Katharine Rygiel

My Voice

This is not just a blog about my love for ballet. This is a blog for me to express what makes me, me. I would not be the person I am today without those who have guided me, laughed with me, and cried with me along the way. I believe that everyone is made up of pieces of those you meet. I am not myself without the experiences of my life, and the people that experienced them with me.

My mom never wanted to dance when she was a young girl. She never planned on me wanting to dance either. She told my father when I was born that she wouldn’t make me step into a ballet studio just because I was a girl. She had no idea what was coming. I first saw ballet at a local dance recital my neighbor was performing in. By the end, I was asking my mom if I could “please do that too.” She was surprised but being the mother she is always supported me, no matter where I wanted to go.

I was one when my father left my mother, my two brothers and I. I have no recollection of him leaving, but it has affected me nonetheless and, in my opinion, in a positive way. His absence made room for the people that are most important to me today. His leaving made me value family and unconditional love even more.

My mother worked full time for years. My grandmother would help get us off to school every morning and would be there in the afternoon to help us with homework. She still holds the patience of the grade school teacher she once was. She is my first and favorite teacher in and outside of academia. I learned the values of patience, thoughtfulness, and forgiveness from her. My grandfather, being the retired pastor he is, always offers wisdom that keeps me inspired in my life, my faith, and my art. He was and still is my father figure. I feel I should mention another father figure. My uncle has never been minutes away like my grandparents, yet he still has had a profound impact on my view of the arts. He was always introducing us to new music and musicals. My music appreciation comes a lot from years of piano lessons and going to hear the orchestra with my family. However, the culture that my uncle introduced to me brought me such joy whether it was a CD or tickets to a broadway show itself. My appreciation for the fine arts besides dance was greatly developed because of my uncle. My brothers were not always the greatest source of encouragement growing up, as is expected of most older brothers. They would complain when they had to come to my dance recitals and Nutcracker performances. However, in the past few years they have challenged my point of view and helped me to grow and form opinions I may never had had without them.

When I was fifteen, I moved to Miami by myself to train with the Miami City Ballet School. Up until this point I had only trained with a couple small studios. My mind was opened to so many possibilities. I fell in love with ballet even more.

While most students here are having their first experience away from home, I am not. The friends that everyone talks about making during this transitional and critical time, I have already made. My introduction to “adulthood” is over. My best friends are scattered about the country. I have laughed for countless hours with these friends. I have complained, fought, and cried with these friends. Every year, new people would come into the school as others left. Each taught me a different lesson that would take hours to recount. My faith grew. My dancing changed. I became my own person with my own perspective. My teachers in Miami not only guided me in dance, but in life. They are like second parents to me. I could never express to them what they have done for me. The community I knew in Miami for three years became my second home.

My history has led me to where I am today: sitting in my dorm room looking at my wall covered with countless pictures, each worth a thousand memories.

In dance, there is technique and there is artistry. Technique is often judged the same way. Artistry, however, is what makes a dancer unique. I believe ones artistry is a reflection of their personality, just like their personality is a reflection of where they have been and the people that have met. When I dance, I am not only expressing myself. I am telling the story of where I have been. The joys and disappointments I have felt are able to come out in my dancing. Dance gives a voice to my past.

I don’t know what the meaning of life is. I may never know. I do know dance has given my life meaning, and in so many wonderful ways I never could have imagined for myself.

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