Every holiday season when I was little, my mom took my brother and me to see Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. We'd dress up - me in a pink polka-dotted dress, my brother in slacks and a polo - and drive to the city lit up with Christmas lights. I remember watching the dancers float across the stage from our high-up seats - Clara in her fluttery nightgown, the Nutcracker prince in his red suit, the company in their long tutus and pointe shoes - completely enthralled.
Then, at intermission, I'd sit in women's powder room at the opera house, the air dark except for the soft yellow glow of the globe lights lining the vanity mirrors. In that moment, feeling the pinch and swish of my pretty dress, waiting to change into the footed pajamas my mom brought, I felt a parallel of things: safety and warmth, the reassuring weight of my fleece pajamas in my hands; and beyond it, another, more darkly lit room, whose features I could not yet see - but whose very existence was electric.
It was the first time I recognized a threshold between the world I knew and the world that is; the first time that I saw beauty and darkness coexisting. That experience has become a touchstone of my identity, and one that has had a huge influence on my work - and on my ballgown in particular.
So when the final runway photos of Clara were released just a few days ago, it seemed very appropriate that I should write my final thoughts about her this time of year.
Well, first off, in August I submitted her for adjudication.
And she passed!
I got to hang out and chat with all my friends & family afterwards, and share the work that had been such an immense time commitment and physical, technical, and emotional challenge. It was very weird to be in the same position that I had seen as the pinnacle of achievement for my entire career at school - this project that I had seen so many respected senior students grow and flourish from - and realize that I had reached it.
Just a few weeks later, in September, I walked the runway at our annual NYFA fashion show. This year, we featured 25 years (!!) of original ballgown designs. I think it really shows how diverse each designer's vision and aesthetic truly is.
When I look back at this experience almost six months later, I am still totally overwhelmed and proud. Ballgown was a turning point, not only in my design work, but also in my personal life: I emerged from that workroom a more confident, dedicated, and curious person, and I think it continues to expand my boundaries of ambition and creative energy.
And on the other side - even though the process itself was lonely at times, the warmth and support of community I felt by sharing my work on this blog was incredible.
Blogging ballgown was completely unplanned. I didn't expect to have the time or mental energy to write about the experience in any sort of meaningful way, so it was more than a little surprising that blogging became an integral part of my creative process during ballgown. It was incredibly gratifying and humbling at the same time.
So thank you again, to everyone who has reached out to me - then or now - to share an experience, or tell me that you enjoy the blog, or just to say hi. It meant (and means) a great deal to me.
As a last note on community, I also wanted to mention and thank Bret Doss, the photographer who kindly gave me permission to use his beautiful photos for this post (and several others). He doesn't just have a sharp eye and talent for color & composition - he's also fun, and kind, and an all-around wonderful human being. He's contributed his talents to NYFA shows and projects for years, and if I thanked him a kabillion times for all that he does for us, it would never be enough.
Overall, I am so grateful for this experience, and I am so grateful for you. I look forward to the new challenges and experiences that the New Year will bring - and to sharing it with you all.
Happy holidays, and happy Friday.