missed having parents with cars to pick me up.

I never thought I would miss my parents checking up on me, but after a while, I even missed their pestering. It used to make me feel safe to know they were around. In D.C., nobody kept close tabs on me like they did at home.

I had expected the Washington School of Ballet to be structured and maintained well, requiring a specific uniform that each student had to wear to class. The school exceeded and changed each of my expectations.

The classes were like nothing I had ever experienced before. I instantly fell in love with ballet even more due to the structure of the classes, expertise of the teachers and the professional environment.

Shortly after I arrived, auditions were held for the holiday production of “The Nutcracker.” Since I was one of the shortest girls in my class, I was asked to audition for the main role, Clara.

I anxiously awaited finding out the results of tryouts, along with the 15 other girls in the show. I was assigned several roles, all of which I enjoyed. My favorite role was Clara. However, as rehearsals grew more intense, injuries and sicknesses began to get in the way.

We performed “The Nutcracker” 27 times in all. I danced in a total of 20 shows my first year, and my second year I danced in every show. When I was playing the part of Clara it felt really special. It felt great to have the audience captured by my dancing.

All the younger girls in the performance and crowd looked up to me, as if I were a queen. I was really glad I could be a positive influence for them to look up to.

One day during dress rehearsal, I fell off pointe onto my arm. At first I was just embarrassed, but as the day went on the pain became worse. I went to the doctor the next day and he informed me that I had broken my forearm. Nutcracker shows at the theater were two days away and I just kept thinking; “this can’t happen!” I had dancers depending on me as well as teachers.

After I was put into a splint, I went back to ballet and told my teachers. I only took a week off and went right back to dancing. The pain was awful but I had no choice. My arm was broken, and I also had bronchitis and a cold. Now my arm has permanent damage and hurts almost every day, but I have learned that ballet is never pain-free.

In addition to the physical toll of dancing, my passion cost me in other areas as well.

I went to an online school for two years, which I hated in comparison with normal school. I wrote essay after essay, and read copious amounts every week. There was no one to explain anything to me, and no parental figure to help me. I ended up really hating school , and I had no drive to learn because I was so busy with work and ballet.

My relationship with my family changed drastically. It was hard to talk to them every day because I was so exhausted from dancing all day and then walking home. I also had to buy all of my own groceries and make my own dinner. Sometimes I would just eat cereal because I would have no time to prepare a meal, talk to my family and friends and do schoolwork.

Despite these problems, I feel as if I was meant to go away to D.C. It helped me cope with my parents’ divorce, and I avoided being drowned in all the drama. I do love both of my parents, but the time during my family’s divorce and starting a new life away from home was really hard for me.

I have always been close with my mom but my dad and I went four months without talking. I did not know which side to believe or how to act or treat them. And I was so tired from dancing all day that it was difficult to make an effort to call them in the first place.

Throughout my experience, my biggest fear was wondering if I were good enough to be a professional. Every ballerina asks herself that same question. If you mess up something so simple as a pirouette, it will make you wonder, “am I good enough?” Through all the blisters and tears, this doubt has only made me a stronger dancer.

Through all the amazing training, I have decided to quit ballet. It is such a high demand on my body and the sacrifices are difficult. I will not be quitting dance, however. Dance is something that will always stick with me. I plan on auditioning in LA for the TV show So You Think You Can Dance, as well for the role of a “Laker Girl” for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Right now, I am focusing more on hip-hop, jazz and contemporary dance, as well as opening a dance studio in Fresno by the time I am 25. Fresno is a great town filled with so much talent, and I want girls to be able to pursue their dream to dance without having to move away from their families at an early age.

Even though I won’t be dancing classical ballet, everything I have learned over the past years will always stick with me. I thank my parents every day for letting me have the opportunity of a lifetime.

In the end, I would never have changed my mind about moving away from home. I believe the experience will help me to deal with situations later in life. Now that I have a better understanding of life outside of Fresno.

For more information, read the Oct. 5, 2007 article, Washington D.C. woos ballerina.

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  • A

    Alexandra BarisicJan 29, 2011 at 12:02 am

    This was so funny! Only at FCHS…

  • L

    Laura CasugaJan 29, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Well, David, you continue to surprise me. Now you’re a songwriter . . . when will the madness end?

    I’m a very proud mom!