My Journey to the Corporate World: Don’t Hate

Knoxville Ballet School Level 2B

A ballet friend and colleague recently asked whether I’ve been “itching” to teach again. I had to think about that. These days I’m not sure I would describe my desire to teach as an itch, but maybe—it felt like something more profound when I took the colossal and risky leap of faith to open a small ballet school in 2006. Any kind of business startup demands your full commitment, and I mean full, to say nothing of a healthy bank account—double what you think it will take and then some, buckets of your time, unrelenting nail biting, more time, all your waking hours, and a few sleepless nights thrown in for good measure—did I mention time?

When you start a school there are exactly no guarantees the thing will fly; mine ultimately did not, although had I been willing to leave behind some of my stubbornly held ideas about maintaining a certain artistic “pureness” in my business practices, I believe it would have: when my marriage failed and everything came unglued I was already teetering on the threshold of fiscal success. But teetering falls short of paying the light bill and the rent.

Other benchmarks at the school—teaching standards, community engagement, relationship building—undeniably painted a picture of success. I submit that during its brief life the ballet school purveyed a product of a quality unmatched anywhere in my home town and beyond. What I could bring to the table was complete immersion in classical ballet by way of the pedigree handed me by my own ballerina mom and each of her friends and colleagues, who nurtured along my intense love for the form for most of two decades. We often speak of teaching ballet as commuting the art form to a new generation, our tacit obligation to keep it alive but also to leave our own thumbprint on it, part and parcel of its natural evolution; I saw the school as my chance to do that.

But in 2009 I also made an important business and artistic decision to develop a professional relationship with American Ballet Theatre, which served my community back home in more ways than can be quantified on a spreadsheet; the school’s population—its young enrollees and their families—were the beneficiaries of the collective wisdom of scores of professionals thanks to ABT’s National Training Curriculum. Friendships and professional ties forged at ABT persist; whether they will be called again into “active service” at some point is anybody’s guess, which is the thing I find so enticing about the future to begin with, a kind of counter weight to the uncertainty that can be so disquieting.

The question is, does a ballet school, or any other business, really, deserve to be there in the first place if it can’t self-sustain? Does every struggling business (or ill-conceived business plan or idea) deserve a Kickstarter campaign? I never even thought of going down that road with my own small ballet school.

Instead I sized up my desperate situation and ultimately took a job in the corporate world after a brief teaching stint elsewhere, a “selling out” frowned on in some circles. Even the word itself—corporate—has negative connotations (greed comes to mind), some deserved to be sure. It derives from the Latin word for body, but its implicit meaning now is “all” versus “one.” The corps de ballet, for example, is the main body of the company, apart from its soloists, but without whom there is no ballet. We often think of the corporate entity, though, as antithetical to the individual, and therefore antithetical to creativity.

Working in the corporate world is not a universally wretched condition: I’m privileged to make a living doing the one other thing I love, which is writing, even if it is not always in my own voice. (Is there creativity in my work? In spades.) But when you dance in the corps de ballet, you are part of something bigger, as I am now.

Were I still at the helm of a ballet school, my approach now would almost certainly be broader, making use of the classroom space to generate revenue for as many moments as the day allowed, to reach a wider audience, to tap into the bigger desires of the community—to be more corporate minded, if you will; this is not about greed, but survival. In those days I eschewed these opportunities in the name of artistic purity, of being only the one thing, the best ballet school. Even the school’s slogan spelled it out: excellent instruction in correct classical ballet technique. But it would have been entirely possible to reach beyond the confines of classical ballet instruction and still maintain that slogan, and the highest standards for ballet training. (And in hindsight, the school’s one exceptional product really demanded a higher price tag than I put on it.) I embraced the paradigm of the diva soloist instead of being a team player in the corps de ballet, and it finally cost me my school. Without the corps, there is no ballet.

So I answered my friend’s question yes, with an asterisk: some day in the future, I would enjoy standing at the front of the classroom again, at a time when I don’t absolutely need the income from an unwieldy teaching load to (barely) make ends meet. Teaching ballet really is a luxury; working as I do now is a necessity, but is honorable, I believe, and satisfying, a pleasure for which being vilified by some folks out there in the ether feels misguided. These days I pay the light bill and the rent as a member of the corps, no Kickstarter campaign required.

Deb and Celia at ABT 1

With one of my young Knoxville Ballet School students at ABT in 2012

Closing a Chapter

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Yesterday Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I made our final run to Vermont’s beautiful Upper Valley to collect the last of my things from the loft I called home for about a year and a half. It was a grind; there was still some heavy stuff he missed last week because he could not get to it, and there was much packing and arranging to squeeze everything into a single load. I busied myself with cleaning upstairs, tying up loose ends, packing a few smallish items that remained, while HCB did the lifting and loading. I paused several times and looked out the southern-facing windows to the drive below to observe him studying furniture laid out methodically, some of it disassembled, deep in thought.

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This is one of his most endearing qualities: calmly and painstakingly sizing up a situation, arriving at the best strategy, and then diligently executing it. I am always a doubting Thomas, an expert at worrying myself into apoplexy over things. He tends to wave it all off, insisting there is always a way. By the time we pulled out hours later the tired minivan (which we’ve kept long enough to finish this move) was bursting at the seams from the load, including heavy things tied onto its roof. A little over two hours later we’d made it all the way down to our corner of the state without a single casualty, cramming the last thing into our rented storage locker with the day’s very last light, 4th of July fireworks exploding all around us.

In the midst of dusting away all of yesterday’s cobwebs I did plenty of reflecting. It is still hard for me to believe I’ve been a Vermonter for almost three years after living most of my life in Tennessee. This has been a difficult transition. I owe so much to a few people who helped me during a tough time. Living in the loft was a privilege extended to me by a pair of them, a former colleague and beautiful ballerina, and a friend, Ruth, and her kind husband Peter, who own the place. Ruth showed it to me when I arrived in August of 2012, but I decided it was too small for my things, too far off the beaten path, and that Clarence-the-Canine would feel too confined. A year later, after some unforeseen trouble, I appealed to Ruth for shelter in the proverbial storm, and she answered with her typical magnanimity. It was a beautiful, if isolated, place for me to land, and would become Clarence’s final resting place. Another bit of sadness I could not have foreseen. But none of the earlier things—except the isolation—turned out to be true. Ruth told me many people had found healing there, and so did I.

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I never grew completely accustomed to hauling myself and my ailing dog up and down those difficult back steps, but we got some better at it over time. Yesterday HCB and I observed a family of groundhogs living under them; we had earlier seen one of them grazing on the front lawn. HCB counted three little faces peering out from between the second and third steps, babies curious about the interlopers. During my tenure at the loft I observed so much wildlife, as did Clarence; he was ultimately granted off-leash privileges, which he relished. In truth, I did not appreciate the groundhogs so much when I was living there, as they undermined our work in the vegetable garden. Still, I will remember them fondly.

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I will always remember Clarence fondly; I think he probably was my soul dog, brief though his tenure was with me. I stopped by his grave a final time before we left, and was surprised to see not the massive boulder that rises out of the earth behind it, but instead dozens and dozens of lush, green ferns. It is a beautiful resting place for a noble dog who had big work to do near the end of his life.

So one chapter closes, and another life-affirming chapter opens.

Clarence-the-Canine
Clarence-the-Canine

 

Nourishment

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Fall term has been up and running for two weeks now at ballet school; that means that I have been sneezed and coughed upon by little people (and a few medium ones, too) for about as long. In years gone by I have been good for a solid head cold once a year but lately find myself unable to dodge the bullet three or four times a year. I am speculating that stress and general upheaval may be the culprits. Be that as it may, I am under the weather at the start of the year (sigh), almost right on the heels of a summer cold in late July. Don’t interpret this as whining, please; in general I’m not a huge fan of complaining publicly about ailments and illness. It just annoys me that at the moment I apparently lack the constitution to fight it off.

Aside from my work in the ballet world and as a freelance writer, I also serve as assistant to the founder of a groovy Vermont startup; I’ve been at it for a little over a year now. Most days of the week I report to work there in the early part of the day. Then I’m in my tiara for the afternoon and into the evening. (Not really, but I do actually own one.) Wearing different hats in a single day is part and parcel of who I am right now. As part of an ongoing marketing campaign recently the owner of the company at job #1 (who is the creative thinker behind some pretty dang delicious sweet potato-based salsas) has used social media to pose this question: What will feed and nourish you for the (fill in the blank) ahead?

Late Friday evening and into the night that question posed itself again and again to me on the longish drive down to Handsome Chef Boyfriend’s place for a weekend visit. What will feed and nourish you for the weekend ahead, I wondered? I willed the answer: homemade chicken soup. My throat was sore and I was worn out. And I happened to know he had just baked a whole chicken only a few days before. I had sent a message to him via mental telepathy to make stock, and then of course soup. I walked into his place around 9:30 and the unmistakable savory wall of homemade chicken soup steam smacked me in the noggin; you can see the finished product in that photo at the top, which I made just before we lunched on leftovers a while ago. (Yes, I know how incredibly lucky I am.)

Yesterday we wandered over to Saratoga Springs, NY to shop at a particular big box store of which we have none in Vermont. I am torn about this because in general I am against feeding the establishment that profits from the very cheap labor of people in countries without basic human rights. It is really hard to live by that ethic and there were some essentials I have needed for a while now that I knew I would find there. We made a day of it, delicious in just about every possible way (except for the human rights violation part); my only regret is that I did not press HCB to stop the car on several occasions so that I could snap photos of the breathtaking early fall landscape in upstate New York, and the vernacular architecture I can’t get enough of. I was a bit out of it and decided to just enjoy the ride. On the way back, though, we made an important stop, for ice cream.

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The Ice Cream Man has a cult-like following; it’s on New York Highway 29. I whined a little the first time we drove past, and then on the way back was finally assuaged. All of the ice cream there is homemade. A small cone has FOUR scoops (I kid you not); we opted for the kiddie size, which has only two. And as happens all the time, I could not help thinking about the American obesity epidemic, and about Michael Pollan’s food writing. But I also recalled something he observed about cultural differences in thinking about cuisine, and a project where Americans and French subjects were shown photos of the same chocolate cake and asked to choose an adjective to describe it. Americans overwhelmingly chose the word guilt, and the French, celebration. Dark roast coffee ice cream (moi) and Almond Joy ice cream (HCB) fed and nourished us as we celebrated our beautiful drive home. Works for me.

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We wrapped up our day on the sofa with a movie and a bowl of penne noodles and homemade meatballs. (There were possibly some pecan bar trimmings from a particular bakery thrown in for good measure.) Yep, fed and nourished. Not guilty, but celebrating good times in the company of an amazing man, at the end of a tiring work week. We’ll wake up tomorrow morning and do it all over again.

And Away We Go!

Fall term began at ballet school yesterday; the school director caught me in a moment during my Level 4A barre with a very pointy index finger. I was urging the kids to “send the foot across the room,” speaking metaphorically of course. And no, we are not in prison, but in a smaller interior classroom in our funky, architcturally interesting repurposed building. The door has those metal thingummies in the window glass. Kinda artsy, no? She apologized for the blurriness when she sent me the photo last night. Aside from the aforementioned artsy quality, I will take any help I can get softening my advancing age. Bring the blurry.

The title of this post is a nod to a kinda famous guy who happened to be in the same group of trainees as I at American Ballet Theatre in 2009, learning the curriculum we use. When some of the teacher trainees were struggling with a particular piece of movement we teach in the lower levels, he offered that expression to convey the feel and musicality of the steps. Simple and effective language can be a powerful teaching tool. Blurry photos can make us feel lovely as we teach. And away we go….

Once More, with Wiggly Animals

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Level 2 Aviary

Between episodes of attempting to catch a cheeky groundhog and putting in my first-ever vegetable garden, spring arrived here in Vermont in earnest. The lawn needs mowing and the house needs dusting. My Subi needs its snow tires off and oil changed. I need to wash the windows to welcome in the warm sunshine at long last. There are still more outside chores–lots of them.

There is no time for any of this at the moment. The young students at the ballet school where I teach are learning the last bit of their choreography for the spring performance, to be mounted in five short weeks <chews nails>. I teach most levels there–all of them really–but my primary responsibility lies with the children from age four through about eleven. This year the school director asked me to create something original for all of the younger enrollees, set to French composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals.

It will come off beautifully, of course. But we are in that disquieting place just now where we are hoping it comes off beautifully, rethinking timing, and spacing, and the complexity of some of the movement, second guessing ourselves. The Carnival cast is huge. Yesterday after our first full run-through I did a mental body count and arrived at something approaching thirty-five warm bodies who will be on the stage all at once twice during the ballet. That is a lot of little people, plus a few bigger ones who will have beautiful solos set by my colleagues and will help with some artful herding (pun intended, of course).

We had high expectations of our young students yesterday, and almost without exception they delivered. (This did not stop me from requesting just one more full cast rehearsal, please, in addition to what we’ve already got on the call board.) I also asked for these lovely photos; all were made during yesterday’s rehearsal, and provided courtesy of school director Jackie Stanton-Conley.

Another academic year draws to a close, another spring performance waits in the wings.

I think we should add a groundhog to the ballet to make it more Vermontish. What do you think, M. Saint-Saëns?

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Pre-Primary Level Kangaroos
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Primary Level A Tortoises
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Primary Levels B and C Fossils
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Deb, standing in for a missing Fossil
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Lovely Primary Level C Soloist Fossil
Level 1A Master of Elephant Ceremonies
Big Carnival Cast
Lovely Young Dancer

 

Waning Summer in Lake Placid

Lake Placid Farmers' Market

In case you wondered dear blogosphere, I am still alive and well.  This week I have a guest teaching engagement at Lake Placid School of Ballet, where there has been a cold drizzle and kids attending dance camp have come trickling into the studios covered in fleece.  Strange mid-August phenomenon, especially for this Southern girl.  This cheerful farmer’s market greeted me today as I headed to my first class; I love the beautiful produce I have seen here in New York and in my home state of Vermont this summer.  I also love being part of this summer school, with my esteemed guest colleagues, Misha Ilyin (American Ballet Theatre), and Fred Walton (a Joe Tremaine disciple).  The kids are bright-eyed and working very hard for us in their classes; on Friday they will showcase ballet and jazz choreography for their parents.  This is a nice way to finish summer ballet before a short break ahead of fall term at my home school.  Oh, and by the way:  Lake Placid is breathtaking.

Thanks for having me, Alice and Terpsie.  More from me soon, bloggy friends.

Misha works with Level 4
Misha works with Level 4

Held Up By Giants And Fluff

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With my apologies to Ms. Bronte.

I am getting ready to move to a new place.  Again.  This explains my long silence in the blogosphere, together with my new job at this interesting small business startup.  (I have not left the ballet world, gentle reader; I have taken on additional employment because circumstances demand it.)  Remember when I wrote about my concept of Vermont Barbie?  For those who have been asking me what exactly I do for this groovy little company, think Andy in The Devil Wears Prada, except my boss is kind–Vermont Miranda, if you will.  So far I have not been asked to obtain copies of unpublished manuscripts of anything (or else don’t bother coming in).  Much more about all of that later.

For now I must stay focused on moving, which is part of my grand plan to reduce expenses and increase income.  Handsome Chef Boyfriend has helped me stay on task, to say nothing of his tireless efforts at repairing, taping, and painting the walls in my new place, helping me pack and schlep things from point A to point B, and in general keeping the rudder steady as she goes.  Have I mentioned how amazing is this man? <Swoon, again.>  He has also dragged my butt out of bed early on weekend mornings to get crackin’ on this move.  When he left me this morning to head back to his own place, his mandate was this:  spend at least three hours packing today.

It is not so difficult to pack up my downsized things and put them in a new place as it was to separate my life from my ex’s and distill several decades’-worth of stuff into a truckload, which is what I was doing about this time last year, when I was still an emotional wreck.  God, have I been here a year?  Seems I have.  I have looked at my things over and over, still sifting through some of it that was packed hastily and without thinking, on occasion lamenting the absence of a few belongings I elected not to take and are now long gone, and wondering at the logic of keeping others.

Case in point:  dog-eared paperback editions of required high school reading.  Really?  Well, yes.  They still bear my juvenile scrawl–name, phone number, homeroom, grade level, doodles betraying classroom boredom, and prolific notes left in the columns of the text.  These books had not seen the light of day in many years before they were packed and loaded last summer.  And the reality is that I am not likely to crack open the Aeneid and reread it any time soon.

But the Aeneid and others of its ilk have kept my damaged dining room table functional for the last year.  Another item I cling to like crazy because it has sentimental value.  Although it is not what you imagine when you think “heirloom,” it is one of only a few items I own that belonged to my great grandmother Gracie.  Nevermind that it has been repaired and refinished several times, nor that it was missing its expansion leaf and I had another one made for it a few years ago.  Just after my arrival here one of its legs cracked again and is barely holding on thanks to a brass screw that resulted from another failed attempt at repair; it lists dangerously and piteously to one side.  The Unsinkable Molly Brown of tables; soon it will give way to simple physics, and that will be that.  But my trusty paperbacks have kept the table level and functional.  I doubt I have the nerve to set it out curbside, where it would be grabbed up within a day or so, probably.  I will take it with me to my new home, and it will go into garage storage there until I can decide whether it is once again worthy of saving, when I finally have the time and the resources to address it.

For now I thank the giants (and the fluff) for buying me a little more time with Gracie’s table.  And I thank the universe that Miranda is not my boss.

Cage Rattling

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This beauty arrived at my cottage early last week and hung out with me a few days, taking flight just before Handsome Chef Boyfriend’s happy arrival Thursday.  Lately I have felt unsettled, a little jittery, like I’ve had too much coffee,  but all the time.  My first academic year on the teaching staff at White River Ballet Academy ended well after last weekend’s performances, concluding with a final Primary Level class yesterday:  the (mainly) five-year-old kindergartners who last fall had their first exposure to the American Ballet Theatre curriculum we use at the school are changed little people, preparing for first grade and looking less toddler-like, more like kids.  I have witnessed this transition for a while now and enjoy it.  These little ones have come a long way as very young dancers, too; I am proud of them.  I frankly expected my students–in all  the levels I teach–to be worn out, sluggish, or likely even absent from their final week of classes.  On the contrary, most of them were not only there, but focused, confident after last weekend’s performances, and danced beautifully.  I think it is important for all of us on the teaching staff to pause and admire how far we have nurtured along our students since September–and then to reflect on this moment again in the fall when we look at them in their first week of classes and wonder how in the world we will prepare them for auditions and for the stage in the spring, which in my decade’s teaching experience always happens.  And still somehow, they are very nearly always ready when they need to be.  Now, a restorative and deserved week off before summer sessions begin.

Again there are big changes on the horizon for me, about which I will write as they unfold.  Writing has been my salvation, as has the ballet classroom, and I am ever thankful to have them at my disposal.  I have already alluded to the reality that I must give up my lakeside cottage; that transition will begin in a couple of weeks.  My new home on 180 wooded acres excites me (just wait, Clarence), and I think I have made a good choice.  It was a home I considered just before my arrival in Vermont, but with no data then about New England winters I was a little gun-shy.  I am definitely not what you would call a “seasoned” Vermonter, but I am still standing after snow and ice and wind and power outages, and I will be fine there, I think.

The other reality is that I must find more work.  I hope to rely on my academic laurels for that, and will begin to search in earnest this week. I will not leave the ballet world; I belong there and made a promise to myself about a decade ago that I would never again leave it.  I hope like crazy I can keep that promise to myself.  What I’ve called my year of transition–which I predicted would be over by now–I instead should have called my year of upheaval.  I remain in transition, but hope the coming year sees the emergence of a new tap root I intend to put down right here in Vermont.

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Upheaval notwithstanding, Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I ventured into Windsor on Friday because I wanted to show him this groovy little shop I had discovered earlier on my own; we sampled several beautiful cheeses and ultimately bought a small piece of locally made Madison Bleu.  Food shopping with HCB entertains me not only because of the lifetime supply of bad puns apparently occupying a huge piece of real estate in his silly noggin, but also because I can usually see the chef wheels turning while he is fingering and tasting and smelling things.  The cheese we bought accompanied this lovely cooked-to-perfection London Broil dinner he made us later with crunchy little snap peas and roasted potatoes; we drank a really inexpensive but very nice Shiraz with it. Dessert out of a plastic bag:  cast-off pieces of peanut butter bars from the bakery where HCB works as a pastry chef.

Also in Windsor we played an impromptu game of badminton in the rain (pretty dang bad) on a court set up just outside the store, visited this brewery, and also toured this beautiful new vodka distillery, where we enjoyed a teeny sample of the delicious, smooth Vodka they make there.

Before Windsor we had taken the scenic route to King Arthur Flour (which is not far from my home), where we had lunch, and also this wicked little crisp-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside creation called an amaretti bianchi.  So very wicked in fact that we left with a couple more of them; they were long gone by the time we arrived home later.  HCB tracked down a very similar recipe (because King Arthur of course can’t reveal its trade secrets) and plans to make some of them; I believe it is likely that there are almond cloud cookies in my future, perhaps around my middle and also on my rear end.

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We had been itching also to go to the Farmer’s Market in Norwich and managed to find a dry window of time for that after ballet class yesterday, during an otherwise soggy pair of days.  My only real standard for comparison is this farmer’s market which I frequented in Knoxville; it is bigger and a bit more diverse to be sure, but what I loved about the Norwich market was the consistently high quality of the produce there and the absence of prolific tchotchke vendors–just the right amount of them, and the stuff was by and large also high quality.

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This jam session was going on smack in the middle of the market and was big fun.  Ultimately we left with a loaf of crusty country bread and a large bunch of these beautiful mixed lettuces:

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which morphed into this beautiful salad:

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which I made for myself after HCB and I returned from our afternoon run; Clarence and I joined him for the second five of his ten-miler.  A multitude of Times crosswords (you can never have too many), a silly rented movie, gentle foot rubs:  nice time with HCB, and always over with far too soon.

‘Til next time.  The story is just beginning.

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

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See No Evil curtain call

Three composers, three teacher-choreographers, a single amazing piano instructor-performer, scores of students and their parents, enrichment from talented guest artists, and tireless volunteers.  The culmination of an academic year that saw big transitions, much joy, a few tears, and amazing progress, played out on the stage yesterday.  I am still overwhelmed and impressed by the children and adults in whose company I now find myself.  I am also indebted to Julia, who made available some of the photos seen here.  And I am so very lucky.

Backstage Golliwog
Backstage Golliwog
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Golliwog co-conspirators
Debussy makeup check
Debussy makeup check
Golliwog's Cakewalk I
Golliwog’s Cakewalk I
Golliwog's Cakewalk II
Golliwog’s Cakewalk II
Dancing with Mr. Debussy cast finale
Dancing with Mr. Debussy cast finale
See No Evil I
See No Evil moment
See No Evil finale
See No Evil finale
Backstage friends
backstage friends
and a little bit of backstage chaos
and a little bit of backstage chaos
Gorgeous Brahms, amazing Victoria and one of several students who also danced in the performances
gorgeous Brahms, amazing Victoria Dobrushina, and one of several students who also danced in the performances
Beautifully choreographed Brahms finale
beautifully choreographed Brahms finale
Brahms curtain call
Brahms curtain call
I address my little golliwogs
 addressing my littles
We are tired.  We are sweaty.  We are hungry.  We are happy.
We are tired. We are sweaty. We are hungry. We are happy.

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Achilles Heel

disturber of the peace

Today Clarence and I walked.  Again.  I have taken a break from running because the pain from a chronic Achilles injury has been too bad to push, and until today, the weather has not inspired me to run.  But we reached a soaring 87 degrees in my part of Vermont today–lots of grumbling from locals about heat and humidity, but I am loving every sweltering moment of it.  Hard to believe I was using my pellet stove last weekend, and now this.  Finally.  The couple in the photo–together with their Weimaraner, who was off leash initially–made the first bit of our walk unpleasant for this human, and also made me realize we could benefit from an obedience refresher course.

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This is theatre week for us at work; tomorrow we dig in and run dress rehearsals ’til we drop.  I am making hair ornaments for most of the girls in the Debussy piece, and also getting my music together for the sections where we will not dance to live accompaniment.  The director of the school has brought in her amazing ballet friend to help things go smoothly on Sunday; I really enjoyed meeting him today.  Plenty of nerves, lots of excitement.

goslings 1

goslings 2

Meanwhile Clarence and I have been watching this young family come of age.  Reassuring; spring has arrived to usher out the remnants of Still Winter, and very soon it will be summer.  We will continue to monitor this bunch until we move to our new digs in about a month.

roof line

I will say goodbye to this lovely house on my street, whose roof line I find so appealing.  And then I will be excited all over again, this time at the prospect of a beautiful space on 180 wooded acres, and so much that is promising about the future.

But first, three ballets, two performances.  Merde to all my young dancers, and the school director and staff, and the entire cast.  I plan to enjoy every second of the culmination of a long year of work in the ballet classroom.  And after a week’s break, we go at it again. Because this is not how the story ends.