After the Bolshoi audition in early February she wished she'd seen Cynthia before she went in. I wasn't sure if she meant for moral support or coaching. She meant coaching. Too many months, nearly fourteen, between her last class and this particular Vaganova audition. It wasn't her best; she said it was a bad audition. She was tired from four hours of classes in the morning and this class happened so late in the day. 6 to 8:30 is a difficult thing but this seems to be when they schedule the older dancers and next year when she is sixteen this is what she'll have to contend with. She said she wished she'd seen Cynthia because the Vaganova was being beaten out of her by the Balanchine school. When she was accepted shortly afterward we were both stunned. I believe, had I been employed at that time she would have enrolled immediately despite not having gotten to the other auditions. For that I am grateful because I'm not sure the Bolshoi is the healthiest option and there would never have been the option of Ailey.
Cynthia has been largely inaccessible to us since she opened the studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is nearly as far out as Park Slope. All student classes are in the afternoon. This isn't going to happen. But there are Saturdays and while they are not master classes, all but one of the dancers is in the middle of his or her career. Neither of us really considered that option; she was terrified and I was afraid she might be the sort of disruption you get when you put younger dancers in a class with the older girls because they just can't keep up. This is a hard and fast belief in the dance world but when I asked for the schedule just recently, the Saturday classes were on the list. Is this really OK? Yes, it's really OK. Bring her out.
Yesterday she left her partnering class thirty minutes early cutting her last class entirely. She started her day with two hours in and we left the studio for the 1:30 class. She was visibly frightened. I am not enough. There it was again. The one pre-professional student was the protégé from the old school. This unnerved her more than the professionals. How do you let go of something you've held so close for so long? She grounded herself quietly during the ninety minute drive and periodically I mentioned her audition results.
There were only the two of them; everyone else was rehearsing or performing. The little girl has grown up some. She is twelve now, has shot up at least six inches and softened what was once a rigid posture, and tight, pinched face which frequently looked angry and somehow aggressive. Her mother chose not to come into the studio and I wondered, what the hell do you do in Williamsburg in the rain? You find a parking space and sit in your car or you find an open cafe and spend your afternoon with multiple cups of coffee. Afterward I thought probably I should have gone looking for her but stayed on the bench reading. I understand the need for solitude and the periodic desire to avoid human contact entirely because the presence of people is sometimes too noisy in an already crowded head. Karina does not care for the possibility of strangers.
I listened to familiar music and the cadence of Cynthia's teaching. Turn, turn, turn, turn and turn again and finish!
Elizabeth has not, as it turns out, done any adagio, much less center adagio since Cynthia's last class. This is a brilliant thing for strength and stamina but also one of the most beautiful things to watch. Notice the center dancer at the end of the video (it's short) and then look at her feet. They are the only visible part of her body shaking. I don't have words to explain what this takes of your mind, not just your body. The only way to progress, to hold longer and through the turns is to believe.
Elizabeth has also not had much, if any attention to her head, arms, hands, or feet. While her current school is good given what it is, everything moves fast, sometimes too fast and grace is traded for strong legs and faster turns. I expect I'm missing a few other things as well but I don't stand in the studio and watch anymore because it's too much of a distraction, at least for Elizabeth.
We have a late lunch with Cynthia after class and she is still working on Elizabeth's head, arms and hands even at the table. I watch her hands on my daughter's head, gently pulling it backwards into position and I remember one of the last photographs taken, in December, 2014 of just one hand at the base of her head and neck as she comes back and down. Of all the beautiful photographs taken of my daughter by NM on this last day, this captures best what she was given from the first time she walked into Cynthia's class in the fall of 2011. Her world flipped upside down (so did mine) in June, 2013 when eight dancers from that class followed Cynthia to a new school and everything changed. One moment you're at a local school mostly interested in churning out as many new students as possible through one four hour recital after another and the next you find yourself at a small, pre-professional school with a forty to sixty minute daily commute. Times two...and better instruction than you could hope to find anywhere else without moving to the city.
We knew what we were leaving behind, it's just that you feel it far more than you thought you might. Elizabeth needed that first spring in 2015 to heal herself emotionally and spiritually while continuing to dance. We thought it was over, that she'd do this until she graduated and leave behind the option of a career forever. Elizabeth thought so too right up until she registered for those first two auditions only one month in. I could not fathom her motivation because we both thought it was a terribly long shot and I worried about how she'd handle rejection. When she was accepted at FAB, the better of the two programs, something started fomenting in that head again; a rebellion against the beliefs she held about her own limitations.
...a rebellion against the beliefs we hold about our own limitations...
Think about it. What would that look like?
I am talking to Cynthia before class while Elizabeth is stretching, about what is left out of her training and what should be put back as soon as possible. I notice her at the back wall, feet pressed against it, arms pushing back, knees bent as she works her turnout and I realize she has lost a great deal of flexibility. There is very little attention to stretching or even how you should stretch. She knows these things but it's hard to come home and do them when no one is actually looking at whether you're slipping or getting better.
There is another school two towns over which was never considered because I had no idea how to get her there and for some reason she and her friend were bitterly opposed to going which I suspect had everything to do with being in a class with girls you pass in the hall. Elizabeth doesn't care anymore and while she tells me she doesn't want to change schools again (I understand this, it took the entire fall session to get herself off the bench), I can see her thinking about this.
I don't know that I'll send her across town. The tuition is appalling but there are more hours. She would be back to five days a week but the commute would be easy. I would be getting back under her again and this terrifies me. The possible ramifications, I mean. But she's talking about the dance program at SUNY Purchase with a double major in Poli Sci. I realize I don't really know anything right now except that I took her back to Cynthia yesterday and she stepped through that window.
So once a month we will go to Brooklyn or the other studio in Long Island City which is considerably closer. I think I will do my best to choose those classes for her. I will not think too much about this. What I notice is that I have no compunction about taking her out of a class and a half once a month, even in rehearsal season (when the hell is it not rehearsal season) to give her back the technique work she lost sixteen months ago.
I will try to be only a little afraid and also, maybe I will surrender again. After all, her sister has only just finished her undergrad work at 24 and won't begin a Ph.D program for another year. What if I just let it be? What if I just let it work itself out?
...a rebellion against the beliefs I hold about my own limitations...