MBA is glad to publish this blog post from alumna Alexa Bourne. Alexa was one of the original students enrolled at MBA when it first open its doors. She attended Alma College dancing extensively in their dance program, and majoring in English. She transferred to Ferris State University where she currently attends as an English Language and Literature major (with two writing minors), and will be graduating in May 2018. In this blog she clearly expresses the positive impact that ballet training had on her. Unfortunately, her injury impacted her ability to pursue a career in dance. Injuries in dance can happen as they do in any sport, but they are fairly uncommon. This blog illustrates how even when misfortune happens what you learn in ballet continues to benefit the dancer for life. Alex was a member of the MBA family and will always be. We are proud of what she has accomplished and know she has a bright future ahead of her.
Lorna Hernandez Jarvis (Former Assistant Artistic Director and founding board member)
No, I didn't have the body, the feet, the flexibility, the turnout, or the training since I didn’t start professional training until it was too late. No, I would not have been able to have a career as a dancer. But this was a huge part of my life. For 15 years I pretty much lived in a leotard, and I miss it so much that it hurts. I miss tutus and tiaras, I miss the rush of performing, I even miss the pointe shoes and all the damage they did to my feet! And I remember it all.
I remember the fall in high school that damaged my knee, and I remember continuing to dance through it for several years after until I reached the point where it aches almost constantly, I have difficulty straightening it, and walking is sometimes painful. I remember dancing on sprained ankles because there was no way was I going to miss my last performance of senior year. I remember dancing with mononucleosis because I didn't want to not dance (that lasted until the doctor told my instructor that my organs could burst very easily and kill me if I fell or my partner grabbed me wrong). I remember dancing always making everything better; even when I was stressed about dance, when I actually began to move, nothing else mattered. Dancing was a cure for my anxiety. I remember several pairs of brand new, un-sewn, custom-made pointe shoes still in their bag under my bed because I stopped so suddenly. I remember there being a time that I got sick of hearing Nutcracker music because I had listened to it a million times, year after year, in countless rehearsals...and I wish I hadn't taken it all for granted. I wish I had another chance to dance.
But I also remember what those 15 years taught me. I didn’t just learn how to dance (ballet at least. You still don’t want to see my flailing attempts at “dancing” at a party). I gained an appreciation for music, a knowledge and understanding that I would have never had without dance. I learned that dance isn’t just an art, it’s also an athletic endeavor (anyone who tries to argue against that can fight me; my asthma, the scars on my feet from blisters, and all the old injuries that still bother me will act as witness that it is indeed athletic). I learned that dancers are some of the toughest athletes there are, but that they’re also empathic.
Dance taught me too many lessons to list in one blog post, but here are some of the most important lessons I still use today, a year and a half after I stopped taking any classes, and several years after I stopped dancing at a professional training level.
I learned how to listen to my body, and I learned all the physical therapy exercises to fix whatever’s bothering me. My body learned proper posture (or rather, it was drilled into me). While this may seem small, potential employers still comment on it at every interview I go to. Proper posture leaves a good impression. But most importantly, I learned the value of dedication and hard work. One doesn’t successfully go to school full-time and dance full-time without it.
I learned the time management skills to be able balance two lives, and now to be able to balance a full-time course load of upper-level reading- and writing-intensive classes (ah, the life of an English language and literature major with two writing minors), as well as multiple jobs and extracurricular activities. To keep all this straight, I had to learn important organizational skills as well that began in high school with homework and a hectic rehearsal schedule.
Above all, dance taught me that nothing happens without work and passion. If you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, you don’t want to do the work, and if you don’t do the work, nothing’s ever going to happen. While some people are blessed with long legs, the bone structure of a bird, or natural inhuman flexibility, the technical skills for dance aren’t something that can just be handed to you—you have to work for them. That lesson has followed me into my school and work life. I’m not naturally a straight-A student: I work for it. I’m not naturally good with technology: I work for it (quite hard, actually. Technology hates me). Though dance also taught me there is no such thing as perfection, that there is always something that could be improved upon, it taught me that with dedication and hard work you can pull off some pretty amazing feats.
While I no longer spend 30-40 hours per week in a leotard, my mindset and heart are still that of a dancer. I will always miss that life, but I will also always be grateful for all it gave me. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without that experience.