When you have to move your 15 year American life across an ocean in 10 days, you freak out. And i did. Many times... Most of you might not know but my French parents were very smart years ago and heard my first American birth cries in Charleston, SC. Thanks to them, I have the chance to have dual citizenship. I spent my childhood in France, started ballet at the age of 4. From 14 years old, I didn't really do ballet much more than 3 times a week integrating it to my regular school schedule. I auditioned for English National Ballet School at 17 and got in. Trust me, I was in shock. After my French high school diploma, I crossed the English Channel and moved to London.
I was placed in the second year. Have you ever experienced being "the new girl" before? Well... It's a rude awakening. It was the first time I encountered such competition, cattiness and the power of gossip. Coming from a quiet little French town, it was all so new to me. It also came at that time of your life where you don't feel pretty, have acne and lack confidence.. But, thank god, at least the English ballet style wasn't that far off from what I knew. I also discovered character dance, Graham's modern and my new favorite, partnering! Unfortunately going from 6h a week in France to 6h a day in London, it hugely intensified a pain close to my Achille's tendon. We realized I had the os trigonum (extra bone in ankle). I had to get surgery to remove it which made me miss all the spring company auditions.. I was lost and didn't know what to do. My brother lived in Chicago at the time and I decided to go across the Atlantic Ocean once again, and study with Ballet Chicago Studio Company with Dan Duell and Patricia Blair.
Here I was, being the new kid on the block again.. But this time the situation was reversed! I was welcomed by warm mid-western Chicagoans BUT the first ballet I had to learn straight off the plane was Balanchine's Concerto Barocco. I barely knew what the Balanchine style was about, let alone how to dance it. It required more speed, more musicality, more physicality, more EVERYTHING!!
I didn't know how to spot front, do a pirouette from a deep straight back leg fourth and a glissade as fast as lightening. I worked so hard for the first 6 months felt so discouraged in the beginning but the more I leaned into it, the better it felt. I now find Balanchine suits my body and musicality. I got the chance to dance many Mr.B ballets, Serenade, Tchaikovsky pas de deux, Who cares, Allegro Brillante...
And after a few years in Chicago, I was hired by Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, NC. I let you bet on which "new girl" experience I had! Drum roll, well... It felt similar to London at first.. So hard to be included but the ballet aspect was much easier. I actually danced in Raleigh for 11 years! Working through the ranks until Soloist. I danced many ballets as we performed so much. We had about 85-90 performances a season. Plus I taught in schools around town and also was ballet mistressing as well. I barely had a day off. I guess reflecting on it now, no wonder I can do a whole post on calf tears! haha.
In 2018, the artistic vision of the company changed and I could only be a ballet mistress. But my dancing heart wasn't done. I auditioned everywhere in the US and Europe and landed a demi-soloist contract with Ballet Nice Méditerranée with the Opéra de Nice. I Packed up my American life in 10 days during a hurricane. 4 suitcases later, I landed in Nice. I could finally reconnect with my roots, France, and above all, be closer to my family. From the get go it felt different. Yes, I was the newbie again and even though I was scared to start all over this late as I wasn't 22 anymore, it felt balanced. My colleagues smoothly welcomed me over time and I got used to my Euro style again. Even tough we have less shows (probably around 40 aseason), our work is hard and demanding. Class is mandatory every day (and all of it), our hair needs to be done nicely, we can barely mark and our outfits need to be clean lined. Even at that time in my career, I am experiencing new repertoire and can bring my versatility to it. More and more that "new girl" feeling quickly disappeared and I feel me, fulfilling this little girl dream of dancing in a red and gold theater once in my life.
Weirdly enough, in retrospect, there's always a balance in life, whichever side it tips, you just have to be aware of it so you don't get consumed with the negative which always seems more prevalent in the moment.
If you will or have experienced being the "new one", just know there are always exceptional beings you meet along the way.. (you know who you are ;) ). Some might show up right away, some might take more time but I guarantee you they stick with you forever. And that's irreplaceable.