Begin Again… Am I still a dancer?

My life, my story, my timeline, my education, my career… Everything must begin again. 

Being hit by a semi hit the pause button on my life and career. During my recovery I’ve been able to press play again… but there’s a lag. Everything is in slow motion. 

I’ve been writing a lot about my feelings and such but there’s something else that is heavy on my heart and I need to spit it all out onto this keyboard. 

Post-accident I have experienced amnesia as well as short-term memory loss. Amnesia is a wild wild beast, y’all. I woke up in the hospital and my entire “dance world” was gone. 


I had to begin again. I didn’t know what “1st position” or “plié” was, let alone ANY of the content I had been teaching in the 22 dance classes every week. I knew I was a dance teacher and I knew I was a dancer but I had no idea how to access any of the information relating to those two things. I couldn’t remember the names or faces of my students who I always fondly referred to as “my kids,” I couldn’t recall lessons from my own dance teachers from high school and college… My world was rocked. Hard. 

{{ Strangely, I also lost all knowledge of how to cook… I’m still not allowed to use the stove or oven unassisted. #LOL }}

Luckily it did not matter to my students and their families that I couldn’t remember them or what I had been teaching. They came together and showed myself and my family support like none other. Dance families do exist and I had an outstanding one. 

My kids would visit with their parents and talk to me about what they were doing in dance class. I was soaking it all in. Sometimes I would feel a little click sensation in my brain and a memory would appear. These kids were helping me get my dance world back. 

Amnesia is not always like how you see it in the movies. I’ve not just woken up one day and been flooded with all of my dance memories again, “Wow! It’s all back!” Nope. Every single memory I’ve retrieved has been relearned or has been triggered by a familiar situation. 

It’s so frustrating, y’all… Feeling of self worth starts to deteriorate… Who am I now? What is my purpose?

Am I still a dancer?

I don’t know. Am I?

I won a portable ballet barre in a raffle and we set it up in my living room. It’s primary use was to assist with my in-home physical therapy sessions. The older brother of one of my students came over to help my husband put it together. My student started messing around on the Barre. All of a sudden I’m swatting her foot, “Gross. Please pointe your feet.” Her mom recorded just a few seconds of me swatting at her child’s foot and leg and correcting things I deemed to not be aesthetically pleasing. 

Did I know what I was doing? Nope. 

Did I know she was at the barre and something was incorrect? Yep. 

Could I pinpoint it? Nope. 

Then her mom tells me she’s texted that video to some dance parents with the following caption:

“Theresa is now available for private lessons. Please contact her to schedule.”

Uhm. What. I have no idea what I am doing. 

It’s the best thing anyone could have done for me. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone. It was time to learn how to teach. Begin again. 

I had 3 or 4 private lessons I taught weekly-ish (depending on my health) to start. Bless the parents of those kids because I was terrible, y’all. I mean… Real talk. But they trusted me with their kids and I was learning learning learning. 

A few months later I had 20 private lessons I taught weekly-ish. I would study like mad to prepare. I would teach what I had just learned. Looking back, the whole thing was kinda crazy. 

My living room is not large. Between the ballet barre, the TV and the couch… Something had to give. I was learning more so I was teaching more so I needed more room. 

I gave away our couch one day on Facebook. 

I texted Allen at work, “Just a heads up, I gave away our couch on FB and some guy and his girlfriend just picked it up. Love you!” 

He wasn’t phased at all. “Okay cool.”

And so I continued. I took breaks when my health required it, I studied, I began to relearn and I started teaching DANCE. 

These kids deserve more. A living room is not going to cut it. 

I deserve more. 

I’m stuck. 

Being housebound and a slave to my medical debt, I didn’t see any options of a brick and mortar dance studio — A true training facility. 

So we threw all the crap that was being stored in our basement away. We may have single handidly funded our local thrift shop for months with everything that was donated. Dance dads came together and built a sprung dance floor. #amazing Ballet barres were installed. A makeshift waiting room was put together right next to our washer and dryer. 

Willow Performing Arts Academy was born. It was born by the hands of the families that supported my recovery. They believed in me. 

What an honor. Truly. 

I didn’t know I would soon be headed towards a downward spiral. I didn’t know my quest in conquering my amnesia would set me back time and time again. I didn’t know I would bite off more than I could chew. 

“I’m doing the bare minimum. Why am I burned out?”

“I’m letting everyone down.”

“My kids deserve so much more.”

We have 8 wonderful individuals on staff at Willow. Each highly qualified within their own fields. Why 8?! I was setting myself up for success. Realistically, I would not be able to teach very many classes. I soon realized that some of the classes I thought I would be able to teach needed to be delegated to other teachers — I wasn’t ready to be teaching them yet. I hadn’t relearned quite enough and I didn’t have the physical or mental capacity to provide a quality learning environment. My faculty stepped up to the plate and took over. 

But I was still teaching. I began to co-teach. I brought in an assistant. 

It was still too much and I had no clue. 

I’m still in recovery. I still have very real and very scary setbacks with my health. My priority still has to be focused on my million and one different therapies. 

But I did not see it. I was doing the bare minimum for Willow. My bare minimum does not even come close to the true minimum a dance studio owner should be doing. Some days I don’t even feel like I’m a part of my own business… My own dance family. I’m on the outside looking in and I’m just wondering, “When will I be the one dancing and teaching again? When will I be able to give these kids everything they truly need to succeed?”

So I kept going at the rate I was and I crashed. And I crashed again. And then I crashed hard. 

And here I am today. Two and a half years after I was hit by that semi. Eight months after I created Willow. And it’s all I can do to just get through my therapies each day, let alone be the face of a business and a proper role model for X amount of children. 

I’m not present at the studio. When the kids see me they are super surprised. And that breaks my heart. What am I teaching them about reliability and trust? I’m an adult in their lives that washes in and out when I can but to them I’m unreliable. 

Or maybe it’s not perceived as that… Maybe I’m projecting. 

Either way there is a problem. The amount I bit off to chew was significantly less than what I actually wanted to bit off and chew… But even that was too much. 

It’s a major mistake and it has affected the studio negatively. I’ve dropped the ball and I’ve not shown up when I was needed and I am so incredibly sorry. 

I’ve learned from my mistakes. I know what I will do differently this summer and even into next fall when a new dance season starts. Begin again. 

“Will I ever be a true dance teacher again?”

“Will I ever be a dancer?”

“Will I ever be able to provide my students with more than a makeshift basement studio?”

“When will I get my dance world back?”

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I don’t know if I ever will. But right now I can try to begin again and I can do the best I can in this moment. 

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz


2 thoughts on “Begin Again… Am I still a dancer?

  1. I must respectfully disagree that you have let us, your students, down.
    I am 53 years old. Not especially coordinated, and not at all flexible. My little girl dream was to be a ballerina, and not the first lesson, not the first step came true. Until you, Theresa. You opened your heart and your home. The teachers you chose smiled, cued the music, and opened the doors to a world long forgotten in my imagination. Now we can all fly. Love, Julie

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