Madeline Michalowski ’22
I have known the stiff feeling of a pound of gel and hairspray on my head to form a kind of shiny, plastered helmet since the age of three. The bobby pins sticking into your scalp never get any more comfortable and the fake eyelash glue never stings your eyes any less. Yet despite all that, the fulfilment of the blinding lights and hundreds of eyes on you never gets old either.
I have come to realize that growing up as a dancer and having the opportunity to perform in three shows a year has provided me with not only my greatest joys, but some of the best people in my life that trump the emotional strain that comes with the artform.
As a senior in high school who’s final Nutcracker performance is quickly approaching, I found myself feeling conflicted on if I felt more relieved that my dance career was coming to an end or more somber that this constant in my life would soon be absent.
My dance life has not been all smooth sailing as most of my peers would probably agree. The constant mirror projecting your image back at you from such a young age can put you on the path to animosity. Not receiving the role in a performance that you had forever pictured yourself being or feeling the tension of competition amongst your grade is difficult to grow up around.
After all, the entire art form is rooted in performing movements correctly and looking a certain way. Not the most encouraging childhood hobby to choose I would say. So, I had to think for a moment if all of these aspects that shadow the positives of my activity weigh more.
But in the end I am proud to say, “no.” I would not trade my youth in dance for anything.
I have played a part in my studio’s Nutcracker since the third grade all the way up until now, which will mark my 10th time in the play.
That is 10 years of the endless weekends of rehearsals, the songs’ every note glued into your brain. 10 years of dress rehearsals that run so late into the night you have no time for homework, just some makeup remover and pajamas when you get home. 10 years of being alongside my company who I have watched improve and practice for forever in the studio to then flourish on stage.
Each year leaves me feeling so proud of what my classmates and I have achieved.
The past 10 performances have not only brought me these unforgettable memories but also taught me discipline, balance and collaboration that I carry beyond the studio. I was fortunate enough to rehearse and perform alongside many professionals these past few years, exposing me to the process of partnerwork and the communication that is essential with it.
Additionally, hours of practice also meant time away from school, which forced me to create a balanced schedule that helped me learn to manage my time wisely.
I learned how to carry myself with grace and behave respectfully towards my teachers and guests from outside the studio, a skill that I appreciate every time I come in contact with a superior.
Growing up as a performer amidst so many athletes was unique. My friends would have games three times a week while I was rehearsing to perform one two-minute piece, for only three shows that mostly just family comes to watch. But that never altered my drive for it and I never once wished I had instead played a different high school sport.
They will never know the potent smell of rosin, the thrill of a quick change or the magic of the snow scene. Although I am excited to explore my life beyond Westport in the next year, my experiences as a performer will forever be an integral part of my childhood. Hairspray, eyelash glue and all.