This is a story of accomplishments and stop holding back. On the surface the accomplishments are visible through an actual ballet performance. Though the story of the magic tutu digs deeper into unshackling from life-long self-imposed limitations.
On 19 of December, 2020, I got to perform in the Christmas Recital from the dance studio I go to. While I had participated in 2 other previous recitals, I had never been in one for Christmas and much less virtual. It was my first Nutcracker recital, done remotely over Zoom, and my first time ever wearing a pancake tutu.
A Virtual Recital
This recital being in 2020, for health and safety reasons the dance studio was forced to do an online virtual presentation. This meant that the dancers were in their own homes, all connected through a simultaneous video stream watched by a remote audience. The virtual recital consisted of only 4 choreographies or acts, each with only 2 or 3 dancers. I got to dance in the 1st and 4th acts.
Participating from home creates all sorts of challenges. From the very tangible setup and space restrictions to the complexities of dancing alone. On a stage or in the dance studio, like other recitals I had done before, allows to follow the cues from the other performers. There’s a group and spatial aspect to a group performance that is totally missing in the virtual recital.
Another point that made it more difficult for me was that in a stage performance one can blend in with the other dancers. The audience is paying attention to the whole group and often not an individual, and if they are, chances are that is not me. But in a Zoom presentation with only a few dancers, each in their own square, is conducive for the audience to fixate on a single dancer. That was stressful because it increased the chances of the audience just looking at me.
The Achievement of Dancing in the Recital
Doing the virtual Zoom recital was very exciting because I invited people that otherwise were not with me. On the other side this exact same thing made it more tense for me. Folks that had never seen me dance may be logging in and watching!
TBH, I hadn’t thought of many of the implications of doing a virtual recital and how those would make me even more nervous than other past performances. One was the number of dancers in each act. In the first act there were 3 of us, which I knew from the rehearsals. Act 2 and 3 had only two dancers each, and since I was not dancing in those acts, I got to see how ‘exposed’ each individual was. During the rehearsals of the 4th act we were between 6 and 8 people in the group. What I hadn’t considered was that participating in the virtual recital was optional, so by the time we were ready to perform the whole group did not participate.
The First Act
At the beginning of the recital our teachers introduced themselves, the studio, and the performance to the remote audience. Then they turned off their camera to allow for us in the 1st act to dance and counted 5, 6, 7, 8 we were on. Oh boy! At that moment my heart sank. We were only 3 and our only reference were the other dancers in their tiny squares coming in the video stream. It was terrifying. What had I gotten myself into? At that moment there was no going back. I thought that was it and I’d had to do it regardless what happened.
That performance itself was hard and painful for me. I felt expose and I knew I had missed some steps. That took me off sync with the other 2 dancers so I felt my mistakes were even more visible on screen.
Thankfully the choreography was short, less than 2 minutes. At the end my heart was racing but we had done it. The first act was finished and though it was hard, an incredible sense of relief and accomplishment took over me. It was time to quickly change my outfit for the 4th act.
For this 1st act I wore a black chiffon skirt with a red bodysuit and red ballet slippers. For the 4th act I’d wear a black bodysuit with the pancake tutu; the magic tutu.
The Fourth Act
After we finished performing the 1st act I got to see the 2nd and 3th acts as part of the audience. That’s when I got to appreciate how exposed the dancers were just because they were 2 in each act. I also noted how easy was to pay attention to what each dancer was wearing. For the 4th act I’d be wearing the white tutu and I knew instantly that would be an attention grabber. More attention would be on me just because of the magic tutu!
Our cameras were turned on in preparation for the 4th act to then realize there were only 2 of us dancing! At that moment I felt the pressure go up. Even before starting the 4th act I felt even more exposed that on the 1st. To make things worse the teachers kept praising the tutu focusing more attention on me. I felt the spotlight shine on me even more. I thought there was no turning back, try my best, and enjoy this bumpy ride.
The choreography for the 4th act was almost twice as long as the one in the first act. Though both acts were to 2 electronic versions of the Sugarplum Fairy, this last act was dancing traditional ballet while the first was more jazzy. I managed to perform my dance much better in this 4th act. I partially attribute this to the magic tutu. Wearing it makes me look like I know what I’m doing. 🙂
We had done it! We had just finished a nerve racking 4 act virtual recital! The feeling was incredible. Though I still remember the pain of the major mistakes I did, it was overtaken by the sense of accomplishment. For someone with my background that started dance classes just 3 years prior I had managed to perform in my 3rd recital. As Mastercard used to say: Priceless!
The Setup for the Magic Tutu
The whole tale of the recital was just to get to the story of the tutu. The recital itself was a major accomplishment on itself. It was the most complex choreography I had done, ever, and I did it. Not only that but I did it wearing the magic tutu.
It’s a magic tutu in part because it made me look pretty and as if I knew what I was doing. But its magical powers are so much stronger and intangible than that. Something you don’t know is that all my life I wanted to wear a pancake tutu. To me a ballerina dancing in a tutu like that is my dream of graceful elegance, athleticism, and femininity. I’d worn other tutus in the past in a whimsical and playful ways, like for Halloween or my birthday at the dance studio (you get to wear a tutu in class for your birthday, though not a pancake tutu). This time for the recital was serious; I was not kidding around.
Tempted by Another Tutu
In one of the rehearsals one of the other dancers wore a pancake tutu. She looked amazing and my heart melted just seeing her dance in it. At the end of that class our teacher made a comment of how beautiful that girl looked in the tutu. She did look amazing and I also noted that my teacher really liked it.
A little over a week before the recital I went to a shop that sells dance attire and accessories. I was looking for the bodysuits I ended up wearing for the recital. There at the store they had pancake tutus like the one that girl wore during rehearsal. I really wanted to get one for myself but I felt it was not right for me.
Stupid Self-Imposed Limitations
I didn’t believe getting a pancake tutu was for me because I didn’t feel confident with my dancing. I knew that wearing a tutu like that would command more attention. For some reason I felt that people with more grace and experience should get that attention. That day at the dance shop I simply didn’t feel I had the confidence to dance well enough to rock such a tutu.
This is something I didn’t know while I was in the store, but I also didn’t feel confident with my gender presentation specifically wearing a tutu like that. In other words I limited myself by feeling that wearing the tutu would be ‘over the top’ for the way I present.
While at the dance store I thought of my teacher and her comment about the other dancer wearing a tutu for a rehearsal, so I texted her a photo of the tutu from the store. “Do you want 1 for Xmas? LOL” was what I wrote. Long story short I got her the tutu but not one for myself. My stupid self-imposed limitation kept me from buying my tutu.
After I dropped off the tutu for my teacher I felt guilt and shitty to a point. But why did I feel that? I really dug into that nasty sensation. I had to understand it. It also felt like I was imposing myself. So I deconstructed what had happened, what I had done and more importantly why I felt that way.
In essence I was projecting myself. It was my insecurities of getting and wearing a tutu that made me buy it for my teacher. I feel that at that moment I forced myself on her by getting something that probably she didn’t want, much less right at that moment. It was my way to buy a tutu and knowing someone that would be excited about wearing it without being me. Later I thought that she probably would have like that money spent on something for her new puppy or a good bottle of wine. That’s why I felt terrible with my teacher. It was that I was projecting my life-long desire to get and wear a pancake tutu.
Getting the Magic Tutu
That whole situation where I had been so close to getting my own tutu and then projecting myself onto my teacher left me with a horrible aftertaste. I felt guilty for imposing something onto my teacher and I felt frustrated that I didn’t get my own tutu.
When I dropped of the tutu at my teacher’s she offered it so I could wear it for the recital. I told her I was not very confident wearing one for a performance but that eventually I’d get my own.
Above I said that I’ve always wanted to wear a pancake tutu. This recital was an incredible opportunity to do it for real and my stupid self-imposed limitations were preventing me from fulfilling that simple dream. It was time to throw those inhibitions out the window.
One afternoon a few days before the recital I was out grocery shopping with my mum. I felt really awkward saying this to her, but I told her I’d be stopping at another dance store to see if I could find myself a tutu. That awkwardness and what I thought my mum would think* if she’d see me wearing such an ‘over the top’ thing were some of my mental barriers.
We stopped at the store, my mum waited for me in the car and I went in. Trying on a tutu in the store with a black bodysuit was amazing! The ensemble looked great and felt like I was levitating. I got the bodysuit and the tutu. Finally I had my own magic tutu.
Unshackling by Pure Bliss
Somehow I managed to contain myself and didn’t try the tutu at home the day I bought it. Probably it was that self-imposed mental obstruction. But the next evening I could not contain myself. I put on what I would be wearing for the 4th act of the recital. It was the black bodysuit with a lace back, the magic tutu, white/pink tights, and pink ballet slippers. Looking at myself was extremely exciting. So much that I had to show my mum regardless of what I thought she would think*. She complimented on how I looked, which came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I was expecting a more sarcastic comment, which I’m happy to say that never came.
During the recital my mum was sitting next to the computer running Zoom. She was not visible in the frame but she was able to see me dance as well as the other performers on screen.
I had done it! Not only had I performed my most complex choreographies to date, over Zoom, but I had broken away from some of my self-imposed limitations. It took me a few decades, but I got myself my own pancake tutu, got to wear it for the performance, and got to do it in front of my mum and a remote audience. Now I have the confidence to rock a pancake tutu, even if my dancing is not up to par.
*Note that I say “what I thought she would think” and not just “what she would think”. It’s an important distinction because I based my fears and limitations on what I was expecting and not her actual thoughts.