Last weekend, we had our opening night of Nutcracker. This year was an especially difficult one as we lost our beloved ballet instructor, Renee "Sissie" Gillenwater to cancer. Her death was quite unexpected as we did not know her cancer had returned. She went into the hospital after getting quite ill on a Thursday afternoon and the very next Thursday, she passed. My girls and I were quite traumatized and we are struggling still today with the grief. Pumpkin has spent an inordinate amount of time creating art as her therapy. Honey has kept most of it inside and occasionally, the grief bubbles out. Sister posts on Instagram when her grief becomes too much to bear.
Sissie was part of our lives for 10 years. I accidentally discovered Newcomb School of Ballet. I had called a few of the dance schools one day in October of 2005. Sissie was the first to call back and the rest is history as they say.
Her death brought inconsolable grief for us and, a fear for the future of our ballet lives. We could not imagine life without ballet. I have been a vocal voice since the beginning about the need for a quality and experienced instructor to come to the school. At times I'm sure people have viewed me as less than charitable but my intention has always been to bring the best to Newcomb, as Sissie was. To be the best, you need experience as well as education in the art of ballet.
From the start I have always been honest and have said we would stay through Nutcracker this year because we were determined to dance on for Ms. Sissie. My plan was to continue on past Nutcracker with Newcomb only if a really qualified instructor were hired. I'm quite serious about the need for quality so much so that I even took my daughters to the Dallas area for supplemental classes. Luckily, one of Sister's instructors from her summer intensive owns a studio there and had invited her to come take classes.
In November, we did explore our options for next semester. It was not something we did lightly. My heart broke into a million pieces as we walked through the doors of the other studio an hour away. My girls' hearts broke as well. There were plenty of tears as we led up to this. However, we do not have to go to that studio. Newcomb hired an instructor who I think will do a fine job of teaching the upper levels (Sister and Honey's level). Please know, this was never anything personal. It was about making sure my daughters received the best training possible. My oldest wants to dance professionally. I had to do what I could to facilitate that.
Our studio is fractured. There were many instances where the MOB split in two. It has even trickled down to the ballerinas. It's from something as small as not applauding dancers to keeping the contraband candy in the corner of the dressing room for only a few of the Company as opposed to the whole Company as in past years.
And for those who think I'm heartless or callous, know I'm not. I keep things tightly coiled inside. When you do see me cry it's because the grief has become so overwhelming that it bursts out. I miss Sissie more than I can ever put into words. I'm not very good at the words and I tend to be blunt and to the point. I'm not known for my kindness but I do have a good heart.
We have three more performances left. In these, the girls will be a part of a tribute dance they helped to choreograph. It will be intensely emotional. I hope it brings some healing as well.