So this is it, the beginning of the mad, fun, grueling, wonderful rehearsal season, when we pretend to be real ballerinas and not just small-time slaves of Terpsichore. Actually, we've been rehearsing one piece through February for a fundraiser at the end of the month, but the real excitement starts in March, when we begin to learn all the choreography and start working to bring the show together.
Here I really must say something about my teacher, Ann Marie Benedict, because just the fact that Chewelah possesses such a gem is amazing. In her youth she danced with a company in Los Angeles under the direction of Eugene Loring. She never talks much about herself, but the stories she does tell from that time are fascinating. She's been teaching ballet in Chewelah for over twenty-five years now. I've been her student for twenty of them. She is by far the greatest slave-driver I have ever encountered, and we love her for it. It is easy, in a small town without much competition for quality, to become content with "good enough". She has never allowed us to relax into a false sense of self-satisfaction, but always urges us to improve on what we did before -- to jump higher, balance longer, turn the double into a triple, express ourselves more. Most important, she has passed on to us her passion for art in all its forms.
Our show this year will be on May 22nd, in Colville, Colville being the nearest town that actually has an auditorium. One of the many challenges Ann has faced over the years is a severe lack of facilities. Our classes and rehearsals are held in a dirty old gymnasium, and even though we have the space reserved months in advance, we are ousted whenever they need somewhere to have a blood drive, or rehearse a play. However, plans have lately gone into motion for an actual dance studio, which would be the biggest step forward in years. There is also the ongoing challenge of making ballet accessible to the inhabitants of a small town whose exposure to it often consists solely of multiple viewings of "Barbie in Swan Lake" with their very young daughters. Chewelah does have a surprisingly strong core community of artists. But there are certainly plenty of the other.
I like to think that these various obstacles have made us all stronger, more interesting dancers than we would have been otherwise. In all events, they have certainly made us stubborn, determined, and maybe just a wee bit pugnacious.