Dance

I can’t remember how old I was when I started dance, but it was pretty young. Some of my earliest memories are dancing in shows in my local village hall – ballet and tap. I clearly remember dancing to tracks such as ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ (complete with umbrellas obviously!) and ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ in cutesy dresses and hair in a ballet bun. I remember standing extremely awkwardly at the front because I felt uncomfortable wearing lipstick and nail polish. It seems that my 16 year old self is not that much different to my 4 year old self. 

Looking back, dance was always a love of mine that I never really stopped pursuing. Those ballet and tap classes stopped running and I unfortunately didn’t find an alternative class – my lack of ballet skills haunts me to this very day, especially in the past couple of years. However, I kept dancing, despite nothing being very permanent. I did a street dance class once a week in my local leisure centre, I went to a cheerleading summer school, just any chance I could find to dance. In the meantime, I also did gymnastics for quite a few years, swimming and even trampolining very briefly! I don’t think I recognised this at the time, but I was so desperate to find my thing. That hobby that became more than just a hobby, and turned into a passion. But a mere hobby was all anything ever was.

One thing I knew was that I loved performing, which was a puzzling thing because despite being desperately shy in my normal life, I was never really as scared of performing, as such, as any of my friends were – this is perhaps why I did some public speaking a couple of years ago. Performing excited me, yes it was scary, but the fear was converted into adrenaline and it made me happy. I discovered this when I joined a drama group when I was maybe about 7 or 8. It was a class on a Saturday morning that was a combination of drama, singing and dancing; we did an exam or something that involved me playing the dodo in a scene from Alice In Wonderland, reading a poem and singing ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast. I loved it, but the class stopped running after only about a year or so of me joining – I cried my eyes out after the last class. 

But then I joined another theatre group, and I loved it so much more. We did drama and singing there, and played lots of games and things like that, but we put on a show at the end of each year, and it was a play with an actual script and I truly loved that. Having a proper script seemed so professional to my younger self, and I remember taking my script to Guide camp and going over my lines in my spare time, feeling like a proper actor. The first year, I was only a very minor character, but the second year we did a modern day version of Cinderella and I was Cinderella! You have no idea how chuffed I was. I had ‘so many’ lines to learn, I had to hold hands with a boy (my 11 year old self thought it was the cringiest thing ever!) and I even had a quick change! I feel like it was then I got the acting bug, but after that, after two years with that group, I quit, in favour of Guides. That was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, and I think it may have even been the wrong one, because I don’t know where I would be right now if I’d kept doing drama. 

At around the same time, however, when I was 10 or 11, I started at another dance studio. It was an open access class one day a week and I went with two of my friends from school. I really enjoyed it, but I felt a bit awkward and I don’t think I was very good. My personal turning point was at the summer show, when we were watching all the other groups in the dress rehearsal. I really looked up to the older groups and the youth company, but there was a ‘guest act’ in the show, that was a duet with my dance teacher and this foreign dancer who had been teaching at the studio on a placement. It was hip hop I think, and it was to Scream by Usher, and I was in awe. I still remember where I was sitting, what I felt when I watched it. I felt inspired. 

So I worked hard. My two school friends quit but I kept going. I felt like such an outsider, but I was enjoying it. It was in my third year at the studio, and we did a contemporary/lyrical piece for the summer show to Lily Allen’s version of Somewhere Only We Know. It was my first real encounter with the dance style, except for trying to copy what I saw on Dance Moms, but I felt like I was actually doing well. I’d just done a Leadership in Dance qualification at my studio which was just so much fun, and so I really had gained a lot of confidence also. It was show day and in the afternoon, I was handed a letter by the director of the studio. In the dressing room, I opened it very discreetly, and again, I’ll never forget where I was when I read that I had been invited to join the youth company.

It’s been almost exactly three years since I received that letter, and it sounds incredibly cheesy but my life has changed so much. I’ve discovered a love for contemporary dance. I feel very lucky to be involved in a company where the dancers make the decisions. We audition, interview and choose the choreographers we want to work with. I’ve been attended five intensives in the past three years, which is five days spent creating a piece with a choreographer, and these have been some of my favourite ever experiences. The choreographers I have worked with have been incredible and have all taught me so, so much. In October, I’m going to work with one of my favourite ever choreographers, and it really is complete madness. I feel that my dancing has improved so much, particularly in the last few months, and with that, so has my confidence. I’ve had the opportunity to perform in my local theatre countless times, and have been able to perform on a stage in Cardif, which I could never have dreamed of. I’ve performed with a cast of thousands in a large scale show in Cardiff, which will always be one of the greatest experiences of my life (that’s me on the far right):

I’ve had the opportunity to work with a newly formed disability dance company and have helped and performed with them for the past year and a half. I can’t think of anything of anything more rewarding, and I’ve met the loveliest people because of it. I’ve gone through the intermediate group in the company and I’m now in the advanced group, and as of September, I’ll be the oldest person in the company, which is such a scary thought. But above everything else, I’ve become part of a company, a group, a dance team, and I truly believe I have made friends for life. It was so special to perform in my sixth summer show last week alongside my team, and my friends:

This has been the best three years of my life, and I think that, finally, I have found my thing. And I can’t imagine my life without it.

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My Mental Health

I’m quite nervous to write this, even though I shouldn’t be.

So this week is Mental Health Awareness week, something which is just so important. As a result, I thought I should talk about my mental health. 

I should say that I do not have a diagnosed mental health illness or anything like that; I very much appreciate the difference between myself and someone who has depression, or OCD, or panic attacks. However: it is vital for us to think of mental health as exactly like physical health. For example, a lot of people, at sometime in their life, suffer from an illness such as cancer or similar; these are serious and obviously require medical help. Compare this to mental health illnesses – it is exactly the same and I strongly believe that it should be treated with the same level of seriousness and respect.

But this is not what I’m focusing on. Think about your general physical health. For the majority of people, normally it is reasonably good. We all have bad days, though. Everyone suffers from the odd cold or sniffle or sore throat from time to time. Sometimes it’s not serious enough to disturb our day, but we might struggle through school or uni or work. Sometimes it can be serious enough to warrant a day off, or several, to give our bodies time to rest and to recover. Sometimes it is seasonal, for example many people, including myself, suffer from hay fever only during the summer months. Sometimes we get up in the morning and find ourselves saying to the people around us “I just feel rubbish today.” And that’s okay. Well, of course it’s okay, as we obviously cannot help being ill.

What we as a society need to understand is that mental health is not only relative to physical health, it is more or less exactly the same, and should be treated as such. Mental health is defined as ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.’ so you can have both good and bad mental health. So why is it not as acceptable to say “I just feel rubbish today”, and be referring to our mental health? 

Recently, I’ve had lots of poor mental health days. It partly stems from exam stress, but it also stems from nothing at all, becuase it is perfectly normal to have bad days. Sometimes it is frustrating to not know why you are sad or anxious or stressed or feeling any other emotion, and I think this is what I have struggled with most over the past couple of years, but this is only natural, as natural as having a cold. And just as a cold quickly passes, I need people to know that the sadness will pass in time. Things will get better.

This stigma around the whole topic of mental health needs to be lifted. Young people need to be better educated on the topic of mental health, and this is why. To everyone who is suffering from a mental illness: you are amazing. You are strong. You are valued, and so is your mental health. But to everyone else: It IS okay not to be okay (and yes, I am quoting Jessie J lyrics!) Take care of yourself, particularly now that we are fast the start of exam season. Keep check of your mental health. If you’re having a bad day, let me tell you that it is completely and uttterly normal, but take action. If it is revision that is stressing you out, take a ‘mental health day’. Exams are very important but your health, and that is both mental and physical, should take priority. Do something for yourself. Read your favourite book. Watch an episode of your favourite tv show, maybe something that makes you laugh (I highly recommend Parks and Recreation!😉) Have a nice, relaxing bath. Eat some chocolate! Have an early night, as sleep is incredibly important. Listen to your favourite music. Do some mindfulness, there are so many apps to help you here which I find so useful! Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, a parent, a friend, anyone you trust. If you feel uncomfortable about doing that, write your feelings down. My journal has proven invaluable to me recently. 

Do whatever you need to do. But please know that you are not alone, and remember that even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness, it doesn’t mean your mental health is not important.

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #EndTheStigma ❤

#BloggersSecretSanta – Elm

So for my Bloggers Secret Santa, I got Elm: https://justelm.wordpress.com/

If you are reading this, hi! Merry Christmas! I hope you’re having a wonderful day full of happiness and lovely things, and I hope this can add something to your day.

I wasn’t familiar with your blog before I got you in the Secret Santa, but after stalking your blog a little bit (oops, sorry!) you are already one of my favourites, and I truly mean that.

I just love your writing style, it really is so warm and kind; with every blog post, I feel like I’m having a conversation with a friend and they are just telling me about how they are. It’s so refreshing because I can tell that you’re being yourself when you write a blog post, which I absolutely love! 

One of the small touches you have added to your blog is a ‘who’s who’ page and I think that this is so lovely because I personally feel, as a reader, like you are letting me into your life. That very small touch does go a long way, and also I think it’s really interesting to read about all the people who are significant in your life. It might be something I consider adding into my blog in the future!

My impressions of you from reading your blog posts (which are, by the way, incredibly interesting, not to mention funny): you are a very open and honest person; open and honest about many things but most importantly, yourself. This is such a great quality to have and I really wish I could be more like you in that respect. I can tell that you just love your blog and that you love writing for it. Your dedication is insane; sometimes I lose motivation for blogging but it’s clear you never do, I really admire your passion for your hobby.

Another thing I have noticed, and what I think is the most striking aspect of your personality from your posts, is that you are a truly, truly remarkable person. I mean that with all my heart. Yes, you have a disability, and you’re very open about it in your writing, but you don’t let that define you or how you are perceived in the slightest, and that is so inspiring to me. Also in your writing, you don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not. For example, not every blog post is a positive one, but that’s okay. I’ve already used this word but it’s refreshing to see as I can relate to some of what you’re saying. Everyone is human, everyone has both high points and low points, and I feel that your blog is an accurate portrayal of what it is to be human. As humans, sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re not. And that’s okay. And that is why I have quickly fallen in love with your blog: I enjoy finding out about your life, but I also guarantee that every single person could find at least one post that they can relate to, and where they can understand where you are coming from.

You seem like such a genuine, lovely, warm, hilarious and kind person, and I’d love it if we could talk in the future (if I haven’t made myself seem very creepy/weird by stalking your blog, oops!) Again, I hope you have a very merry Christmas today, and a very happy new year. I really hope this has put a smile on your face!

Blogmas Day 7 – Festive Things and A Scary Experience

Me again!

Sorry I haven’t put up a blog post in a couple of days, it’s partly been because I haven’t done anything worth writing about, and partly because I haven’t been in a very good place/haven’t had the motivation. But I’m back now! So today…

I spent today, as well as yesterday, completing our welsh baccalaureate community project thing, where we basically taught a lesson to groups of year 7s and year 8s, my group taught the topic of peer pressure. It was okay, better than I thought it was going to be, but I’m very glad it’s over.

Today was very Christmassy; I helped to sell candy canes again at lunchtime, and after school I also went to the Christmas Fayre at my old primary school where my mum works. Plus, on the way to dance tonight, I had my first mince pie of the year! I think that I’m finally getting into the Christmas spirit but I’m also getting so anxious about how unprepared and unorganised I am – amongst all my usual worries of course😉

Another thing is that I got 63% in my physics mock, which I think is equivalent to a B. Whether you think this is good or not is subjective I guess, but I’m genuinely so happy with that (although I’m definitely looking to improve further before the January exam) because I’ve always struggled with physics and the result is so much better than I expected it to be. It also makes me feel a lot better after a really disappointing biology result – partly why I haven’t posted in a couple of days.

The worst part of my day was, without a doubt, dance, even though for the most part it was lovely as usual. I don’t want to say too much about this because it’s obviously personal to the individual, but tonight one of the dancers in the group had a fit/seizure in the middle of rehearsal. It actually happened last week as well, but this time we were all in the room when it happened. It was definitely one of the scariest things that I’ve ever experienced; it was so sudden (I swear I was just talking to her a minute before) and I couldn’t believe how violent the seizure was, it’s just something I’ve never before been exposed to. We all turned away after a minute  whilst my dance teacher saw to her, but I could still see her in the mirror. It’s something that I think will always stay with me.

So not the best day. Speak to you all tomorrow x

Blogmas Days 3 and 4 – I haven’t done much!

Me again!

I decided to just write a blog post about today and yesterday combined, and that still doesn’t give me much to say, as I really have done absolutely nothing this weekend. Sorry!

I didn’t work at the charity shop today, as I’m still in the process of recovering from being ill, I still feel pretty meh but much improved. I feel so bad for letting my manager down three weeks in a row now, as for the last two weeks I was revising for mocks. So there wasn’t even anything interesting to talk about there! 

Speaking of mocks, I only have two left – French reading and physics -which are tomorrow, and then they are over, much to my relief. French is okay really but I’m more than ready to absolutely fail physics, it’s by far my worst subject along with biology, I cannot digest the information! 

As for tv related stuff, I’m so happy that Scarlett won I’m a Celeb tonight, she’s so deserving, even though I would have liked Joel to win. I genuinely believe they both have very bright futures though. But also.. SAARA IS IN THE X FACTOR FINAL!!! I still cannot believe it, she’s come such a long way, and I’m indescribably proud of her! I’d love nothing more for her and Matt to be standing there at the end in the final two, and then for Saara to win (which actually seems quite possible) but right now I’m just so happy she’s in the final, no one is more deserving!

Well I’m so sorry, that was incredibly boring and uneventful. I hope you all had a great weekend, and speak to you all tomorrow!

Blogmas Day 2 – Candy Canes and The Best Night Ever

Me again! A more positive blog post today, thankfully!

It didn’t start off too well though, I woke up still very ill with the prospect of two more mock exams. But it wasn’t too bad; sociology actually went so well, the best of my mocks so far, and music was half decent, whilst I think I messed some of it up, the essay question was a dream.

I spent lunchtime selling candy canes which we eventually deliver to a person of their choice (it’s basically the ‘you go Glenn Coco’ scene from Mean Girls) to raise money for our prom and our yearbook. That was fun, and me and my friend agreed that collectively, we would contribute a lot to the money raised, by buying candy canes for ourselves, how sad😉

But tonight. Tonight was just amazing and I struggle to find the exact words to describe it. I went to a Christmas party at my dance studio which was organised wonderfully by a career of one of the members of the disability dance company (which I have been  a part of now for almost a year, that’s insane). So I donned my Christmas jumper (it says ‘Express Your-elf’ by the way):

I could not believe that over 40 people were there, most with a disability whether it is mental or physical, as well as some family members. There were so many people I’d never met before, and when I arrived, some anxiety began to creep up, but then I was absolutely fine, more than that even. I had such a laugh with my amazing friend, whom I would have been lost without tonight; I cringed at his party dancing even though he is in fact a dancer, and we sang our hearts out to what we agreed was the best Christmas song, Fairytale of New York – that has always been my favourite but after tonight, it’ll be forever special to me.

There were times tonight where I stepped back, looked around and wanted to cry with happiness that I’d stumbled across the most warm and inclusive environment I’d ever been in. Dance is my passion and it is how I became involved in this, but I realised that this goes beyond choreography and ‘5,6,7,8’. It is about love and friendship and kindness and resilience and strength and inclusivity and collaboration. This whole experience is something which will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

No one could ever understand how special tonight was. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so content. See you all tomorrow X

P.S. – I’m now listening to my entire Saara playlist on a daily basis. She’s singing All I Want For Christmas is You and a reprise of Chandelier tomorrow! Buzzing x

Blogmas Day 1 – Illness and Exams

Happy December everyone! This is day 1 (of 31, hopefully!) of my new Blogmas series. I will try to put up a new blog post every day of December, in the style of a diary if you like, just updating you on what I’ve been up to that day. I hope you like these blog posts – just warning you that I don’t have the most exciting life at all!

So whilst I wished I could give you a happy and cheery 1st of December post, that isn’t really the case. Whilst I felt very happy to open the first window of my Lindt advent calendar this morning, today has been pretty rubbish. Sorry.

I’ve been so ill all day today, and as I’m writing this, I’m in bed with a blocked nose and a pack of tissues by my side. I’m at the stage where I would just stay off school but my illness has unfortunately coincided with my mock GCSE exams. Today I had three exams, making this the actual worst day ever. I had English Lit in the morning, which I actually feel went much better than expected, followed swiftly (with only a 5 minute break in between) by French listening, which was so so. The positive, and one of the highlights of my day, was that we had a French lesson straight after and I had a full blown discussion with my French teacher about The Missing finale (which was last night and absolutely incredible!). It was great, I actually forgot I was talking to a teacher!

Then I had a Welsh exam in the afternoon, a subject which none of us are really good at to be honest, and that was also much better than expected, so overall quite positive. I went home and did minimal revision due to me feeling like death. I had a chippy tea and comforted myself with my favourite ever episode of Friends, a particularly hilarious episode of Miranda, and I’m a Celeb (so happy that Larry is gone!). I also received a review copy of a book today which I’m super excited to read (I may post my review for a day of Blogmas..)

I have sociology and music exams tomorrow which I’m not looking forward to at all. Can we also pray to the gods that I wake up feeling better, as tomorrow I’m meant to be going to a little Christmas party with the disability dance lot, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week so if I have to miss it I’ll be beyond gutted. Fingers crossed for me! See you all tomorrow X

P.S. – I’m in bed listening to my Saara Aalto playlist and she HAS to win X Factor in order to redeem this shambles of a series (her and Matt for the final two please, although I also love Emily so I don’t know). She is honestly one of the most incredible vocalists and performers I’ve ever heard and seen in my life. No one deserves it more than her!