Well dear readers, with Spring comes change…flowers bloom boldly against lingering winter winds and we all get to celebrate sunlight for helping us forget months of bone chilling temps and tumultuous skies. Today on Tutus&Tea, I’m sharing a rather BiG announcement that previewed on the gram last week….

After an exhaustingly introspective season, an accumulation of thought-provoking conversation, sleepless nights and surrendered emotion, I have decided to call this 7th season as a professional ballet dancer my last one. While I know this will come as a shock to most, I thought it best to explain my journey towards this decision in hopes that it might inspire, sooth, and/or guide the wayward thought paths of other dancers (artists) alike as they reflect on and write their own stories of success. So here we go…

As long as I’ve considered and pursued a career in ballet, there were a few values/beliefs that I strived to keep at the forefront of my heart and head:

  1. It is no great surprise to hear that “Ballet is too hard to do if you don’t love it.” I first read this in a playbill for a NYCB performance that interviewed Janie Taylor when I was around 14, and it resonated with me strongly. I promised myself that as long as I danced, I would muscle through the seemingly endless, sacrificial days of creating live art only as long as I absolutely loved and felt fulfilled by it…needless to say, as life perspectives change, so too do our needs to feel fulfilled.
  2. To stay grounded in a fast, fluctuating world of inevitable insecurity (i.e. the ballet world), one has to realize that every day will provide you choices to make and perspectives to take. Relationships with your body, your mind, the mirror, your friends and family all face daily challenges that only you can navigate healthfully. To keep a “strong head” on your shoulders throughout a professional career in dance is indeed no small feat – it is a Kilimanjaro of mountains to climb and conquer, and I’m humbled to say I see myself at the top.
  3. This idea we call ‘comfort’ – something we all crave to establish in our lives…in our homes, relationships, work, is honestly as much of a blessing as it is a curse. I’ve found that the comfort of comfort is undeniably elusive; as much as we believe we have control over our comfort, our comfort can soon have control over us. To me, this is terrifying…and it’s what drove me to move away from home at the age of 13 to “pursue my dreams”in New York City – what inspired me to jump the pond and begin my career in Copenhagen with Royal Danish Ballet – what carried me back over the ocean blue to continue dancing here in Boston – what solidified my most recent, life changing decision to start a new chapter. My goals have always been to grow, to dream big, to believe for more, to keep climbing…which leads me to the last bit:
  4. As with most professional careers, there are inevitable fears that arise along the climb. Second to injury, that fear for me has always been resentment. Ballet has enriched my life in more ways than I ever thought possible. It has molded my life’s journey, my relationships, my worldly perspectives…it has challenged and rewarded me in ways I could only dream would become my (sur)reality. I promised myself that I would strive to never resent something that has fulfilled me so deeply.

With these ideals in mind…My dreams for retirement were to finish dancing in a time and place where I felt confident about my career, proud of my body (not injured or broken or overworked), and in control of my mind and my decision. I’ve lost track of the tearful end-of-career performances I have witnessed throughout the past 7 years… (the first of which I experienced in Copenhagen, barely knowing the prima ballerina taking her final bow, but stood sobbing in the wings as I succumbed to the weight of drawing something so precious to a close)…

Of course I didn’t see my own final bow as a 25 year old, wrapping up 16 years of my life’s commitment in the corps de ballet – but that’s just how life would have it – the things that happen while you’re busy “making plans”…the unique way that influential conversations, confronted self-truths, and daring decisions drive your life path down roads you couldn’t possibly foresee. And let’s be honest. You can never say never… perhaps I have different dancing days ahead of me, waiting to reveal themselves beyond winding roads I have yet to navigate. But for now, I feel pacified by this ending, ready for this new beginning.

It was January when I decided to truly consider my future in respect to my present. I allowed myself to question my comfort and to entertain unnerving ideas for change. Under the recommendation of a dear friend, I applied to Columbia University School of General Studies to create options for myself beyond what I’ve been getting from studios and stages. If anyone ever has questions on the time, place and purpose of their present career/life chapter, I challenge you to sit down and write a college application essay about what you’ve gained from it…Undoubtedly, it was the most introspective, emotionally expelling and honest conversation I have had with myself in my twenty-five years of living.

As the winter season passed, I waited to see what my future might avail…and received a letter (email) of acceptance during a costume change in the middle of a performance. I felt all of the feels. I cried. I laughed. My next chapter was beginning…

The past couple of weeks have seen campus tours and visions of my future trading tutus for textbooks… I received a plethora of support, encouragement, love and questioning that I hope this post answered and appreciated in some way or another…

Of course I will finish up the Spring Season here with my Boston Ballet family with one last epic run of Swan Lake and a mixed bill called Mirrors that will claim my final performance on May 28th.

The next couple of months will lend towards the expected emotional turnover of career transition, supported by the incredible memories I have made dancing across the world’s stages…discovering just who I am and how I want to go on impacting this world we live in. Summer will mean a move back to New York, and Fall will mark the official start of my next great role as a student, a New York City dweller, a 20-something continuing to create a life story only I can write.

To you, my sweet, encouraging readers, I send my endless gratitude…for sharing in these chronicles for nearly a decade’s worth of self-discovery both on stage and off. I have yet to determine the direction of Tutus&Tea post TuTu, but you can be sure I’ll keep you on your toes either way ;)

Captured in Nolita last weekend by my sister and pillar of strength, Amanda Elsbree

Captured in Nolita last weekend by my sister and pillar of strength, Amanda Elsbree

Yesterday at an information session I attended for Columbia, I happened upon this great quote which I’ll leave you with for now…if you’ve stuck with me through this mini-saga of a post, I hope you’ll believe it to be the tiny-takeaway gem I took it for:

The most thrilling journeys never end. They are an ongoing quest fueled by a restless, adventuresome spirit. They chart a path that is undiscovered and uniquely individual. Your journey begins when your potential is unleashed. Show the world where you are going. 

With love for being such a rewarding part of my journey,