In the spring of 2016 I made my way out to England to auditioned for the Graduate Program at Northern Ballet in Leeds England, English National Ballet School, and Birmingham Royal Ballet. I was offered a place at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s school and a place at the Graduate Program with Northern Ballet for the following year. September came and I made the decision to accept the offer with Northern ballet. My parents helped me prepare for my move over to England! This meant that I had to get a visa that enabled me to dance with Northern ballet for a year, starting August 2016.
Northern ballet requested that I apply for a student visa so this is what I did. My student visa was denied the first time so we sent in another visa application for a visitor’s visa which allows a person to stay 6 months in the country. Again, my visa was denied for reasons I still do not know!
My family really helped me research how I could dance in England without a visa. I could not have done it without my family, so blessed to have them! We spent hundreds for the costs of my visa applications. Legally an American citizen can stay in the UK for 30 days with just a U.S. passport. I was in close communication with Northern ballet and they said that I should just fly over and just start to dance with the program for 30 days until they could get a visa for me to dance the rest of year.
We felt that this was the best option so I packed my bags with leotards, tights and my pointe shoes. I remember hugging my parents and saying goodbye to my family and my Ballet Society family in Colorado; I was excited to dance where I dreamt to dance ever since I started dancing as a young girl. For me I was so excited to travel this new adventure from God and I felt prepared with my training at Ballet Society to dance in a new environment!
I flew from Denver to Manchester airport in October 2016. I arrived in customs at the UK border. I told the immigration officer my plan. The immigration officer did not believe my story. The fate of my dancing career was in his hands and there was nothing I could do about it. He told me that I had to fly back to CO. UK Immigration arranged for me to fly back and I was held in a detention center until my flight. I remained in the detention center for 4 days and was not allowed any contact with my family during this time. I admit, this was scary! I had no idea what was going on and little did I know what would happen to my ballet career. I was then released and flew back to CO. I was escorted in a private car and guided along the tar mat at Manchester airport. I felt like I was treated like a criminal. My family and I kept fighting to find a way to keep me over there legally.
Second-time’s a charm! A month later, I said goodbye to my parents again at the airport and I successfully made it through the UK border. I had my first day dancing at Northern and classes went really well through the morning and then I meant the director of the program and ballet mistress of Northern Ballet. I enjoyed her corrections in class and thought they were very helpful for my dancing, although it almost seemed that she would not even be aware of me in class. There were many talented students in my class so I figured that I needed to work harder for her to look at me. I stood right in the front of the room and she would not even glance at me.
She would make little remarks about my hair being too messy as I would pass her in the hall. I would hear comments about how my visa issues were my fault just because I am American. It seemed like she did not want me to be there. I was not being treated like the other students no matter how hard I worked or how much I tried to please the director. The ballet world is not easy and you cannot please everyone you meet in it. I wanted to work hard and keep dancing at Northern ballet because I knew it would benefit my career to be able to work so close with a company! I tried to turn every negative into a positive. Every day I walked into class I kept a smile on my face and I think happy thoughts. I think of my mommy and daddy whenever I dance and this most always puts a smile on my face!! 🙂 I kept in mind that God brought me here to dance for a reason and I was not going to let someone take that from me!
It was a real amazing thing to have a home away from home with the two families I stayed with during my time there. I was able to see so much and learn so much about the UK through them! This was one of the highlights of my time over there! I had no idea when I left for the UK what these families would be like until I actually arrived. I am very thankful to them as they were so open and happy to share their home traditions with me while I was away from my family during Thanksgiving and Christmas! After all this was my first holiday away from my family and Christmas means a lot to me!
It was nearly the end of December and Northern ballet told me that, “they no longer could have me dance with the program.” Again, I had to fly back to CO since Northern ballet in a sense had to “let me go”. As soon as I arrived back from England I scouted the US for more auditions. Which brings me to March 2017. I just arrived back from Florida and New York. I auditioned in the US and am currently in the process of opening new doors to my career.
I auditioned for Eugene Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, SAB (School of American Ballet), Sarasota Ballet, and even attended some Disney on Broadway auditions. Every time something prevents me from dancing, I fall more in love with the days I GET to dance and to me this is a beautiful thing! I had quite the adventure and I am so grateful for it, even for the crazy things! To dance in England is a dream but the real goal is to just dance and to dance where I am given opportunities to dance as much as possible! I may not be able to dance in England right at this moment but I will take what I am given in this moment and enjoy the dance along the way!
like I said above, I auditioned at many places!! Even after what happened I leaped right back into more auditions. I was offered a trainee position at Orlando Ballet. I figured this was the best I could do and it seemed it would work for the time being. Since my daddy had just moved to Daytona Beach Florida, I thought it would be perfect to take the traineeship position with Orlando Ballet. I figured it was the closest I could get to dancing with a real company and to train while I keep auditioning in Florida. I danced in Orlando Ballet’s Summer Intensive, July-August 2017. I started my trainee program at Orlando Ballet end of August 2017. Orlando Ballet is located about 25 minutes from Disney. Now, if you know me at all you know I love Disney so much!! The last time I had been to Disney was in 2014 during a road trip my daddy and I went on together with my grandma. We went through the grand canyon and stayed in LA Venice Beach…and my favourite…Disneyland:)
Back to my story…;) I was very berry excited as you might imagine to be dancing so close to Disney. I also finally was reunited with my chummy. I call my best friend from Colorado Chummy. Her real name is Jovanina. She means so much to me and makes me laugh so much. We grew up together at Ballet Society in Colorado and then she moved to Jacksonville Florida when she graduated to go to college. We laugh a lot because I am the ballerina and she is the singer. She has taught me a lot about real music and made me fall in love with Broadway musicals in a way that I can really appreciate it like how I appreciate ballet;) so thank you Chummy!! Her dream was to go to the Disney College Program and she is living it still to this day and loves it. She first started dancing because she thought she wanted to be on Broadway, then go to University, and now she finally made her mind up to join the Disney college Program. Yaya!! I am so happy for you!!:)Congratulations Chummy!! This also was helpful for me because I had a friend to see every Saturday after ballet! Orlando is about 2 hours away from Daytona Beach in I-4 traffic. I drove this drive 2 hours to ballet every morning and 2 hours every night back in my little white car. We could not afford to rent an apartment in central Orlando so I stayed with my daddy in Daytona Beach. It was hard, some nights I would not get back from the theatre or from class until 10 or midnight. And I still had to get a bath and brush my teeth, do laundry, feed Dewy (my guinea pig)…and wake up every morning and do it again. For me this was simple…I thought by doing this and working hard, I will hopefully get a contract by the end of the year. To me this was worth it..and every Saturday after ballet (because I would always be to tired after ballet on Friday to go out) Jovanina and I would go to Disney Springs or magic kingdom.
I drove and danced for the whole year. I was able to perform in one pas de deux for a small show of tours across central Florida and a flower in the companies Nutcracker. The whole year that is all the dancing I did. ????? To me it seemed like I was not getting anything I worked so hard for. I thought maybe I should work harder. So in class, I would arrive an hour early for both morning and afternoon class. I would wear my hair in a French twist everyday and made sure there was never a hair out of place. I gave 200% everyday..I did everything to put my best foot forward! My teacher seemed to pay attention to me in class and giving me corrections, but why was I not getting any stage time? I am a perfectionist and worked so hard..it became an unhealthy kind of work. I was not getting any sleep because of my drive after dancing all day and was overworking my body. I had no time for my body to recover. Another issue and probably the most important….I was not making time to sit in silence with God. Although I thought I was doing what God wanted…I was actually doing the opposite. My thought process: if an obstacle comes your way, just push through it..that is what God would want right? I wanted to appear strong and keep pushing through because this is what will make me and God truly happy…..when in reality, I felt weak inside and I did not want to show it. I then attended ABT’s 2018 summer program in NYC. I felt that I could have a chance at auditioning for the studio company there. I kept the thought of ABT in the back of my mind..After the year finished, I prayed that I would be offered a apprenticeship or some sort of stipend with Orlando Ballet…and then I receive an email that read, ‘Kira, sorry but all the trainee slots are full this year….we will have to put you in the school…a level lower than I was before. My family and I spent thousands of dollars for 4 years in trainee programs. I was so angry as I felt unappreciated. The Bible gives us a lot of amazing scripture about this topic:
- Galatians 6:9 and let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
- 2 Timothy 2:6 it is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first of the crops.
In the verses we hear, ‘hard work leads to great reward’. If this is true than how come I can work so hard at my craft and not receive my crop? I felt that I was not appreciated for what I was doing. It hurt me to find out that this small ballet world has become a big money maker just like every other career path in America. To many trainees dancing and not enough money to pay dancers in small companies. It really hurt me to find out my love that I have dedicated my life to might not work out for me. I felt like God was letting me down. I am a perfectionist in my work, but I had never felt so low about myself until this moment. I talked with my mummy about what was going on and explained how anxious and lost I was feeling. My mummy told me to fly back home to Colorado and so I did. We found out that I had been suffering from PTS. I had been dealing with post traumatic stress disorder ever since what happened to myself in England at the detention center. I never knew what I experienced would do something like that to myself. I was so used to being pushed and pushing myself hard to pursue my goals. When I came back to Colorado I asked God to heal me.
I think people do not really acknowledge mental health. I think mental health should be taken much more seriously. For me it was hard because I was taught to never speak unless spoken to all my life. I have always been a quiet person. I deal with traumatic events so differently than others. I was afraid to admit it, but I was broken and I was seeking help from sources that would never fill my emptiness. At the same time, I was speaking with God asking Him to help me find my next step. After each disappointment, I kept asking God….’what next?’ I came closer to the Lord with all of this and at the time I did not see how God was helping me until now.
I remember taking my last class at Orlando Ballet. I actually remember holding on to the barre’ and asking the Lord to rescue me. And then it was almost like I felt the world lifting off my shoulders..like God whispered into my ear, ‘it is ok to let go now, child.’
When I made it back home to Colorado from a long but peaceful flight, I told my mummy what I needed. My answer was not..I need more ballet or I need to go to more auditions…it was simply just I need more God.
I finally know what giving your total complete self to Jesus is now..and I think that was what God wanted me to do this whole time!
I thought God was taking something away from me that I loved..but He was saving it for later and giving me something I needed right then and there. I had no where to dance and I had time for once on my hands. Just what I needed. If I was offered a contract with a company or a place to dance a long time ago, I would not have learned the lessons that God gave me. I have been so busy too busy to see what was right in front of me. A warning light….like a warning light on the dashboard, or a check engine light. Pain can act like warning light..both mental and physical pain. Emotional pain can be just as bad or as worse as physical pain. Physical pain may go away in time, but emotional pain leaves a scar to your heart. Everyone’s heart is different and everyone deserves healing. I was looking for too much satisfaction in my ballet teachers and the ballet world in general. I was trying to please everybody, which is impossible…and yet somehow I was. This takes a lot of my valuable energy. And why should I be giving all of these people my energy..they don’t deserve that energy, if they are just going to waste it. After all that I had done, after all I had worked for..I will not find my satisfaction in any one other than Jesus Christ. How will I ever heal if I do not give myself time to. Do not let others control how you feel. Christ gave us that warning light and we must listen to it. We always think pushing through will make us stronger, but what makes us stronger is the silent effort we put into being with God during the storm.
When I took my first step off that plane in Colorado I told myself and the Lord, ‘I can do this!’ For I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. I am going to heal and I am not going to let others walk over me and tell me who I am in Christ. Only Christ himself truly knows me and He is the only one I can fully trust. I could finally trust the Lord and just simply let Him take me in and help me, truly help me.
The first thing I did on my road to recovery was spend as much time with my family and animals..to me they are the most important! I looked into spending time volunteering at animal shelters and church events. Above all, I went to Bible studies/counselors and spent my quiet time with the Lord. This all healed me in so many ways and I loved speding time with mummy in Colorado. I also came across a book..Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson. I know ballet and gymnastics are very different, but I think they are actually quite similar on the athletic spectrum. I wanted to share this as almost everything she explains in her book, I can relate to. I think God left it on the shelf for me to read. Shawn Johnson competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In gymnastics there are 4 events: floor, vault, uneven barre’s and balance beam. She was expected to win every event. In World’s and the Visa championships she came out the all around world gymnast. She had walked around with that title for so long. And was told she would take home gold at the Olympics in Beijing. I love watching her on balance beam and almost everything else. She is always smiling and always carries Jesus light with her.
Nastia Liukin, another gymnast in the 2008 Olympics competed alongside Shawn. Shawn gave the best routine in her life and she did not win the 2008 Olympics. Nastia took the gold. Shawn stood on the podium and received the silver medal. Every news article stated, ‘Shawn is going to come home from Beijing with 5 gold medals.’ and instead she came home with only 1. To her she said it was like a validation to her heart that she had failed. The only gold medal she won was for balance beam. She felt proud for what she did for the United States gymnastics team. Every interviewer after the 2008 Olympics asked Shawn what she would do differently. And to that she replied, ‘I would not changed a thing..today was the best day God could give me!’ I agree with every word she said..being second best is hard because you feel like you could have worked a little smidge harder…to the world she lost…in her mind she succeeded and made her dream a possibility!
For athletes and dancers we present ourselves on a world stage..we keep audiences happy. As a ballerina, I am constantly perfecting everything I dance in the studio and also everything outside of the studio. When I was not excepted in to English National Ballet School, when I found myself abandoned in a UK immigration office…I felt like I failed at being not only a ballerina, but a human being too. I felt like I was broken into a million pieces.
When people criticized my personality and my faith, it really hurt my heart. My teachers kept telling me to keep going to auditions. Keep spending money that my parents did not have to pursue this career. I owe so much to my mummy and daddy as they worked just as hard as I did to provide me my dream. I love them for that!! It was hard. I pushed myself at ballet…if this is what makes my teachers and coaches happy then this is what will make me happy…at least I thought it was.
If I do not get a contract with the best ballet company, I am going to let down all these people who have these high expectations of me.
For so long I had been living and breathing ballet. I still am and I still do. It is hard to force things to happen in a career. Ballet is something that is so natural for me!! Auditions were hard and it seemed they were not on my side. I would go to school and everyone..family…friends would all ask me about ballet. I was always told.. ‘Kira, you will be the best ballerina…your going to go far!’ There has never been a moment in my career when I did not love the sport. I think now I am afraid to let those around me down who hold such high expectations of me. It seemed like so many other dancers were given opportunities that I thought I deserved too. Come the end of September 2018, I was about to accept another trainee position with San Diego Ballet. My teachers wanted me to sign the contract, but my warning light went on and after what I have learned I was not going to ignore that light. My contract would start out as a trainee un-payed position for a couple of months and then come January 2019 I would be payed. I emailed San Diego ballet about my contract explaining my situation and that it would be quite difficult for me to live in San Diego on my tight budget. I was given the wrong information and found out that the information in my contract was false. Once again, I felt walked all over and used by others. I have a mouse voice so speaking up for me is hard and I don’t like to do it…and with all that has happened I see now that God gave me this little mouse voice to speak and be heard!!
I trusted the Lord’s plan with my decision. I did not go to San Diego Ballet and I am happy because the Lord gave me something so much better. I trusted the Lord’s hands over my decision and He gave me a chance to dance in Ireland! 🙂
Come October 2018, Cork City Ballet contacted me about dancing in their Nutcracker. Of course I prayed about it and asked the Lord to keep His hand and angels around me!! I made it to Ireland and I finally danced again for the first time onstage and I missed it oh so much! my first payed job was with Cork City Ballet in Ireland…and I would not change a little thing to get to this place I am at now! I have Jesus to thank for that!! I loved it there!! finally I felt valued again and appreciated and I met some very nice people who I am still in touch with today!! I get to dance in the Nutcracker and come home to see my family for Christmas too!! a dream come true for me!! It might seem so small, but to me it meant the world to be surrounded by the people who make me smile and laugh and for a chance to dance..that was my everything!! It was like Jesus was handing me a fresh new start!! 🙂 I am happy to say I will be dancing in Ireland starting January 2019 through March this year. Ireland took me in when I had no where to dance and I see that as a gift from God! Praise Jesus!! :):) I had been waiting anxiously and now see why the Lord had waited to hand me this new chapter in my ballet career. The Lord saves the best gifts for when we truly need them the most!! The Lord always gives the most special gifts at the most perfect time!! You see the Lord gave me so much more than just a chance to dance in Ireland, He gave me a fresh look on our world. I would have never learned all the lessons the Lord has blessed me with if I did not go through those crazy things I went through. When people ask me what I would change or do differently, I tell them I would not change a thing. I think and I know Jesus saved me from worse. I could still be in England dancing with the best company and still be unhappy. Just as Shawn said in her testimony: ‘Do not let a title define you.’
I had always felt like I had been second best, but not in the Lord’s eyes. It is not about your title, it is not about anyone else’s opinions anymore for me…finally I can feel what it is like to feel free again like a kid. Do not loose the child inside of you because that is something this world has lost…imagination. I am always told that I am too optimistic, but I would rather be too optimistic than too negative! Let’s chase light and kindness..the world could use a lot more of it!! It has taken me a little while to realize it, but I can finally say I do not care about other people’s opinions and I have learned to let them fly out the window. My mummy always tells me to never let anyone dull my sparkle or my smile!!:):)
My daddy and I had a conversation that I wanted to share with you too. I recently had a couple younger ballerinas and there mothers from Ballet Society mention me as an inspiration for many dancers. My daddy told me that when I would dance back home in Colorado, he had so many people come up to him and tell them how much they loved my dancing! It means more to me to hear that then to impress a company director. For some reason it gives me more satisfaction to hear that from younger dancers than company directors. This is something my daddy always says: ‘show them what you got!’ In the end, what really matters? The Lord, our family, taking care of our bodies mentally and physically. I want people to remember me for who I am in God not just what I have done. Like my mummy always says, ‘in the end it is the little things that will remain forever in our hearts!’ Lets make an effort to not define ourselves by medals or achievements, but by our character. When that little girl who watched me dance as Clara in the Nutcracker years ago, she saw God’s light in me….and that means more to me than a thousand gold medals!
The Lord is my greatest reward and I am so happy to say I finally am flying again!
1 Peter 1:7
God allows the fire! “so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The Lord put my answer right in front of me and I finally could smile again! It might seem silly and hard what ever trials you may be going through, but always remember that you cant connect the dots looking forward you can only connect the dots looking back!
Let’s acknowledged the Lord for the blessing and power of His love. His love is the only love that can mend a million pieces back together and I am happy to say I have finally let go the need and want to please others negative opinions of myself, instead my greatest need is to please the Lord in everything I do!
Join me on this new little adventure! Let’s work hard, but for the right reasons….let’s work hard for the Lord…let’s dance with joy and pray that others will see His light in our eyes as we do what we love!
If you would like to read Shawn Johnson’s book or follow her, I have written a little more about her below including her new fitness brand called FYT…perfect for athletes like you and me who aim to follow your truth!!
Let’s dance this new adventure together living real not perfect..because being real is so much better than being perfect!!
Just wanted to give some little words of inspiration that I have learned along the way and am still learning: We may not be able to change our circumstances but we can certainly change our perspective. This experience has made me a better worker, thinker, and dancer. Thank you to my family, God blessed me with dance and he will put me in my happiest place! Ballet is my sunshine and as long as I am dancing it does not matter where I am dancing it just matters that I am dancing!