How is it possible that one person can be so inspiring? Tonight, I had dinner with my teacher who is setting Lambarena. We had over ten years of catching up to do, and we're not finished yet, but it was a lovely time to reconnect. In and outside of the studio, she is completely generous with her guidance about the ballet world as well as life. She is the first person I have really gotten to sit down with who has told me about her experience of leaving the ballet company field and shed light on things to look out for as well as forward to. I'd like to share a bit of what she shared with me. Note: I am interpreting what she said at the same time as I am digesting it.
I've spoken on the issue of how we dancers complain about what we do. We discussed this together, and she had a take on it that I hadn't ever considered. In a way, dancers are brainwashed. We live sheltered in a community of artists whom we work with, play with, but most importantly obey orders with. From the time we are young and training, we are taught to jump when commanded-go here, now back there. Stay still. Turn. In this field we rarely have a voice of our own. Even if the person setting the ballet or teaching us is incredibly incorrect in their instruction, we have little or no wiggle room within our arena in which to point that out. Thereby, when we are together with our associates who also have had no voice all day/week/years, we need to let it out. We need to communicate and express our frustrations. Sometimes we do this in a positive manner, but often we don't. I found this to be an interesting take on the subject.
This segued into how she felt once she left company life. All of a sudden, dancers are in the "real world" without the cocoon of our closest friends on a thirty hour a week basis. This can be a complete culture shock. Now, of course, we may still have instructions being ordered to us, but it's no where near the same. Our interaction with people becomes different, and this can be scary. "Normal" people may not have the same interest and definitely not the same passion as we do about dance. We have to recreate our sense of "normalcy." I can see how this could be a bit traumatizing to someone who stared in the mirror and talked to other people who also stared in the mirror and discussed dance for decades at a time.
This is another reason why I am a huge proponent of expanding ones circle of friends during a dance career. I hadn't fully thought of this issue in this way, so it's a bit unnerving, but I feel that I am fairly well prepared for being tossed into the real world. Also, I'm lucky because I'm going into a field that is linked to my current profession.
When I praised her for the way she relates to dancers and seems to not have forgotten what it was like to be one, she had an amazing response. She said that she swore to herself when she was younger that she would remember how she didn't like being treated as if she didn't have a brain, and thereby, she wouldn't do that when she was in the position of authority. She also spoke of a "revelation" she had when she was in her early days as a teacher/coach/ballet mistress. She realized that the "mirror was now behind her." She was looking at the dancers-not at the mirror any longer. It was up to her to give them the material and guidance they needed in order to help them succeed. It wasn't only about her career anymore. Wow. So clear, so wise, so honest, so sincere.
She gave me some advice as I prepare to move on. She spoke of the fear that comes with transitioning, and she told me something that her Father said to her:
"As long as it comes from the heart, you will never say the wrong thing. Your sincerity will come through."
To me, this summarized the mystery of her her ability to be so gracious. It is so clear that everything comes from her heart. This may have summarized the "mystery," but it doesn't simplify it. Not everyone can have this gift. One can work on/for it, but it has to be something you were born with, and born with it she was.
Tonight's visit was a true gem. I feel honored to have my teacher also be my friend but still teach me valuable lessons.