My Last Day On Stage

August 8, 2013
cpyb paige ade ballet dance

Photo (c) Pacific Northwest Ballet, Paige Parks performing in “Lambarena”

There came a time in my life when I had to say good-bye. To let go. It was not a choice I was ready to make, but a choice that had been made for me. It was time to leave the stage and the only life I had ever truly known.

It happened when I was 23 years old, just months away from a promotion, rehearsing for the role of “Helena” from George Balanchine’s™ A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I felt on top of my game (and the universe for that matter). I landed from a simple jump – one I had done daily and for years – and heard it. A ghastly SNAP!

I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and needed reconstructive surgery and a year off from ballet. I was heartbroken, but that was only the beginning. I needed two more surgeries, had a ton of unanswered questions, and was heading toward an unwanted, forced retirement. To help me get through the hurdles and the physical and emotional hurt, I chose to write.

Here’s one of the passages I wrote titled “My Last Day.” It’s about my career-ending injury and unexpected retirement. When I wrote this, I had just begun college. The reality had set in that this IS my ‘new’ life, and I was very much mourning the loss of my ‘old’ life. You could definitely say that I wasn’t in a very optimistic state of mind.

My Last Day
I can’t really communicate how awful it was and how it makes me feel today, but I do know that it was and still is tragic in my eyes. Having to leave the ballet stage before I was ready has changed my life in so many ways, some good and some bad. Without the rigor of daily class and hours of rehearsal, it’s nice for the first time ever to live my life in less physical pain, which makes things a bit more bearable. Given the choice though, I would have chosen to continue dancing rather than be ejected from my own life into what seems like someone else’s.

The positive aspect is the fact that I was forced to deal with the inevitability of retirement at such a young age, when I was still marketable. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I am still waiting for the reason of my accident. Will I ever really know? Someday I do hope to understand why.

Dance was my life – the life I had known since I was 7 years old. I sometimes compare dance to my air and water and how at times I feel as if I could suffocate at any given moment not having it. Dance was something that I was proud to do, something that I loved to hate, and yet, always loved. It is so beautiful, and gave me such satisfaction.

In the grand scheme of life, I do realize how minor this situation is and I’m thankful everyday for what I do have and for all that has not gone wrong. For what I know and have experienced up to date, this occurrence has been monumental in both positive and negative ways. I do know that life will go on. I am pleased to have experienced and met dance and been a professional dancer, but my life will truly never be that good ever, ever again.

Okay. Now back to the present. That was a hard time in my life, and I don’t want to leave you, our reader, wondering, “Does she still feel that life will never be that good again?” With the encouragement of family and friends and a new focus, I took steps away from the stage to earn a fashion marketing degree and then work as an assistant buyer of women’s and junior clothing for Macy’s. One of the best things I’ve learned is that re-inventing yourself is okay. A bit scary? Yes, but it can be wonderfully exciting as well! Life is, indeed, good.

How about you? Are you sensing your time on stage is inching to an end? Or, maybe your last day has already come and gone. How have you moved on? Let’s talk.

2 responses to “My Last Day On Stage”

  1. karen carpenter says:

    Dear Paige, Your life will take many turns like this and your ballet will serve you in So many new ways.You are a dancer forever and that will make you an exceptional buyer. You have the aesthetic eye and the grace to know what cloths empower people. Your story is just beginning and I bet dollars to doughnuts you will dance,again…and be even stronger than before.Break a leg, I love your new passion thanks for sharing.

  2. Shane says:

    I also left the stage before I was ready. Not ballet, but musical theater, although I can assure you that the feeling was very much the same. When you define your life by one thing and that thing is gone, who are you anymore? We only varied in one way which I would recommend you considering. I did not leave the theater, I just went backstage. I spent the last 12 years learning the business of presenting the performing arts. Now, as luck would have it, I am the Executive Director of a professional ballet company. So think on this. You are unique in that you understand the passion that is involved with performing. Just because you cannot perform does not mean you cannot instill that passion in other to support the arts. So if you love what you do, wonderful, but know there are good careers still in your field, just in another way. It is not the same as performing, nothing will be. But watching those kids come in here day in and day out, seeing their nervous excitement on opening night and their somber relief on closing night…it is a close second.

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