This is the second part of Caitlin Clarke’s article where she talks about giving up dancing to transition into a new life.
The moment I had decided to stop dancing was bittersweet. I still remember the night I sat down at the dinner table with my parents and told them, ‘I have decided I don’t want to dance anymore.’ Tears started flowing and I had no idea why.
I was ecstatic about this new transition but it was only natural to have this kind of reaction. I was saying good-bye to something that had consumed my life for the past 14 years. There were many things leading up to this moment, however there was one particular day in which I was able put those feelings into words.
What happens after a life of dance
With a lack of experience in anything outside of the dance world I began to volunteer at as many places as I possibly could. Early in the morning on a monthly basis I was handing out coffee and sandwiches to the homeless and less fortunate within Brisbane (Australia). I got to hear so many incredible and heartbreaking stories as well as make friends with these people that for most of my life had no inclination that they even existed.
Catching up with an old dance friend for a gossip about the world that I had left behind made me think. I was amazed how the inequalities that I had known were always there, appeared to me on this day. I had a new lens and I didn’t necessarily appreciate the things I was seeing and was torn between the love I held for the art of dance, and the toxic realities of what my friend spoke about. Especially after I had just come from spending the morning with those who were relying on a free sandwich. This was the moment that I knew I had a heart for people, especially those who weren’t shown or able to know their own value.
Back to school
The following year I commenced my first of three years studying a Bachelor of Human Services. Never in a million years would my 17-year-old self had thought I could be studying at university. Going to university was a bit like voyaging out onto uncharted waters. My transition form dance to another life had begun. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing and school seemed so long ago that I felt as though I was learning everything for the first time and rightly so. Dance had been my entire life before then. My solitary priority, the only goal or outcome I had ever visualised. Some days it felt as though I had wasted a lot of my time training in dance. How was perfecting a tendu supposed to help my career in the human services field?
Even enduring things such as sitting in a chair for a 3 hour lecture. My body was not used to anything like that. I had to get used to so many new things. My conversations no longer revolved around ballet steps or sore muscles. Maintaining my fitness looked completely different. I couldn’t even give the excuse or reason for not attending events because ‘I had dancing’ anymore. It was easy to look at it from what I was losing or leaving behind. I needed to look at what I was gaining, or opportunities that I could participate in.
A transition to a new life but using dance discipline
But what a life I gained. I had been so accustomed to the way the dance life was constructed that I had no idea in how many ways it was constricting me. Not only in regard to things such as time constraints, but I was able to enjoy the meal with my family without counting the calories in each item of food. I embraced the ‘now’ more than I had ever been able to before in my life.
It could be so easy to list the ways in which the dance industry burdened or tarnished me. To acknowledge the bad means to acknowledge the good as well. If it wasn’t for dancing I would not have the same level of resilience and determination that I have today. Those are lifelong qualities will benefit me wherever I go, so maybe it wasn’t a waste of time after all.
See part 1 of Caitlin’s article here
If you are having difficulties with transitions in your life see my website www.counsellingfordancers.com