So this is what it feels like to live up to your own fears…
I’m having a hard time feeling the floor underneath me. It’s not necessarily slippery and the choreography isn’t even that fast…I just can’t seem to drop into my legs.
I decide it’s best to stay in the back row for this Workshop for many reasons:
I’m 5 ft 10.5 in so I can see over most of the other dancers.
I’m coming back from injury (after a 4 year struggle) and I’m not feeling too confident or coordinated…think baby giraffe learning to walk again.
I want to observe and learn from others in the room and I feel safer to make mistakes back here that won’t distract others or pull them off the music.
“No, no, no…stop.”
The room goes silent and I realize he’s looking right at me.
I know there’s some feedback coming my way and I’m sensing it’s not going to be one that ends in a chuckle or even a high five.
“I don’t want you to take this personally, ok? …because I’ve seen you a lot over the years…”
I nod and do my best to contort my body language into the most protective yet non-defensive stance; my hands end up interlaced and clenched behind my sacrum.
“I want you to be better than you are…does that make sense? Because you can’t walk in here looking like THAT and not BE better, you know?”
I frantically search for a facial expression that reads I totally understand what you’re saying but can only come up with that side smile we all do when we say “hi” to a stranger as we pass them on the sidewalk; dead behind the eyes. I catch myself in the mirror shifting my weight between my feet…there is no air in the room. I am surrounded by colleagues, fellow artists, my competition and potentially future cast mates of shows I realize in this moment I feel stupid to even dream of being a part of.
He turns to the rest of the room with a “you know what I mean?” nod of his head, eyes wide and searching for permission to continue his rant about just how disappointing tall girls are…which he continues for the next 5 minutes or so.
My cheeks are on fire and my fingers have no feeling left. At this point, I am watching this whole scene from the corner of the room…like a surveillance camera.
I knew you weren’t ready for this. Your body is strong but your heart is too open right now. Your spirit is too raw…your armor hasn’t been reinforced for this style of warfare. You can’t make mistakes at this level. You’re NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
“…tall girls just CAN’T HIDE. Ever…ok…so…let’s go again with all that said, ok?”
The music starts back up…every single cell is vibrating. I try to steady my hands and feel the floor but I am drowning. I can see my body moving in the mirror, I can hear him yelling out counts, I sense others around me…Be better. Be better. Be better.
Final pose. Silence.
“Get off the floor! Let me see the men.”
I trudge to my bag making sure there is no eye contact with the group I was just shamed in front of and check my phone. 20 minutes into a 3 hour class. As I blink the tears back, I feel a hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sor…”
“Please don’t.” I don’t even turn around. “Please…I can’t have you do that. I’m sorry. I can’t talk about it.”
I feel her hand give a gentle squeeze before she lets go. I hide my sniffs with a cough and act like I’m really sweaty under my eyes then turn back around to watch the men. She stands near me, quietly. She’s eye level…I know she gets it…another tall girl.
I paid to be here. This isn’t even an audition. I’m TRYING to be better.
My partner lovingly greets me 180 mins later with a hug outside and excitedly asks how it went. I can barely get it out so I just start pulling him as I quickly walk away…
…eyes burning, heart broken, courage destroyed.
This post is part of "The Eileen Show" Series
A vignette collection of memories, mis-attunements and messy moments that have limited, spiraled and propelled me within and throughout my life.