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Wielding a pair of battle-scarred pointe shoes, a well-written novel, and an unlimited supply of tea, one young woman attempts to conquer that thing people call "college".

My Year in Review #1

Due to a summer of surgeries and limited mobility, I have been forced to push my focus beyond the performance aspect of being a ballet major.  The result has been one of my largest growths since coming to the University of Cincinnati in choreography.  I created this piece, both the spoken word and the choreography, knowing that I would be dancing it myself, despite my post-surgery limitations.  This gave me quite the challenge as I could only perform steps that my knee was capable of four weeks into my recovery!  The staircase is both symbolic of my upward journey and practical in that it helped to support my weight throughout the piece, lessening my knee’s limitations.  What better way to show my growth this year as a choreographer than to showcase my work?

In addition to creating this piece for my Year in Review, I am in the process of creating an eight minute contemporary ballet for CCM’s Choreographer’s Showcase in Spring of 2014.  Next year I hope to be one of the people creating the dances, not just performing them!  My advice to my future self as I work on this piece is to celebrate my ability to dance again through my choreography; never stop moving!  As the school year begins, I hope to take advantage of the many willing dancers in CCM to try and experiment with new choreography so that I can bring my project to life.

My Final Paper for Conversations about Life

Christine Settembrino

Professor John Martin

Conversations about Life

April 24, 2013

 

The Role of Religion in Raising a Child

1. Introduction

In the opinion column of the New York Times, a “Room for Debate” article was posted that particularly struck me entitled “With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?.” [1]  As the agnostic product of twelve years of Catholic education, I have been interested in the dogmas and methods of our world’s religions for quite some time and wish to explore one of the most crucial elements that is shaping our future: the role of religion in raising a child.  During the most impressionable and formative years of a human’s life, the role that religion plays is of the utmost importance to the outcome of the individual.  I will explore personal cases, common methods, and draw my own conclusions on the topic in my search to determine how to best handle religion while raising a child.

2. Current Teaching Methods

2.1 Development-based Progression

Current approaches taken for teaching the various major religions of the world all seem to focus on a similar track.  Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic non-profit organization, is written by parish leaders and has posted an instructional guide consistent with the Catholic Church’s views on how to teach a child about the faith from early childhood through coming of age as an adult.[2]  This guide can give a concrete example of the following principles: As a child develops, teach them what they are able to understand.  First morals are introduced, often through stories and allegories that hold a rich tradition within the religious community; God is referenced in the simplest way possible.  The most basic traditions and prayers, alongside playtime, bring a very young community of budding religious children together.  As the child grows older, the basic history of the religion is taught and abstract principles are introduced.  Traditions and prayers become more complex.  After many years of growth, both in development through age and in learning about the faith, rituals may be performed to further indoctrinate the person into the religious community.  Finally, the child becomes an adult with full knowledge and understanding of their faith.  This timeline of education often takes the form of religious weekend or afternoon schooling, as is the case with the Jewish faith’s Hebrew school or the Catholic faith’s CCD program, youth groups and organizations, or regular day schooling through a religious institution.

2.2 Religious Day Schools

Many religions teach their faith through faith-based and supported schools.  Though other faiths have strong religious day schools (such as the Jewish yeshivas, Beis Yaakov, or Solomon Schechter schools), Catholic schools are the primary example of this type of education.  These schools provide a learning environment, often from an age as early as three years old, for children to grow up in.  They learn, play, go to after-school activities, attend religious services, and grow up almost exclusively with people of their own faith.  A community is built around the faith and children must make an additional effort to be a part of life outside of this community in any form.  Religion classes are taught alongside mathematics, English, and history.  Prayers are often said throughout the day, particularly in the morning, before meals, and at the close of the day.  Even teachers are often expected to uphold the principles of the faith, as has been the recent topic of controversy and outrage in the state of Ohio.  In Cincinnati, Mike Moroski, a Catholic school teacher, was fired for making comments in support of gay rights on his personal blog and two Catholic school teachers were fired for becoming pregnant outside of a marriage.[3]  Carla Hale, a Catholic school teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, was fired after being revealed as a homosexual through an anonymously written letter citing an obituary written for Hale’s mother that states the name of her partner.[4]  The students of these schools have seen first-hand the results of not following their faith’s moral code within their community.  Children in religious day schools are surrounded by faith every day.  Whether it is a great advantage or an unfortunate case of tunnel-vision, these schools offer very little perspective on life outside of their religious community compared to their public school counterparts.

3. How Much?

How much religion is too much or too little?  The amount and intensity of religion in a child’s life is something that is often up for debate.  While many religions preach daily prayers and weekly services averaging an hour to an hour and a half in length, such as Catholicism and many other Christian faiths, other religions require multiple daily prayers or have extremely long weekend services that are designed to be “all-nighter” events.  The religious upbringing of a child, no matter what the intensity, can have strong impacts on their lives and the lives of others.

3.1 Too Much

In the New York Times article “With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?,” Lois Kendall, a former sect member, writes, “The practices and structure of some sects mean that children are growing up in an environment where they may be at risk of medical, physical, emotional or educational neglect, psychological maltreatment, and sometimes abuse in every sense of that word, even death.”[5]

In some cases, religion has been taken so far as to physically damage a child.  As reported in Komo News on April 23, 2013, “Herbert and Catherine Schaible belong to a fundamentalist church that believes in faith healing.  They lose their 8-month-old son, Brandon, after he suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems for at least a week, and stopped eating.  Four years ago, another son died from bacterial pneumonia.”[6]  This is a clear case in which religion has gone too far in affecting the life of a child.  Both children could have survived if proper medical attention was sought; but, due to the religious belief that faith alone should heal medical issues the children are dead.

Since the beginnings of civilization, religion has been used as an excuse for war and terrorism.  The result of human sacrifice as early as the Aztecs,[7] the Crusades of the Medieval period,[8]and recent radical Islamic terrorist attacks all end in one thing: the death of millions of people.  A question to keep in mind when determining the validity of this excuse: Is a personal belief worth harming oneself or others over?

3.2 Not Enough

Austin Cline, the Regional Director for the Council for Secular Humanism and a former Publicity Coordinator for the Campus Freethought Alliance, wrote an article for About.com’s Agnosticism/Atheism’s guide entitled “What Should I Tell My Kids about Religion?”  In it he states:

                “If you aren’t specifically teaching your kids to believe in any gods or to follow any religious systems, then it may be tempting to just ignore the topic entirely.  That, however, would probably be a mistake. You may not follow any religion and you may be happier if your children never follow any religion, but that doesn’t change the fact that religion is an important aspect of culture, art, politics, and of the lives of many people your children will meet over the years. If your children are simply ignorant about religion, they will be missing out on a lot.”[9]

Cline continues on to urge parents to teach their children about all religions, including first-hand exposure through trips to religious services.  Proper exposure to all of the major religious possibilities, skepticism, critical thinking, and respect for those of different beliefs are his goals when raising a child in a non-religious household; goals that I, personally, very strongly agree with.

4. Morality without Religion

A common concern regarding bringing up a child without religion is a lack of morality.  Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, responds to this concern when asked the question, “If you aren’t religious, how are you going to teach morals to your kids?” with the following sarcastic comment in a psychologytoday.com article:

“I [am] quite confident I could raise decent kids without the following dialogue: ‘Raven, I know you’re only 5 and your prefrontal cortex hasn’t developed but stop hitting Chloe across the face with the remote control. Raven, the gash over Chloe’s eye is starting to split. Raven, her optic nerve is dangling. Raven, she’s dying. Raven! Remember the verse Matthew 5:24? … Whew, that’s better.’”[10]

In stark contrast, Dr. Dave Miller, a preacher, demonstrates a common religious objection and writes for apologeticspress.org, “The fact is that the Creator of the human race is the sole Author and Source of objective morality.  Otherwise, moral distinctions would simply be the product of the subjective whims of humans…  The Bible presents the only logical and sane assessment of reality – an objective standard, authored by the Creator, exists for the entire human race.”[11]  This belief, however, requires one to believe in the validity of the Bible as a source of logic, sanity, and truth.

Margaret Knight did a series of talks regarding morality without religion just after the end of World War II, an article on which was written in the Royal Institute of Philosophy magazine Think and republished on the British Humanist Association website.[12]  These talks deeply delve into supporting a secular humanist moral education for children apart from religion and boil down to the following statement in their essence, though not their entirety: “We must not be completely selfish; we must be prepared, at times and within limits, to put our own interests second to those of our family, or our friends, or of the group or community to which we belong.”  I would highly recommend a full reading of this article in order to explore Knight’s fuller intention and thoughts on the subject.

5. Culture

An important aspect of religion to consider is the culture.  Traditions and community are the foundation of many faiths and can partially exist outside of them.  I personally know many people who do not believe in the existence of God but identify as Jewish.  Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at the Queens College of the City University of New York, argues that, “The child is first and foremost someone who must be educated. Childhood is not for fun. It is generally a time for instruction and laying the foundation for a solid core of Jewish identity and knowledge,”[13] in his section of the New York Times article “With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?”  While cultural identity can be fulfilling and connect a child with their family and the community, the exact role that religion plays separate from traditions and the community itself is indeterminate.

6. Substance over Formalism

What I believe to be the most important section of the New York Times article “With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?” is a piece promoting substance over formalism written by Asma T. Uddin.[14]  According to the New York Times, Uddin is the, “founder and editor in chief of Altmuslimah, an online magazine… legal counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a legal fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.”  Uddin argues that parents should focus on the spiritual aspect of religion with their children and hold frequent, open discussions with them about spirituality.  She further states:

Unfortunately, when rituals are prioritized over spirituality at this tender young age, religion can become restrictive rather than liberating… I believe strongly that religion is a tremendous tool for raising morally upright and civically responsible children. That said, for children to reap the true benefits of faith, the focus must be on substance rather than formalism.”

When religious services become unreasonably long, how are children supposed to focus long enough to be fully engaged for the duration of the service?  If kids are too worried about properly executing minute details of rituals, how are they able to focus on the spiritually rewarding aspects of the task?  Formalities, while important in some cases and often stem from a very long history, are still just that.  By further engaging one’s child in the spiritual aspect of the faith, a parent will often be leading the child to the true core of the religion.

7. A Case Study

            Now that I have fully explored many of the aspects of the role of religion in raising a child, I would like to apply it to a real-life individual’s situation.  In the “With Children, When Does Religion Go Too Far?” article, Kimball Allen tells his story of growing up in a Mormon household and the impact it has had on his life as a gay young adult.[15]  Allen states that, “On the surface, our theology created a supportive and nurturing environment for my family and me.”  This picturesque surface was stripped away when Allen began to realize at a very young age that he was homosexual.  His resulting play, “’Secrets of a Gay Mormon Felon,’ reveals the negative effects religion can have, particularly when the individual doesn’t fit into the dogmatic mold. But in a nutshell: “Over time a toxic mixture of unresolved resentment and anger led [him] down a dark turbulent path toward an adulthood lined with betrayal, alcohol, drugs, and sex, which ultimately landed [him] in jail.”  After coming out to his parents, Allen was shunned from his religious community and family. 

Kimball Allen’s life is a concrete situation to which this paper could be applied.  The current methods of his faith (see the second section of this paper, Current Teaching Methods) were a constant in Allen’s life.  “Weekly church services and activities were the norm… and early morning family scripture study was my wake-up call. [They] were the poster Mormon family.”  However, when Allen broke the dogmatic mold, he lost the support that once came from the religious environment. 

Had Kimball Allen learned his morality separate from his religious education as a child, as is strongly suggested by Margaret Knight (see the fourth section of this paper, Morality without Religion), he may not have spiraled into an adulthood of negative and illegal activities.  The loss of his religion, an occurrence becoming more and more frequent in today’s society, would not have meant the loss of his moral compass. 

Allen’s parents have clearly focused on the formal aspects of the faith over the inclusion of their son in the family after his coming-out.  Kimball states that after writing his coming-out letter to his parents that, “[His] naivety gave [him] faith that the teachings of Jesus Christ would conquer all and touch the hearts of [his] parents… A few weeks later [he] received letters from [his] parents. [His] mother called homosexuality ‘repulsive’ and hoped [he] would ‘never blame the church’ for [his] actions.”  An argument could be made that the intensity of the religion was too strong in his upbringing (see the third section of this paper, How Much?) since his family is willing to reject him for who he truly is based on the dogma of their faith.

The role of religion in Kimball Allen’s childhood upbringing was unsuccessful.  Allen’s life could have seriously benefited from a reconsideration of the way religion was being injected into his life.  Allen is not alone; every child in the world is molded by religion.  Clearly the role religion plays in the development of a child is crucial and the consequences should be taken into consideration.  The way religion is taught to our children instills solid, foundational dogmas.  Whether the results are positive or negative, they will stick with them for the rest of their lives.



Honors Experience #2

So we’ve all seen the movie Accepted, right?  For the woefully uninformed and unentertained, Accepted is the story of: “A high school slacker who’s rejected by every school he applies to opts to create his own institution of higher learning, the South Harmon Institute of Technology, on a rundown piece of property near his hometown.”  (Thank you, IMDB, for the summary.)  When creating the course catalogue for the year, the students are asked the question, “What do you want to learn?” and told to write their responses on a massive dry erase board.  This board becomes their curriculum.

“What do you want to learn?” is possibly the most loaded question a college student can ever be asked.  Instead of answering the question in its purest form and honestly, American students in 2013 warp their answers to respond to these questions instead:  What do I need to learn for my major?  What do I need to learn to fill out that general education course?  In the “pick a course from this list” scenario, which of these will be the least painful and least amount of work to learn about?  This semester, for the first and most likely only time in my collegiate career, I took a course that was based on the honest answer to this question.

Every Wednesday at 6:00 pm a group of approximately twenty-five met in the lounge of Stratford Height’s honors dorm for class.  Chairs and couches were arranged in a circle, putting every person in the room, including the professor, on equal footing.  The course was called Conversations About Life and was led by Professor John Martin.  Professor Martin began our semester by asking, “So, what do you want to talk about?”  Much like in the movie Accepted, we were being asked to bring what we actually wanted to learn and talk about into the classroom.  Every week, we were to each prepare a topic for the class’s conversation and write a brief description accompanied by any relevant newspaper articles or research.  The class would take a vote and the topic with the most votes would be the discussion for the evening.  The professor was to play a minimal role in the course, intervening only with relevant facts, to guide the conversation into a more productive direction, or to keep things from getting too heated.  The student whose topic was chosen would lead the discussion, calling on students one at a time to speak.  It was all very straightforward until you considered the sticky subject matter that was going to be at hand.

At the beginning of the first class, we were asked to go around the room and introduce ourselves with our name, our major, a fact about ourselves, our religion, and our political views.  As one of two non-science or business majors in the room and an agnostic from New Jersey in the middle of an extremely Christian Ohio, I knew that I was in for a few very frustrating debates.  Our list of topics for the semester included serious discussions about fracking, gun control, and corporal punishment for children and more light-hearted ones about whether or not Disney princesses made good role models and Dumbledore’s sexuality.

Conversations About Life has been the most fun and most rewarding course that I have taken at UC.  It allowed me to break out of the socially confining bubble that CCM can be and introduced me to a wonderful group of peers in the honors program.  After class was technically over, a large number of us would get dinner afterwards and continue discussing that week’s topic or a different topic that hadn’t received enough votes to be the classroom discussion.  By being placed in an environment where I could sit on the floor, kick off my shoes, and drink my tea, I was able to more freely discuss things that are important to my generation.  As the course progressed, my speaking skills grew stronger as I learned through experience how to better articulate my ideas in a logical and civilized fashion.  (Not surprising, considering that the course was being taught by a philosophy professor who guided us in how to make better conversation.)  No matter what a student’s field of study, being able to speak well is a crucial skill.  The ability to clearly articulate one’s point of view in a concise and logical manner will be called upon in many aspects of life, both professional and personal.  Whether it’s a political debate or presenting scientific research or a job interview to be a gossip columnist, the speaking skills that were honed in this class will assist its students as they encounter any verbal or written challenge.

Conversations About Life was the first philosophy course that I had ever taken.  While the amount of interaction met my expectations, the focus on building logical cases was more practical and less abstract that I had imagined it would be.  In the future, I hope to take another philosophy course after my positive experience with this one.  Through my every-day actions I had been preparing for this course since I was born and after honing my skills this semester, I will use what I have learned for the rest of my life!

P.S.

The course culminated in a final paper discussing an approved topic of choice.  My paper on The Role of Religion in Raising a Child can be found by clicking the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.

Honors Experience #1

At a very young age, my mother took me to see New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.  Enamored by the beautiful ballerinas, lavish costumes, and grand music, I declared the same goal as so many little girls before me had:  One day I would be the Sugar Plum Fairy.  For many of those girls, the dream of dancing professionally on the stage is one that is only a passing fancy, deemed too much work when the battle had only just begun, or is out of reach due to poor training, a lack of commitment, injury, or a body not made for ballet.  For me, it became a reality.

After my mother, a dancer herself who had put herself through college by teaching ballet classes, thoroughly looked through dance schools in my local area, I began taking lessons at the age of three at Center Stage Dance and Theatre School.  My training progressed as I started competing at the regional level, studying all forms of dance and theatre with a special focus in ballet.  By the time I was fourteen years old, I had won the Triple Threat scholarship from the New York City Dance Alliance, taken first place as a soloist at the national level with special recognition from the judges for my technical capabilities, and was leaving home for the third summer to attend what my family calls “ballet boot camp,” a five-week summer program at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet that pushes young dancers with a professional interest to perfection.  After great success at Center Stage, and several summers of ballet summer programs, I knew that my true passion and professional intent was ballet, both contemporary and classical.  I was offered a position at the Princeton Ballet School’s Professional Training Program just after I turned seventeen and spent the final year and a half of high school dancing with trainees for the American Repertory Ballet, a professional company.  After being asked to join all but one of the college ballet programs I auditioned for, I happily accepted a place here at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

While at Center Stage, I performed in The Nutcracker every other year.  I began as a Polichinelle (a small clown who runs out from underneath Mother Ginger’s massive hoop skirt on stilts), moved up to a Soldier and Snowflake, and was fortunate enough to spend my last three alternating holiday seasons as Clara, Snow Queen, and, finally, the Sugar Plum Fairy.  During my senior year of high school, I travelled with the American Repertory Ballet company as a Snowflake, Flower, and Spanish Chocolate for eleven performances all across New Jersey.  While companies may put together a specific ballet as often as every four years at the most, The Nutcracker is the one exception.  Most companies, in order to keep ticket sales alive, respond to the public’s demand for the show by doing it every holiday season!  The Nutcracker has become and large part of my life and will continue to be for many years to come.

Ballet Theatre Midwest is a local children’s school that puts on an annual performance of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, a slightly altered and differently titled version of The Nutcracker due to Cincinnati Ballet’s right to be the sole performers of The Nutcracker in the area.  Daniel Simmons, the director of Ballet Theatre Midwest, casts the children of the school in ensemble roles and hires dancers, often from CCM, to dance as the lead roles.  Mr. Simmons held his annual audition at CCM in late September and I was selected as one of eight girls for the production.  Eleven hours of rehearsals per week spread out onto Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday began on October 18th and on that day, I signed my first paid dance contract!

My first three rehearsals went extremely well.  Though the choreography was extremely detailed and taught very quickly, I managed to learn it all without ever falling behind.  Mr. Simmons was very pleased with my work and had already asked me to begin learning the soloist role in the Spanish Chocolate number in addition to learning the roles of Party Parent, Doll, Snowflake, Flower, Chinese Tea, and Merleton.  After what seemed like one of my most successful starts to The Nutcracker season, the unthinkable happened.  While playing a friendly game of Quidditch to help build up my stamina by running and have some fun with friends, we played against a new team with a brand new player who had just signed up.  Only minutes into the very low-contact, no collision sport, the new player, a man over six feet tall and easily 200 pounds, tackled me at a full sprint from behind, landing on top of me.  The pain was immediate and more intense than anything I had ever felt in my life.  Leaving out the gory details of what followed, the result was that the offending player was expelled from the group for assaulting me and I was carried into the nearest car and rushed to the hospital by my team captain and roommate.  After several X-rays, CAT scans, and MRI’s of my right knee and hip, an injection for pain relief so that more examinations could continue, and a check for a concussion, I left the hospital on crutches with a brace from my hip to my ankle that immobilized my knee.  The orthopedic surgeon informed me that I was one of the luckiest cases he had ever seen; due to my hyper flexion (extreme mobility in my joints), the strength and flexibility of my tendons from my dance training, and the angle of impact (straight down), I didn’t tear or break anything.  Had I twisted even the slightest bit to either direction upon getting hit, I could have completely blown out my knee (torn the ACL, MCL, and meniscus) and/or broken my leg.  My knee was bruised down to the bone and all of the ligaments were extremely damaged, additionally exposing underlying wear-and-tear already in my knee from years of intense dance training.  I wouldn’t be able to walk for six weeks, let alone begin to dance, by normal healing rates.

All of the previous information sets the stage for the most difficult phone call I’ve ever had to make and one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever taken on as a dancer.  I informed Mr. Simmons of what had happened and he asked that I come in early to the next rehearsal so that we could discuss my situation.  I wouldn’t be able to dance fully approximately two weeks before the show so if I were to fulfill my contract, I would have to learn all of the choreography while sitting and watching and be 100% ready to perform it the day that I was able to dance again.  Dancers don’t learn that way; they learn by actually doing it, by their muscles practicing the patterns until they become as familiar as walking.  By taking on this herculean challenge, I would have to memorize it all visually without ever practicing the foreign movements.  One of the most physical tasks in the world would have to become completely cerebral.    Additionally, I would have to prove to Mr. Simmons that I was successfully learning it all as rehearsals progressed in order to keep my contract.

I have never known another dancer to attempt learning choreography without actually moving and so I had to start my methods at square one.  I began to observe every rehearsal from the corner of the room, wielding a notebook and pen.  I wrote down everything: spatial patterns, who I danced behind or next to, the series of steps, which arm to use when, and anything else I could possibly think of.  After rehearsal, as my own self-assigned homework, I would listen to the music and envision myself performing the choreography, both doing the actual steps and where I would be on stage in relationship to all of the other dancers.  Mr. Simmons suggested that once my leg was able to bend enough to sit properly in a chair instead of being completely straight in the brace and propped up on another chair, that I begin to do the arm and head motions along with the dancers so that at least the top half of my body would be familiar with the movements.  Whenever he was reviewing choreography, I was asked to explain patterns and recited the steps in order to demonstrate that I was retaining the vast amounts of choreography being taught.  Once I was able to walk again after weeks of grueling, painful rehabilitation for my knee, I stood in line with the dancers and would walk through the patterns with them without actually dancing.  This was a great help to me; I was able to finally put all that I had learned into a physical context.  The dancers around me were quite surprised that I always moved in the correct direction, using the proper arms and head movements after only visually observing for over a month.  I even surprised myself!  The one person who was not surprised was Mr. Simmons, who later explained to me that he would have never risked keeping my contract if he didn’t have full confidence that I would be able to figure out a way to learn everything.  At the end of one of the rehearsals, he even asked me to explain my learning methods to his students as a teaching example for creative ways to deal with injuries!

The performances themselves held their own set of challenges.  I would be dancing in all of my originally assigned roles with the exception of Flowers, which had been recast after another dancer was injured.  (In ballet, ensembles need to have an even number of dancers.  It was easier to take myself and the other injured dancer out than to try to re-choreograph it to fit an odd number.)  The amount of pressure placed on my still-healing knee was tremendous and I had to have ice placed on it immediately after each show’s completion.  Additionally, I had lost all of my stamina after weeks upon weeks of inactivity; a flight of stairs was enough to put me out of breath, let alone the seven minutes of running and jumping required to dance the Waltz of the Snowflakes.  By focusing on keeping my breathing steady and even, I was able to combat my weak stamina without extra physical activity.  One of the most difficult challenges, however, wasn’t physical at all; it was a curveball thrown in by the wardrobe department.  Due to my roles as both a Party Parent and a Doll, I had only two minutes to change from one costume into another and then only ninety seconds to change back!  In order to meet the tight deadline, I met with a member of the wardrobe department before each show and set my unbuttoned costume, readied pointe shoes, and hair accessories with the pins already attached in the wings of the stage.  Right on cue, I would exit and change as quickly as possible with her help.  While I put on my pointe shoes, she would be pinning a flower into my hair.  While I was putting on the bodice of the costume, she would be closing the hooks on the tutu.  Multi-tasking, cooperation, and advanced planning were crucial when the margin of error beyond the fastest-possible time was only ten seconds.

During my final performance, fellow dancers from CCM came to support their friends in the cast.  When I took my bow, the audience, filled both with friends who had seen first-hand my long journey of knee rehabilitation and inventive methods of learning the choreography and people who I had never met before, went wild!  I received my first “dancer” paycheck backstage after the final curtain closed and a congratulatory hug and thank you from Mr. Simmons for the work that I put into the production while seated in the wardrobe department with a bag of ice on my knee to keep the swelling down.  Funnily enough, my greatest relief was the same that I have experienced after the completion of each holiday season’s dancing:  NO MORE NUTCRACKER MUSIC!  That is, until next year, of course.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier’s performances were completed one and a half weeks after the semester was over.  After sleeping on an upperclassman dancer’s couch for that period due to the dorms closing, I was quite excited to fly home as soon as possible (the first flight out on Christmas Eve) to make it home in time for the holidays and start the new year.

Spring semester handed me many surprises, both positive and negative, as a result of my time spent with Ballet Theatre Midwest.  My winter break had been cut down to almost nothing due to the additional time spent performing and I slammed into the new semester dancing fully in every class and rehearsal.  My knee became extremely aggravated and after the pain increasing to the degree of being unable to walk up a flight of stairs, I returned to the orthopedic surgeon who informed me that I had a lot of fluid that needed to be drained out of my knee, tendinitis and bursitis above and underneath my kneecap, and that it would be necessary for my full healing from my knee injury to take the summer off from dance.  However, part of the reason that I was able to complete the semester was the skills set that I was able to develop during my time at Ballet Theatre Midwest.  By not over-exerting myself in rehearsals, I was able to further how long my knee would hold out.  This was accomplished through learning choreography by leading with my brain instead of my body.  I relied more on my cerebral memory than my muscle memory and was able to successfully complete the semester.  Funnily enough, I even noticed that when dancing fully to learn choreography, I’ve become much quicker at it after all of the practice that I had over the holiday season!

Performing with Ballet Theatre Midwest gave me my first paid dance experience, an extremely important foot in the door of the professional ballet world.  By building my resume, I increase my chances of successfully getting a job at an audition for a company.  In addition to this professional exposure, I was able to explore alternative learning methods for picking up choreography due to a serious injury that would have normally ended a dancer’s season prematurely.  I overcame many challenges through this experience and the lessons learned will assist me as I continue working towards my dream of becoming a professional dancer.  Who knows what next Nutcracker season will bring!

 

P.S.

My “artifact” is my first paycheck as a dancer!

image

Motivational Penguin says that you can make it through hell week and exams!

Motivational Penguin says that you can make it through hell week and exams!

(via elmify)

This pretty much sums up what I look like before I go on: All ready except for warm up pants under the tutu and crazy colored socks/mukluks.

This pretty much sums up what I look like before I go on: All ready except for warm up pants under the tutu and crazy colored socks/mukluks.

(via brainyballerina)

“Now really just skim the surface this time, ladies!  Jodi, flutter!”
- Juliette Simone, Center Stage

“Now really just skim the surface this time, ladies!  Jodi, flutter!”

- Juliette Simone, Center Stage

(Source: bu-ckys, via brainyballerina)

So today a friend of mine suggested that we watch The Dead Poet’s Society because: 1. I’ve never seen it and 2. It’s an amazing film.  This quote particularly struck me from the movie.  In a time where I seem to have opinions coming in on all sides about who I should be and what I should do, it was extremely refreshing to see unconventional teaching (and learning) methods having such great success (well, depending on how you define success).  Words and ideas can truly change the world.

So today a friend of mine suggested that we watch The Dead Poet’s Society because: 1. I’ve never seen it and 2. It’s an amazing film.  This quote particularly struck me from the movie.  In a time where I seem to have opinions coming in on all sides about who I should be and what I should do, it was extremely refreshing to see unconventional teaching (and learning) methods having such great success (well, depending on how you define success).  Words and ideas can truly change the world.

(via brainyballerina)

You can only imagine people’s reaction when I tell them that I’m studying ballet at college.  ”Wait, isn’t your career over by 30 anyway?” is something I frequently hear. But I have a back up.  I’m getting my English degree.  And anyways, dance IS a valid profession; we get a salary and benefits and a contract like any other job.  Dancers reach for their dreams when most people would be too scared to chase them.  Don’t tell me to be realistic; congratulate me and wish me the best of luck.

You can only imagine people’s reaction when I tell them that I’m studying ballet at college.  ”Wait, isn’t your career over by 30 anyway?” is something I frequently hear. But I have a back up.  I’m getting my English degree.  And anyways, dance IS a valid profession; we get a salary and benefits and a contract like any other job.  Dancers reach for their dreams when most people would be too scared to chase them.  Don’t tell me to be realistic; congratulate me and wish me the best of luck.

(Source: colourfulmotion, via brainyballerina)