I began taking ballet lessons at the age of 2. By the age of 17, I had gotten seriously involved in the world of ballet and was taking class six days a week, attending summer intensives and going to master classes left and right. I was starting to feel burnt out. It felt as though I was losing touch with the reason I loved dance in the first place; that simple joy of moving in beautiful ways, and sharing that joy. I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to a master teacher named Nanette Charisse at that time in my life. Through her magical skill for bringing dancers out and bringing them beyond their comfortable edge, I was cured of this painful situation.
The cathartic experience occurred in one class, during one or two center exercises but the lesson has been sinking in over the weeks, months, and years since. I was asked to stop the combination we were working on and attempt it again but this time do it “because it makes me feel so good” were Madame Charisse’s words. Do it because it feels so good that some of it needs to spill out”. Then Mdm. Went on to explain that there is an energetic “hole” in the upper chest where the love you feel for the dance, the energy you generate, pours out and is free to flow to the audience. She also explained that therefore the chin must be lifted slightly. Not for pompous pride but because you feel so good about what you are doing that the chin must get out of the way so as not to block the energy that flows from you. This is the healthy form of pride.
Well, it took a few tries but each time I began the combination again I found it easier to acknowledge to myself that I did in fact love the way these movements felt and it was ok to let myself feel that and have it be seen (Ballet therapy)! My father happened to be videotaping this class and not only did I see myself transforming in the studio mirror as I danced, but the video clearly showed a change in the quality of the dancing. Before Mdm.’s assistance it had been painful or boring to watch, afterward, captivating and pleasant.
This was one of many amazing revelations for me facilitated by Mdm. Charisse. She is perhaps the most significant teacher in my life. I am forever grateful to her. Though she passed away some years ago, her energetic presence is strong in my reality. The way I think about dancing as well as everything in life has been positively altered by this wonderful teacher. I’m honored to have been touched by this great soul.