Reposting from a Facebook note I wrote two years ago on July 25, 2010. It resonates.
While putting CDs into storage (because who uses CDs in this day and age?) and checking on a bunch of unmarked discs, I came across a DVD of my school’s 1998 recital, where we did Giselle. It was unmarked because it was originally a VHS copy that I had digitized, and it had snow and static from the deterioration of the tape. Still, I went on and watched parts of it (forwarding is easier when digital obviously) and marveled at so many things.
First, I’d like to comment on our choice of a full-length Giselle for a recital. After the show, we (my family who owns and runs the school) all agreed that it wasn’t such a good idea for a school recital – the story was too sad, and almost scary (Erin is caught off cam saying to our videographer, “Daddy, I don’t want to watch ballet na…” while I’m losing my mind in Act I) and the kids only got to be 2 characters: peasants and wilis. Swans are okay, even fun, but wilis? As Lucas put it, it seemed we just wanted to do a full-length Giselle and we forced our students to humor us. Granted that none of them complained at all, and they really got into the story as much as we did, it was still something we never did again.
Secondly, you know how it’s easy to say, oh it’s just a recital? Therefore, not really taken seriously? Given that there were kids as young as 5 who made up the corps de ballet (we simplified a lot of their steps), if you look closely at myself, Lucas (who of course played Albrecht), Quincy (who of course played Hilarion), Jacqui (who of course played Myrtha) (of course, I was Giselle, if it isn’t obvious yet), and even at our Bertha (Mimi) and Bathilde (Besy), we were oh-so-seriously doing Giselle. Very seriously, really.
This struck me right after I died in Act I, when Lucas and Quincy blame each other for my death – how real they were portraying it. Before that, I was watching the mad scene with amusement – how Ika was just a baby but she was already acting and projecting, how the kids were filed in single line watching me go crazy, how my Capezio pointe shoes didn’t show off my instep at all when I was not en pointe (I hated Capezio, but I only discovered Gaynors around 5 or 6 years later), how fat I was and how super OMG thin both Lucas and Quincy were, and how my hair was giving me such a hard time because it was at the height of being balik-ayos (What I would kill to have that kind of hair again) and therefore falling all over my face at every opportunity. It’s not that I wasn’t doing it seriously, it’s just that, as a spectator being nudged by this distant memory, I was noticing EVERYTHING. There were so many things about it that was so, “Wahaha, school recital!” but there were so many things about it that was very real, too.
Fast forward to where Giselle rises from the dead and tries to make her presence known to Albrecht, who is visiting her grave. I am flooded by memories of all the hard work I put into dancing this ballet – making sure my leg was high enough, the pains I took to make sure that my characterization emanated from each movement, practicing not jumping into the air but evaporating as would a mist. My technique 12 years ago is nowhere near what it is now (or better yet where it was 5 years ago), but I’m really impressed with my then-24 year old self. It’s actually quite inspiring.
My mom would chide me when I get too emotional over preparing for a performance in one of our school recitals, saying the audience won’t notice if I don’t live up to my standards, that what I do is pretty good already. I love my mom, but this is one case where I’m glad I didn’t listen to her. If I found this video now and my performance was lackluster, I would wonder why I try to dance at all. Getting older and nearing that point where I won’t be fun to watch anymore, I’ve been treasuring each day that I can still dance and the kind of dancing that’s worthy of my time, that’s worthy of me. Tonight, I’m realizing again just how lucky I am, and I’m very grateful.