The Art of Love and Non-Comparison

           I questioned myself a lot in the days leading up to tour. I wondered if it was the healthiest thing for me. I worried about being on a moving bus only 5 days after I started walking and with very little muscle to help support my new baby knee. I wondered if I would be able to keep up with my physical therapy on such a rapid tour schedule. Touring, the way we do, really sucks you in to a completely different world. That world pretty much consists of eating, making the show happen, sleeping on the bus for a few hours, checking into a hotel in the middle of the night for another nap-like sleep, and doing it over again in a new city every day. Any free time we do have seems to happen in a blink. I knew if I was going to do it I needed to be strong minded and diligently cautious. I made a pact with myself to put my safety first, have a ton of fun, and to be forgiving of my heart no matter what it decided to feel. My heart, in fact, was the part of me I was worried about the most. More than anything I knew I needed to find a way to be happy through this recovery process. I believe that a happy heart, gratitude, and positive energy are major determining factors in healing your body. The closer it got to showtime the more anxious and nervous I felt. As a dancer, I have had a few fears. The fear of being injured. The fear of missing out on a dream job. The fear of being replaced. And the fear that whoever steps into my place will do my job better than me. These seem to be common thought processes for athletes/dancers. For me, these fears all derive from a bigger problem....comparing myself to others. Comparison is an unfortunate and severely common habit (it's especially present in such a competitive industry).

           As I drove to Santa Monica to meet up with the company before the show I started sweating profusely. I was so scared about how I was going to feel by being there...but not being there in the the way I wanted to be. I knew the state of mind I was in was a vulnerable one when I first walked up to the stage door. The sign on the door read 'Artist Entry'. Without any warning the tears started streaming down my cheeks. It took more than a moment to put myself back together. I regained strength to enter the theater and started to make my rounds to say 'hello'. My face stopped resembling the Niagara Falls after a few tough conversations. At that point I was banking on the possibility that I may have run out of tears completely. That way I could reapply my makeup before the show and be confident it wouldn't wash away again. But I knew that wasn't the case. The hard part, watching the show from the audience, hadn't even happened yet. I started to go from friend to friend taking bets on how many times I would "lose it" that night. I mean have to learn to have fun with even the messiest feelings in life, right?

          Before the show, I was hanging out in the lobby stocking up on some new SHAPING SOUND gear when audience members started to roll in. Several people came to me asking for pictures and autographs. They had seen the show before and recognized me but didn't know I wasn't dancing that night, and honestly I didn't have the heart to tell them. So, I accepted the "break a leg"'s with a smile on my face and a secret giggle because- ironically-I already did that.

        I started watching the show from the lighting booth. I was pumped when the curtain rose and my friends were on stage already killing it within the first 3 minutes. Then, the moment I usually enter the stage approached and reality smacked me again (and harder than ever) when I saw the stunning Kathryn McCormick walking on in my place. I looked at the sold out house around me and at where I was in the space. Sitting there, blending into a sea of people, yet knowing that's not where I belonged.  I watched as Kathryn performed a scene with Kyle Robinson setting up the story of their relationship and then another scene, with Nick Lazzarini, as she slipped into her dream. These two small scenes are two of my favorite to perform. I could feel everything. Every emotion I ever had on that stage was still rushing through me as if I was her. Every movement she made my body remembered and as I became more aware of myself I caught my muscles contracting and reacting the same as if I was the one performing. It felt so real and yet so wrong.

***Let me pause for a moment and say that Kathryn McCormick is one of the most beautiful beings I know. I swear she is an angel here on earth. Not only is she stunning, and flawlessly talented, she is also oozing with love. Actually, LOVE is the only thing I've ever seen come from her. She has had numerous challenges in her life just like the rest of us but she always chooses to love. I admire her in every way. I'm now sure that God intends for us to be in each others lives. We have so much in common and though we haven't been exceptionally close in the past He some how manages to put her in my life every time I need love and wisdom...and every single time she goes above and beyond in delivering that. I'm so grateful for her and for everything she's taught me. I'm so grateful that she was able to step in for me so gracefully and that she has been willing to help me and to hold me the few times I ended up in fetal position crying backstage. Every night before the shows I would make sure to tell her good luck, that she is beautiful, and that I appreciate her. She was wonderful at reassuring me that she could feel me on stage with her and that every move she made was in my honor. When you give authentic love and receive authentic love in return there is no room for jealously or animosity. You can only wish the best for one another because that is love. That is the kind of genuine support we should be giving and receiving as humans. Kathryn, I'm thankful to be able to share something so precious and real with you. I love you with my whole heart.***

         After the first couple pieces I became too audible emotionally so I left the auditorium and decided to watch for a bit from the monitors in the lobby. It was a little bit of a cop out because it's a lot easier to watch on a screen than in person- it does't feel as real.

(And also there's wine in the lobby)

          By the second act I felt stronger and attempted to sit in the audience again. This time-having gotten past the initial shock of it all- I attempted to kick back and enjoy the show and I have to say......IT WAS INCREDIBLE. I'm the first dancer in our company that has ever had the opportunity to step out after being such big part and simply watch the show from an audience perspective. After having experienced that I value being a part of this company more than ever. It is truly a breath taking and visually stunning work of art. There are so many things to watch- and a lot of things I never even knew happened when I was busy dancing and in the mix of it all. I have a brand new appreciation for what we do as artists and for what we're providing for our audience to experiencing. Even now, crying and injured, I could watch it over and over again...

         Most importantly, as I watched Kathryn perform my role I found a kind of peace I didn't quite expect in that first night. I noticed that the choices she made for herself in that role were so different than the choices I would have made. Every extension, pirouette, lift, and improv moment was structurally the same and somehow so incredibly different. Even the connection from person to person was different. I could see it and energetically I could feel it too. It was brilliant, just.....different. And what made it so beautiful was that Kathryn made it her own. She was true to herself as she stepped in for me and her performance taught me something I really needed to understand- I am irreplaceable. I can't pinpoint what exactly blanketed me with this comfort because it didn't feel like my own thought process but instead it was something that rushed over me like a gust of wind. I am irreplaceable. Not for any egotistical reasons but because there's only one ME and there's only one Kathryn and there's only one YOU. The same choreography done equally as well is simply DIFFERENT. I don't believe in anyone taking my place anymore, in any life circumstance. And I certainly don't believe in anyone being a better version of me. That just doesn't exist. The culmination of our upbringing, training, beliefs, choices, experiences, and energy all make us who we are. And while we may need someone to step in for us from time to time it's impossible for anyone to match our individuality...Our human unique-ness. 

       I hope I never lose sight of what I know now. Comparison is a poison that we all drink at one point or another. But in life, and especially in art, comparison can be lethal to your spirit. It can make you feel replaceable and unworthy- and that's a lie. No matter what your talent is or where you find yourself in life there is no one who can be a better version of you. Only you can be a better version of you and trying to be anyone else would mean losing your most valuable asset- your true self. I love who I am as a dancer and I love the woman I'm growing into. Because of this life experience I could watch Kathryn all day everyday in an infinite awe of her.... and still limp home knowing my worth. 

P.S. I cried 6 times that night. Less than I thought it would be!!! Haha!