Tag Archives: Musicals

There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This

(Back to the song titles)

This is going to sound kind of stupid for a while, but bear with me. I hope it will make sense in the end. You know. One of those recovery metaphor things I’m so fond of. Kind of. Blah. Here goes.

As per usual, a little bit of back story is required.

I’ve always REALLY sucked at picking up choreography. Like, really really. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I focused, no matter how much I practised on the side, unless I had a night to sleep on it, I wasn’t going to remember the choreo. Didn’t matter if it was someone else’s moves or my own steps. This was just a fact of my life. It didn’t matter if I was in a somewhat normal state of eating, a somewhat restrictive state of eating, or a full-blown anorexic state of eating: no amount of food would allow me to know the choreography well enough to dance full-out at an audition.

Now, I have a pretty damned decent memory for other things. I can recall conversations from my childhood verbatim. I can remember what I wore on specific dates days, weeks, years ago. I can tell you what grade I got on my geography test when I was 12. In my nerdiest times, I can look at a playbill and tell you:

  1. Who in the cast I’ve seen in other shows
  2. What roles they played in that show, and sometimes
  3. What name they went by before they joined Equity. They call me the Musical Theatre Encyclopaedia. Nerdiest superpower ever.

This freakish memory, however, has never extended to choreography. Frustrating as hell, but that’s my life.

Or . . .

that WAS my life.

This weekend, I decided on the spur of the moment to teach a musical theatre class instead of a tap class. I haven’t danced a step of musical theatre choreography in about 18 months. I had 15 minutes to pick music, choreograph a dance, and be ready to teach. I started scrolling through my iPod (which is, conveniently, filled with showtunes) and began to panic: I don’t think I can do this. I can’t come up with something worth teaching in this little time, and there’s no way I’ll remember it once I do! Maybe I can just teach choreography I already know from a show I’ve done before . . .

I decided to make an effort. I put on a song I know and enjoy, and just started dancing. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I tweaked it, and kept adding on. By the end of the 15 minutes, I had a workable dance. It wouldn’t win a Tony award or anything, but it wasn’t basic “recital” choreography either. I started teaching, waiting for the moment when I’d forget.

I didn’t.

I taught the whole dance, and we danced it together, full out. It ended up being good enough that the studio owner filmed it for promotional use. If it had been an audition, I think I would have booked it.

I’ve been semi-noticing my memory improving in ballet these past few months, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until Saturday. I can remember choreography now.

Cool. Good for you, Kelly. But where’s the metaphor? What’s the point?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post from the blog A Life Unmeasured. She looked at the definition of “recovery”: the regaining of something taken away, or a return to a former condition. Her take on this:

“I want to create my life, not get back what I’ve lost.  I want to be more forgiving of myself, less perfectionistic, more adventurous, less cautious.  In other words, I want to let go of this idea I have that I will be “recovered” when I am like I used to be.  I can’t be that way anymore, unless I choose a life of relapse, which is what I’ve gotten in the past.”

I don’t want to go back to the life that I had before, either. That was the life that I starved to get away from. I’ve spent my entire life trying to destroy what was and put something better in its place. I’ve gone about it the wrong ways, but even now, trying to do it “for real” this time, I never really believed that my life would be anything different than it was before.

This may be a silly, small thing, the memory for dance, but it gives me hope that maybe things will be “better than ever” in other areas of my life, too.

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Filed under Blatherings, History Lessons, Inspiration

Hiding in Plain Sight

Last year, as soon as my last acting contract was over, I essentially went into hiding. I couldn’t bear to be seen. My last show had been torture. Not because of the show itself, but the horrible public-ness of it. I was creating a new role in a new show, so during the rehearsal period I wasn’t just being watched for choreography, acting, and vocal stuff, but for whether the show itself worked. For a girl who was trying desperately, both literally and figuratively, to disappear, this was incredibly painful. I didn’t want to be seen. 8-10 shows a week, depending on the schedule, however, I was seen.

As soon as the show ended, I disappeared. I hid in my apartment, I hid in my eating disorder, I hid in my body. I returned to my “Joe Job” after 4 months away, and my boss didn’t recognize me when I walked in the door. After 5+ years with the same ginger hair color (it’s easier to write “Red” on a resume than Light-Blondeish-Reddish-Brown), I dyed my hair dark. Almost black. I had one last show to do – a concert. I did my best to stay invisible. There’s a few pictures from it on broadwayworld.com (You didn’t actually think I’d link to them, did you?). You can see my shoulder in one, and my bangs in another. Hiding in plain sight.

Nowadays, I still don’t really want to be seen. I know I’ll never have any semblance of a life if I keep hiding in the shadows, but stepping out of the darkness takes a lot of courage. I’m getting better at it, but I still feel guilty for taking up space a lot of the time. It’s a work in progress.

I found a quote on my computer today that I’d saved back in the day called “The Actor’s Vow” by Elia Kazan. It makes being visible sound a whole lot more appealing and noble. It talks specifically to actors, but I think it can apply to real life, too. I think it might be what being alive, being real, being seen is all about. It might be something to consider.

I will take my rightful place on the stage
And I will be myself.
I am not a cosmic orphan
I have no reason to be timid.
I will respond as I feel; awkwardly, vulgarly,
But respond.
I will have my throat open.
I will have my heart open.
I will be vulnerable.
I may have anything or everything the world
Has to offer, but the thing
I need most, and want most, is to be myself.
I will admit rejection, admit pain, admit
Frustration, admit even pettiness, admit
Shame, admit outrage, admit anything and
Everything that happens to me.
The best and most human parts of me are
Those I have inhabited and hidden from
The world.
I will work on it.
I will raise my voice.
I will be heard.

THE ACTOR’S VOW
Elia Kazan

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Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear

Angry Dance

Seriously. That’s a song title from a musical. Very to-the-point, Sir Elton.

I don’t know if it’s anger or frustration or what, but today is one of those days when I just want to search and destroy. The child in me wants to shred things and bite things and throw things and scream. Alas, I can’t scream. It’s a physical impossibility.

What is the answer to anger expression when you’re an adult? I only know how to express it in unhealthy ways by turning it inwards (that’s usually its origin, anyways, so it’s a short turn). I’d do an angry dance, but everything always ends up too balletic, and that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the expression of anger . . . more the expression of “My, what a pretty flower!” I used to belt my face off (sing), but I’m limited on soundproof spaces, and my deteriorating vocal technique just makes me angrier.

So what does one do with anger when temper tantrums are no longer an option? I suspect tearing my yoga mat along its “Align” lines isn’t the answer . . .

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Filed under Rantings

What Makes You Beautiful

Sometimes, I run out of words. But, when one runs out of words, one can always lip synch. Here’s a little happy from the cast of Anything Goes on Broadway, featuring Liza’s daddy, Joel Grey, and the lovely and talented human being, Stephanie J. Block. Thanks for making me smile today.

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Filed under Inspiration, Random Funny-ness

A Quiet Thing

I should be cleaning my apartment right now. It’s not dirty, per se. The laundry on the floor is clean; I just haven’t had the energy to put it away. Same goes with the dishes in the drain tray. There are a few too many papers on my coffee table. So my apartment isn’t dirty, but it’s a little messy. Probably a metaphor for life. Based on the chaos of my life right now, I’d say my apartment looks damned good.

So why am I writing, instead of cleaning? So glad you asked. Believe me, the perfectionist monster in my head is screaming at me to get off my ass and put those towels away. I’ve managed to quiet it some, as there is a load of laundry in the dryer, and chick peas cooking on the stove as I type. (Somebody poke me in ten minutes, or they’ll burn).

Today, I am writing because of a question posed to me (well, everyone) in group therapy today.  We were asked to identify tactics we use to escape reality, which is something I’ve been working on for a while now. That part was easy. Then, we were asked to identify our “pause button” . . . a healthy something we can do to escape the noise and reset our brains. Not so easy. Most things I would do to get out of my head are either blatantly unhealthy, or could easily become so. For example, ballet gets me out of my head, but it’s not something I could do as often as I’d need to, as it could easily lead to an exercise symptom.

I sat there for a long time drawing blanks. If my head is spinning, no amount of reading, tv, computer, music can quiet the noise. Being around people distracts me for a time, but the noise picks back up where it left off as soon as I’m alone again.

Then it hit me. Lately, WGT has had me doing a lot of writing as part of my therapy. On days when I do it, I find I sleep more soundly. I just assumed that it wore me out, but maybe there’s more to it. Then there are times when I’m lost in my head and feeling tortured, and I’ll write something here, on the blog. It doesn’t have to be about what is upsetting me, but spending so much brain power trying to organize my thoughts into words seems to be enough to stop the rest of the noise. It’s my pause button.

Pausing and reflecting in writing seems to keep me from  sitting and spinning in my head, and stops the noise long enough to maybe get some time off after writing. Your comments, both here and via Facebook/Twitter etc., will often prolong the quiet times, sending my brain juices flowing back in this direction instead of towards the murky vortex of doom. (If you say that last part with a creepy voice, it makes it sound way cooler).

So thanks for being a part of what gives my brain a break. Just knowing you’re there, maybe reading, maybe skimming, maybe just looking at the pictures, helps a lot. If you have any brilliant “pause button” ideas of your own, feel free to share.

And just so you know, my chick peas are safely stored and did NOT burn.

*Bonus question: today’s blog title is also the title of a song. 10 points to anyone who can tell me who first sang that song. For those of you keeping track, Tess is in the lead, points-wise. Not that I’m encouraging competition . . . just healthy musical theatre nerd-dom.

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Filed under Blatherings, Tips and Tricks (The Healthy Kind)

How Do You Measure A Year?

Yes, I know. Another musical theatre reference. But I’m low on creative energy right now to come up with a cute title, so there you go.

Just going to jump right in. A year ago today, I went to a group for the first time in Toronto. I had been stalking the website for the centre that hosted the group since about 2005, and had finally decided it was time to go. Someone I knew peripherally had recently committed suicide as a way out of her eating disorder, and it scared me. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I had been, so this group would be my last ditch effort to, well, ditch the eating disorder for good.

That day, I was still on my last extended contract as a performer (I still had a few auditions and “one-off” performing commitments to fulfill, but this was the last big one), so I sang and danced and acted my way through the afternoon, then hurried home. I didn’t have time to wash off my stage makeup (and reapply the necessary replacement layer), but I pulled my show hair into a ponytail, dropped off my show shoes, etc. and hopped back on the subway.

I made my VERY necessary Starbucks stop to get my non-fat, sugar-free coffee misto, and made my way to group. I was humiliated by the fact that the barista had written “NF” in the milk section, because I felt like such a glutton having calories in my cup, visible to all the girls who I was SURE would be judging me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go, obsessively early as I was, so I sat on the stairs and watched. When it seemed appropriate, I made my way into the group room and curled up, terrified, in a chair, coat still on, trying desperately to remember to keep the label on my cup facing away from anyone else.

The woman who would become WGT breezed into the room, and I was immediately overwhelmed. Strong women terrify me, and she was one. When it was my turn, I said my name and why I was there, then spent the rest of the group trying to disappear. Luckily, there were some wise, inspirational people in the room who were more verbal than I was. I heard people say things that I thought were some of the most shameful things that only was evil enough to think, and it was ok. I felt so much less alone. I went back, and have seldom missed a week since.

One year later, however bleak things look right now, I’m astonished at how far I’ve come. Things got a lot worse before they got better, and I ended up jobless, career-less, completely absorbed in the rituals and routines of my eating disorder, seldom able to leave my house due to the amount of time my eating disorder demanded of me. Everything hurt, my body stopped being able to digest even the smallest number of calories, I felt like I had nothing and nobody, and had absolutely nothing to contribute to the world.

Nowadays, I’m seldom home. I have a job that I enjoy, a second job that I love, and a couple of occasional jobs that are pretty fun. I go to yoga and ballet class, and don’t (usually) feel like I’m going to die afterwards. I have a plan to go back to school, finances permitting, and I hope the resulting career will be one that makes a difference and I can be proud of. Digestion is still an issue, but I have some (natural) pills I can take that make it better. I have friends and family that I love very much. While some of my symptoms still crop up, they don’t control my life anymore, and I’m strong enough to work to try and get rid of them.

It hasn’t been an easy year. It’s probably been one of the hardest of my life. I’ve been thrown curve balls that I know would have destroyed me in the past. But I keep going. What I’ve written here is just a pencil sketch of everything that has changed this year, and I’m hopeful that the next one will bring even bigger, better changes. If you can find the smallest glimmer of hope, the smallest push to change, the smallest voice saying “try one more time”, hold onto it. Sometimes that’s all you’ll get. The rest is up to you.

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Filed under Fighting Fear, History Lessons

When You Start Seeing Metaphors Everywhere . . .

. . . you know you’ve spent too much time in the therapist’s office. WGT is a big fan of metaphors, and uses them frequently to make eating disorder related points. She is also a firm believer that anything that happens in your life is the universe trying to make a point about something else in your life. Get pink eye over the holidays? Alright, eyes . . . not doing what they’re supposed to do . . . Maybe something’s wrong with how you see yourself . . . She’s got a million of them. And now I’ve started doing it, too.

Today, for the first time in a very long time, I took a ballet class. Ballet was always my favorite dance discipline. It’s the one thing that I never didn’t want to do . . . double negatives are confusing. To simplify: ballet always seemed to be the last class of the night in high school, and the first class of the morning in college, and NEVER did I ever not want to go. I was never an exceptional ballerina . . . bad feet, poor turnout, limited flexibility, legs too short, torso too long . . . (this sounds like harsh self-criticism, but in the ballet world these are just matter-of-fact observations) but I always loved it, even with all the body shit that goes along with it.

Anyhow, today in class, I had the great good fortune to have a private class with one of my favorite teachers. She first taught me nearly 10 years ago at the studio where I danced when I was in high school. Now, she owns a studio about 20 minutes from my house (this practically makes us next door neighbors in Toronto). It was really great to get back into it after so long. I’ve been dancing, but theatre dance is very different from traditional ballet.

I noticed something today about the majority of the corrections she gave me. In an ordinary class, the focus is on technique. You work to do things properly, no matter how high your leg goes or how good it looks to the outside. On stage, however, you learn little tricks and cheats to make things look more impressive. You plie (bend your knee, for all you non-bunheads) slightly under your heavily bussled skirt and pop your heel, and your leg lifts a few inches higher. You twist your body just so in your faux corset/bodice thingy, and a side bend looks like a really impressive back bend. These cheats become second nature and start to feel like the real thing (can you see where I’m going with this?)

During class, my teacher pulled me into the mirror (ugh) to see what my leg was doing whenever I went into arabesque (that’s when you stand on one leg, stick your other leg straight out behind you and try to pretend like you’re not in pain).

I decided to use a picture of a male dancer to demonstrate here because a) let’s face it, a lot of female ballerinas are pretty triggering, b) David Hallberg’s got some stellar technique, and c) he’s pretty to look at . . . I know, I know, I’m all about the “judge ye not another’s body lest yer body be judged”, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I should point out that usually the term “arabesque” refers to a standing pose, not a jump, but LOOK HOW PRETTY!!!

Anyhow, back to MY arabesque. My arabesque has never been overly impressive, but I learned that by moving my leg into what another of my ballet teachers calls “secabesque” ( a combo of 2nd position and arabesque AKA diagonally back from my shoulder) and angling my body, I can fake a half decent one. This is, however, not good technique. It’s a cheat. And it has become my normal.

It’s amazing how cheats and tricks have become the norm in so very many areas of my life. I’ve been trying to overcome some of my physical ones in yoga, humbling myself by sacrificing flexibility in favor of proper alignment. In food, I’ve been cheating for years, eating what Michael Pollan calls “food-like substances”: ones that substitute chemical nastiness for calories. I’m also pretty sure my eyelashes aren’t as long and my skin isn’t as clear as my makeup would make it seem. And, if you must know . . . I’m not a natural ginger. Heartbreaking confession, I know.

But apart from these things, how many other things do we all fake in life to make things look prettier? How often do we pretend to like someone we don’t want to be around, just to avoid awkward confrontations? How many times do we say that we’re “fine” when inside we’re silently screaming? Who among us hasn’t typed LOL when, in reality, we’ve barely cracked a smile?

As much as being real is scary and would hurt a lot in the short term, what would the world be like if we could all take each other at face value? I rail against reality often enough for this post to make me a hypocrite, but I’ve learned to accept considering change as a step in the right direction. You gotta start somewhere, right? If you’re interested in thinking about maybe changing with me, who also might someday consider changing, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ~The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

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Filed under Blatherings