28 July 2016

Watching A Dream Die

The last couple weeks have been harder than I've let on.

Much harder.

Like to the point where I've had to Google the suicide help line. I stopped short of contacting it, but I Googled it and had the page ready and waiting. Even in my darkest moments when I was sixteen, I never got to that point.

In part, this is my problem: all I have ever wanted to do is dance, and failing that, I wanted to be onstage in some capacity.

One year ago this seemed like a very real possibility. I was just coming off of my musical theatre debut and had been personally invited back to the college's musical theatre program (I believe it's one of the strongest musical theatre undergraduate programs in the country, but I don't know that for sure). I was diving into nearly full-time dance training. Everything was going fairly well on the 'future career' side of things (if not the 'personal/family' side...), for the first time ever.

My invitation to the college still stands for this school year only. In other words, either I go back to college this year or forfeit my degree. And I can't go back again this year, because finances simply will not allow it.

In lieu of that (as it looks increasingly unlikely that I'm going to have enough money for even one semester of college), I'm piecing together a near-full-time dance training schedule, between two (possibly three) schools and personal practice. If I'm going to dance, I need to gun it. Now. I'm already old in dance years, and I'm not getting any younger.

The problem is this: I have no talent. None. The only way I've survived this far is because I've learned how to shine by comparison. I can pick stuff up very quickly in a class setting, so while everyone else is still going 'wait, which foot do I start on?' I'm already doing the entire sequence. So they think I'm good because I can figure out the footwork quickly and I can remember stuff. But that's where I stop. I realised this right at the end of last dance season -- as soon as I have the footwork down, I start doing it by rote. I don't play with it, I don't work with characterization, nothing. This was a bit of a blow, but I resolved to take just as much dance next season and focus on that -- on truly making my dancing the best it can be, not just 'better than the others.'

But in the meantime, to bring my tap dancing up to par (I only started three years ago, therefore my skills are SEVERELY lacking), I decided to practice every day, for minimum half an hour. It's not much, but I'm still working full-time too. I hoped to see some improvements by the end of the summer, if only due to consistency.

Every single practice session this week has ended prematurely, with tears. I am literally watching my ability to dance atrophy every single day. Once I had great paradiddles... now a 'paradiddle' is apparently defined as 'a stomach-twisting scraping sound with a foot that would make a banana look straight.' Once I could syncopate to almost any song in my music library. Now I play an old standby to improvise to and I'm lucky if I can keep straight time, never mind anything approaching syncopation. I used to be able to do a toe stand and chill out there, no problem. Tonight I literally spent ten minutes on one eight count phrase that includes step-heel, step-heel, step, step, scuff. And I wound up giving up because my feet would not do it, no matter how slowly I went, no matter how much I spoke the phrase out loud, no matter how many times I reviewed my notes and the counts.

I have to face it: I can't dance anymore.

Everyone around me is telling me to go for these auditions I keep finding, to follow my dreams, and I am watching my feet turn into concrete blocks at the end of these dysfunctional sticks called my legs. No self-respecting tap dancer would be caught dead going to an audition knowing she can't even consistently shuffle anymore. No company on the planet is going to hire a ballerina who can't turn to her left, ever.

So now I can't continue my musical theatre training (and heaven knows I do need training), but I also can't pursue my true love. My brain and my body have conspired against me and have given up. What else is left?

Googling reasons why I should keep living, none of which apply to me and all of which ring hideously hollow.

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