“Dance Like EVERYONE is Watching”

By Rhian
My mother always says I was dancing before I was walking. Hell, she says I was dancing in womb. All I wanted to do was dance, music was all over the house, it was such a gift to appreciate all kinds of music, very young.

I started my first dance classes, tap, jazz, and baton. The tap recital piece was to ‘Short People’, our costumes were little white pants, suit jacket and top hat. One of the girls never closed her top buttons. I thought she was a slut. I was 5. My mom asked me if I wanted to take other things for a session as she was a dancer too and not wanting to push me into her direction. I was horrible at skating and my father fashioned a crash pad for my wee butt. I took gymnastics, which I liked, but still I just wanted to dance.

I was invited to a pre-professional program at 12, Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Lyrical, Modern. We were also competitive which I thrived on, and the technical exams
were hard, but I consistently ranked at the top of each style in Highly Commended. Feeling your body work, move, be alive – so freeing. To do the pre pointe and pointe, I was in heaven. Luckily I was a rock and roll ballerina and never had to wear the pancake tutus. I leave that for the gents of the Ballet Trocodero.

We performed for the Governor General – Canada’s Head of State representing the Queen. Every stage was mine, indoors or out. I danced with my heart, my eyes, my soul. Tyra didn’t invent smizing. I embraced every role to the nines. At one competition we were doing a hip-hopish tap number which was groundbreaking at the time. Getting up from a floor series my left foot popped. I suddenly thought that I lost it for the team but got up, kept smiling, and finished the dance. Come awards time, I was in teary apologies to the team. We won first place. I was called out by the judges even with compliments. Noone knew I had a hairline fracture in my left ankle until after.

Bring on the triple threats, I was 15 in my first professional musical theatre company. School, dance, rehearsals, I was in it to win it. I loved it so much.
I started teaching at 17. My mom retired her pro career at 17.

That next summer was the sign of something bad. I was ill with Hepatitis A and Mono. My doctor wanted me to be off for at least 6 months, but I only took off two as I wanted to do college, TV Broadcasting. I was finally strong enough to teach again, it was wonderful. This group of little girls I had were very special to me. They started when they were mostly 5, and with me until graduation. They came with me when I opened my studio, funny seeing my kids drive themselves to classes.

I took them to competitions and wanted them to have the experiences I did.
They came to dance at my wedding even. It’s beautiful to see them as successful young women today and we are often in touch. To see them embrace the power, the beauty, winning accolades – every time I was so proud.

Something went wrong. I was having migraines for months, I had a hard time understanding why I was on the floor crying because the studio was on a second floor, and often I had to slide down the stairs. I was 30. I was supposed to be happy, not anxious. I moved the studio to the community centre I also taught at the next year. Teaching a ballet class a changement – I landed wrong.
My feet were swelling, and it hurt so much. I had to stop teaching right then.

My doctor took 3 months to do blood work. These tests changed my life. He diagnosed me with lupus. He was a sweet grandfather type and cried with me because he knew what losing my dance career on a dime was going to do.

I was 33. It’s not very nice to take the feet away from a rock and roll ballerina.

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