Editorial Note: Where are you in dance right now? I’ve posed this question to twelve high-school dancers the past two years. My intention is to ask them each year for as long as they respond, hopefully chronicling their growth through the practice of dance. One young dancer, Annie Aguilar, responded late this year. However, I felt her response well worth sharing, especially with regards to finding a balance between work and care. -Emmaly Wiederholt
BY ANNIE AGUILAR
After I came back from the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance last summer in 2013, I left all my local dance studios to commute to Sacramento for a preprofessional atmosphere. For one semester I commuted sometimes three hours a day and then quit quite suddenly after Nutcracker was over.
I was sick. I was sick with four years of sprinting to a finish line in an unknown location. I had worked myself too hard and fed myself too little, both literally and metaphorically. My skinny arms and legs showed no resemblance to my once super muscular and healthy body. And I lost control of my mind, also. Every thought I had was directed at finding a way to deteriorate myself.
I quit dancing, got help, began eating more, became addicted to Bikram yoga, injured myself, felt hopeless, then I found Ashtanga and Hatha yoga. My new yoga practice has healed my body physically and spiritually. My heart feels fuller.
I am committed to Middlebury College in Vermont, but am deferring for one year. During this “gap-year,” I will complete a yoga teacher training program in Cuzco, Peru. After the program, I will stay in Cuzco and attend a language school. Then I head to Bolivia to work for an ethical, fair trade manufacturing company and at a youth education center. Finally, I will go down to Chile to work on an excursion ranch. I am headed off by myself to take on the big world!
I didn’t miss dance during the first couple months of this break. I even discovered that I had a lot of pent up resentment. Whenever I took a Pilates class and did an exercise resembling anything remotely similar to ballet, I would become instantly angry and emotional. However, now that nine months have passed… I miss it. I miss dancing.
I know that I am going to come back to dance. I think I will even pursue it as a minor in college. I still love it. We had a bad break up. I needed time to heal, and now I’m ready to try again. A creative outlet will be good for me because I think I want to double major in Pre-Med and Spanish.
And when I return to dancing, I will have all this new life experience and insight to bring! I will try and remember to laugh every day. I’ve discovered the easiest way to let go of frustration is to find something to smile about.
Through all of this recent self-discovery, it finally occurred to me that with this one life I have, I want to spend it the way I WANT to…not the way I believe I have to. Dance somehow became forced, and that’s when I began to get sick. During recovery, I realized how much I sincerely missed all my family and friends that I had nearly been blind to when I was dancing. So, I decided to establish a new intention in life: to connect with people. I think that no matter what I’m doing, as long as I open my heart to others, I will feel good.