Okay, let's begin. I feel that I need to write at least a little about my personal background in order to continue on dealing with this subject of retirement.
It was clear from an early age that I had to perform. I was five years old, and my first performance was a church musical called "Down by the Creek Bank," and let's just say that I took to the stage like a fish to a toilet bowl. I had a pivotal role. I was some kid's echo. "Hello!" he said. "Helloooooooo!" I answered back. I echoed "Helloooooooo!" two times from the back of the theatre and anxiously waited for the music to begin. Once the music began, I grabbed my fishing pole as directed and happily marched to the stage to join my other cast members. I climbed the steps to the stage, did an about face to the audience and froze. The words were gone. The tune was non-existent. As my face turned white and the tears began to fall, I hopped right off of the stage and into my Father's lap. There I remained in complete terror for the rest of the show. From then on, I knew I wanted to be an actor.
I couldn't get enough of the theatre. I knew I wanted to act more than anything else. I wanted nothing more than to be like my Dad. He loved to act, sing and clown. Seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. As I got a little older, I decided that I would be a performer. Then Mom threw the curve ball. She took up ballet for the first time since she was fourteen. In Mt. Airy, North Carolina, you had to really want to be a ballet dancer, for there wasn't a school that offered solid classical training anywhere in town. So began the weekly road trips to a dancing school that was about thirty minutes away-then the twice weekly, then more and more. For an eight year old, this was the most awful form of punishment imaginable. So naturally, when my mother asked if I'd like to try it, I jumped at the occasion.
Shortly after my mother began teaching me, I auditioned and was accepted into the pre-professional division at the North Carolina School of the Arts. The school was one hour away. This is where I received eight of my nine years of training.
I hadn't lost sight of the big picture. Ballet would make me agile, so that I could transition into theatre. Here was my plan: Attend NCSA as a dance student until I was a senior in High School, then transfer over to the drama department, graduate and attend college there and become an actor.
Ballet was the hardest and most unnatural of all activities for my body! I couldn't even touch my toes. The pain I felt cannot be described. It was clear that I wasn't cut out for this and had the worst chances of ever making it in this field. Naturally, I was hooked. I was ten years old. By the ripe-old age of twelve I knew I wanted to become a professional dancer.
-I need to make a note here. Dancers are a different breed of people. I know now that knowing by age twelve what I would be when I grew up is not the norm! It has taken me years to finally admit this.-
Let's fast forward. After eight years training in N.C. and one in Philadelphia, I actually "made it." I landed my job with the Kansas City Ballet as an apprentice. Within my first year, I was made a full company member. In that first year I performed two principal roles. I was off to a great start. I was one of the blessed few to make it in this field.
I have always been a goal oriented guy. I love projects. I love the feeling of working for something and seeing the end result. I love a challenge. The harder the better. I had definitely found the most challenging fit for me! I have always seen my career in a series of milestones. I decided, "the first year was great-let's shoot for two." The second went so fast I thought I'd try and see if my body would make it to five. Five came and went painlessly, and I thought I'd see if I could go ten. So far so good-knock on wood.
The reason I have shot through this so quickly is because that is how quickly it felt like it went by. I'm a flash in the pan in this world. I want to be clear that this is not set up to be my memoirs(although I reserve the right to pepper in stories and experiences as I document this phase.) I want talk about the transition. I hope to capture for anyone reading what it is like to go through this-at least what it will be like for me. There will be many opportunities to come for me to delve into the meat and potatoes of how this is affecting me, but for this entry, I wanted to give a general overview of the odd childhood that is common to many in this field.
Perhaps I am also stalling. No matter how excited, enthusiastic and prepared I am feeling at this moment, I am scared of what it will be like to face this chapter in my life. What will it really be like when I take my final bow. Who retires in their twenties anyway? Can't we come up with a less horrifying word? I'm letting go of my first-well, my second dream in order to pursue my first. That's weird. I have the strangest feelings of being both calm and terrified at the same time.
I guess it couldn't be worse than "Down by the Creek Bank."