the push and the pause

This Love Note is written to a young woman, Katharine Cowan, whom I’ve shared the stage with in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and now the ballet Giselle. Today’s performances are the final times I get to play her mother on stage. Each year I write a letter, and this is my last to her.


My dearest Giselle,

Here you are. You are here, on the cusp of change.

In the ballet you begin as a young village girl, and you die a young woman with a broken heart. In your life you are near the end of high school, and about to move far away to begin your next adventure.

Which means this is my final letter to you.

There is so much to say about this ballet. To look at the power of each emotion–Joy. Love. Deception. Death. Redemption.

But in this last letter, I want to write about the push and the pause.

Near the end of act I, you push me. Shove, really. Really hard. And that’s your job in life right now, too. It is a teenager’s work to push against what is familiar. Trusted. Safe.

And it’s okay to push away. It’s more than that—it is important and necessary.

We have to push away to create the space to go. We have to push against in order to create the space to grow.


The second part of the ballet that matters isn’t in the ballet at all.


The. Big. Pause.

The time between acts I and II when the audience isn’t necessarily sure what comes next. They may have a sense of the storyline, but the details won’t be known until the curtain rises. And the same is true for you. With graduation right around the corner, you are fast approaching your intermission. A few weeks of space before the curtain goes up at the Joffery.

Often we get impatient for intermission to be over. We want to rush it, or skip it altogether. But intermission is about breathing. About being still. Quietly gathering our energy so we have the strength to leap into what’s next.

The push and the pause. Take them with you. Each is vital to a career beautifully danced, and to a life well lived.

All my love, now and always.

Mama Berthe

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