Catching up with Carrie Cassidy: Pointe Shoes, Swans and Finding Motivation during COVID

Hello fellow Mil Spouse artists. I am so honored to be back writing to you all again and I hope that everyone is doing well during these uncertain times. Creating art for many of us is an incredible outlet during times of difficulty. As a dancer, however we have all been forced to think and operate outside of our comfort zones. The last time I posted, my family had just moved to New Mexico and many new opportunities were at my fingertips with dance, my flying, and as a mentor for the families of our unit.

My dancing has taken an interesting turn and I must admit that it was unexpected. I am still training with the New Mexico Ballet Company but was unable to perform in their winter and spring performances. NMBC is a company where many of their dancers work during the day and train/rehearse in the evenings. With my husband’s flying schedule and just by the mere fact that I have two toddlers, rehearsing until 9:30 in the evening in addition to class was just not going to be feasible for my family situation. I was really disappointed about it but I came to accept that this just may not be my season in life where performing is an option for me. I began to prepare for my summer intensive with ArtEmotion in Salt Lake City. Sadly, the pandemic brought everything to a halt. 

My last company class was on a Sunday. I remember it so clearly because of a very distinct moment. It’s one that I never get when I’m taking adult class or class with the advanced teenagers. For some reason, it only happens when I am in a company class environment. When the music begins for plie, something cosmic happens and we are all suddenly on the exact same timing in the music, all doing the exact same movement. You would think that this happens more often but our being imperfect beings and despite well trained musicality, everyone is usually just slightly different. Some dancers will alter the port de bras just slightly, some will take a breath just half a second after their partner at the barre. Often there is a din in the studio. Not this time. It was as if we all knew the weight of this moment. This last class, this last plie before the uncertainty of the world took us out of our sanctuary for an indeterminate amount of time. 

The months that followed consisted of many times where I was motivated to take class at home and then take a two-week break because what was the point. My summer intensive in Utah was cancelled, there were no performance opportunities coming up anywhere and studio time was nowhere in sight. I struggled to find the right online classes for myself and figure out how to arrange my furniture to give myself the best dance space. I bought a small square of shower pan liner for pointe and figured out how to arrange my chairs to give myself a longer “barre”. I still accidently “nudged” the cats a few times and hit my hands on the hanging lights while trying to turn. 

After a few months of taking class almost every day and then a few weeks off due to declining motivation, I was asked by the staff at ArtEmotion if I wanted to be part of their Swan Lake project. At first, I was game to participate but then my anxiety got the better of me. My pointework was not where it should be, I was not taking class regularly, etc. Then I remembered that performing, just like any other craft, must be practiced. A friend of mine at NMBC reminded me that her best performances come when she stops caring about what her technique looks like on stage. I ended up committing to the project, if for no other reason than to just have an extra opportunity to create and get over some of my perfectionist anxieties. We are still rehearsing the project at the time I am writing this but will begin the filming in the upcoming weeks. I am proud and excited to see the outcome. 

In addition to my personal ballet journey, I stumbled upon a chance to teach preschool ballet and creative movement as well as do some private coaching. It has been a while since I taught last and the environment is an unusual one. Teaching in a space that is not a dance studio but more like a preschool classroom has had its learning curve. I am basically establishing my own preschool dance syllabus to adapt for non-dance spaces.  

The other big change in my life was that I have taken on the primary Key Spouse role for my husband’s squadron after he assumed command last November. It was a little overwhelming to begin with, but I was able to get a few events planned before everything shut down during the pandemic. It was unfortunate because I had just started to feel like we were on a roll with family programs for our squadron and then it all came to a screeching halt. I had to get creative, so I took the time to focus on the younger spouses. I looked for opportunities to mentor and educate the newest members of our community so that they could leave the training environment feeling like they had some branches to reach for as they found their way into the operational flying world. Along with the other command spouses in our aircraft’s community, we established simple communication habits which have helped us all immensely. We are better able to anticipate the needs of our families, be aware of families who are PCSing into our squadrons and also sharing ideas on how to make our communities better.

Balancing life has been a challenge for everyone over the last several months. That was absolutely the case in our house. What helped keep me going was finding the things I could control and keeping focused on improving a little at a time. Focusing on strengthening turnout and pointework at the barre (kitchen table), rehearsing when I could, and seeking out the opportunities where I was able to make a difference. For my fellow mil spouses, it was a phone call over a glass of wine just to chat or a Zoom mentorship session with some of the new spouses in our community. In my ballet world, it was just keeping myself moving, putting on the pointe shoes for 30 minutes, and remembering that almost every dancer in the world was doing the exact same thing. Best health and happiness to all my fellow Mil Spouse artists and thank you again for the chance to share my story with you. 

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