Since September I’ve been working with Dr. Tenniswood in preparation to take my Grade I Teacher’s Examination through the Cecchetti Council of America. This has been an extremely important goal for me to reach and the whole family has pulled together and sacrificed for me to reach it. And for that, I’m very thankful. Working with Dr. Tenniswood has been such a wonderful experience, I truly treasure each class and the opportunity to study under her tutelage.

The examination was the hardest thing I’ve put myself through in ages. It was ardurous. It was exhausting. It was physically demanding. It was mentally strenuous. It was truly character building.

It’s amazing how much of your own personal baggage can come spilling forth when you are confronted with the deep wounds of your childhood. One of the examiners, in particular, was especially difficult for me to relate to on a positive level. She came across as cunning, manipulative and condescending. Her tone of voice cut me to the core. Her facial expressions alone made me want to cower in the corner. I’m sure that my heightened anxiety level did not help the situation at all. And it was all tolerable until this one look came across her face after I answered a question correctly. She, apparently, thought I answered it wrong. I KNOW that I answered it right. And so there was that look…it was that look that my mother gave me all the time when I had completely disappointed her, even though I had given my all and all. It was the look that told me that no matter what, I would never measure up, I would never be able to truly please my Mom.

It was belittlement. I can not stand to be belittled. Someone at the seminar/exam suggested it’s that I don’t have self confidence. No, I would have to disagree. It’s not that I think I’m inadequate. It’s that when I know I’ve done my very best, but I’m scoffed at, belittled and talked down to …it stirs up feelings that I have not dealt with, and don’t particularly want to deal with. Let sleeping dogs lie, is my motto in dealing with the hand that life has dealt me. And so I buckle. Most of the time I stand on two strong legs, but I am, after all, human and I have weaknesses.

And so here I was, once again, faced with this poor soul who just happened to exhibit in her character all things I despise in others. Perhaps because I see some of my own character flaws as well. But here she was…and she was raking me over the coals. Dissecting every move I made. Every answer. Every question. I felt that I could do nothing to please this examiner.

Dr. Tenniswood had warned me about her, but I don’t think I fully understood just how nervous I would be, and just how this examiner would affect me.

But I held it together through the examination because all in all, I do know Gr. I. I know it like the back of my hand. I can do the whole thing from memory and I know what I’m doing as a ballet teacher. But this level of intimidation was something I had not confronted in a long time.

At the end of the examination I could hold it in no longer and the tears came trickling out. Much to my surprise the mean one, the examiner who had so broken my spirit, came up and gave me a hug and tried to get me to settle down. But it would be to no avial. In an effort to save face, I pulled my nerves together one last time, thanked everyone in the room and quickly walked the halway to the bathroom. I would have to turn a corner though, where I knew Dr. Tenniswood was sitting…waiting for me.

I knew, at that point, that I had completely blown the examination. I was incoherent. I was ineffectual in my attempts to answer questions. I wasn’t even able to adequately comprehend most of the questions anyway. I was a babbling idiot. I did the combinations wrong. I was choppy. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t relax. All that work for nothing. And, worse, I went in there as Dr. Tenniswood’s student. This all came down on her too – her student flopped the exam. That does not look good for her and I knew she would be totally and completely disappointed in me.

Thankfully her back was turned to me and I was able to duck behind a wall and scoot into the restroom where I looked at myself in the mirror to find a very pale, almost green looking person staring back and then I lost it. I started crying but was struggling to breathe. I felt like I was going to vomit. I felt light headed and the room was spinning and so I quickly sat down. I just couldn’t breathe.

Panic attack. Anxiety attack. Asthma attack? I don’t even have asthma! But I just could not breathe and everything was hurting. I was shaking and pale and clammy and cold and hot and dizzy. And so I started breathing really hard and fast just trying to get my breath. I knew soon enough someone would come in and find me.

And then walks in the 2nd examiner. The nice one. And she made a joke about me still crying and I stated, through broken sentance, that I was unable to breathe and couldn’t get up off the floor. She dashed out of the room to find a paper bag and then 3 teachers and Dr. Tenniswood came in and there we all sat for the next 30 minutes while I finished having a complete anxiety attack!!

When I had finally calmed down and was breathing again, I tried to stand up but was still pale and shaking. I felt completey wasted. No energy to get up. Nothing. I was an empty shell at that point. Completely strung out. I asked if someone could bring me something to eat. I felt like my sugars had dropped. Providentally, Dr. Tenniswood had packed a sliced apple and after eating the whole thing I was able to gather myself up off the floor and regain my composure. My nerves settled down. My heart rate returned to normal and the color came back in my face. As gracefully as I could, I thanked everyone, assured them I was ok, and drove to Shelby and Marilyn’s. Thankful to be away from anything related to ballet, even for just a moment.

And then … on Sunday afternoon came the moment of truth. Dr. Tenniswood walked with me down one of the hallways between classes and smiled when she gently tapped me with a manilla envelope and she said, “Sarah…you got a Pass Commended!” I just looked at her and said, “NO WAY!!!” She said, “Yep! You did it kiddo! Pass Commended. They just thought you were absolutely lovely and couldn’t stop raving about what a wonderful exam you did! I’m very proud of you!”And that sealed the deal.

They don’t give out Pass Commended too often I’ve heard. And for now, I’m just going with that because it makes it all the more sweeter for me. After a few more teacher exams, I’ll ask Dr. Tenniswood how “rare” a Pass Commended really is. But for now…I’ll just let my naievety about that be the icing on the cake!

And here is my little card I can carry in my wallet. In June I will take my Gr. II teacher’s examination and hopefully in the fall my Gr. III. That’s my goal anyway!

Pass Commended! I’m still in shock! Gr I Teacher