• Alicia Assad

How to Thrive in "The Sh*t"

Returning to the Rockette line reminded me how much other people have always mattered on my pursuit of happiness and success.

All week, friends have been asking, “What was it like to dance again?”

I’ve been saying,

"It was amazing...I had a blast!”

I know you're not surprised by this confession of joy. I mean, a couple of more obvious reasons dancing in a line of former Rockettes was "a blast" are:

1. I had an entire day that revolved around ME and MY schedule.

2. I got to hang with a group of women, get dressed up, and do something I LOVE.

Indeed, an experience that requires tap dancing, false eye lashes, and red lipstick along with a costume designer who diligently picked up behind me is just downright cool. My return to the stage culminated with my friends and family waiting for me with flowers and cheer, so with all of this in mind it is easy to think:

What’s not to like about the day in the life of a former Rockette?

The truth is: there is plenty.

In fact, performing again was so exhausting and stressful, that the “struggle” almost outweighed its mystique.

I am more resilient than I was in my youth, but still, I had to work hard at keeping my nerves at bay.

Try as I did with all my might to be resilient on my own accord, I wasn’t.

My resilience started to waver about 30 minutes before the show; I was shaking so badly, I didn’t know how I was going to dance. Ever the skilled resilience practitioner I am, I tried to wrestle this physical manifestation of my anxiety with the simple distraction of repetitive movement.

Then I started talking to myself about how I would survive the worst case scenario:

If you mess up, fall, or kick out, you will just keep on going....you'll live.......

Unable to talk myself out of my nerves, I started practicing very slow and deep breaths.....

This did not help.

I was such a mess, I'm not even sure a shot of vodka would have calmed me down when the stage manager called, “Two minutes, get in your lineup!”

When the music began to play, my stomach churned. Then, I felt a strong impulse to step out of the line and run. Just as my "flight response" kicked in, from behind me I heard,

“Ahhhh, Shit!”

A raw and vulnerable expression from a dancer in a line of seasoned performers who were always calm, cool, and collected in rehearsals caught me off guard. Yet this simple profanity was a rather accurate way to sum up exactly what I was feeling in that moment as well.

When I realized I wasn't alone in "the shit," it was suddenly less frightening.

In fact, this outburst made me laugh out loud, and I was still giggling as I tapped back onto stage for the first time in 11 years.

Laughter and camaraderie distracted me from my nerves, so I accomplished what I set out to with this legacy performance:

I had fun!

(I'm second from the right in the photo below, and about as proud of overcoming my nerves and making it back on stage as I am that the tip of my toe still makes it "eye-high.")

Still, I feel compelled to clarify that when I say dancing as a former Rockettes was “amazing,” my joy has less to do with the glamour of the gig and more to do with the women I danced with.

Nearly a week later, I cannot help but marvel at the strength I found in the unity of our group. I was one of ten women who were dancing in unison to keep the history and tradition of precision dance alive. We exchanged glances of support on stage, and words of encouragement in the wings. In the dressing room, we cracked jokes and shared nostalgic stories about our different experiences at Radio City Music Hall throughout history.

There were also more serious conversations about the love and loss we all have experienced in life. Over a coffee confessional, I came to understand that it's not been easy for any of us, regardless of the various directions life has taken us from Broadway to motherhood, acting, yoga...or wherever we have been since our days at Radio City. Dancing again was an opportunity for all of us to set "our shit" aside, and claim a moment of joy.

What I notice is that life and dancing are one and the same. In either, adversity is not only avoidable, it is inevitable. The mark of true performer is one who will dance on regardless of her emotional struggle, physical pain, or the condition of the stage. In life, the happiest among us are those who consciously choose things like joy, laughter, and gratitude; even in the hardest of circumstances.

The illusion of grace a happy person might project is no different than that of a dancer. I work just as hard at fostering the resilience I need to be happy in life as I did at perfecting my eye-high kicks to make it back into a line of Rockettes again. Being a part of the Rockette Legacy means I once was courageous enough to dream big, and strong enough to hold onto hope despite the roadblocks to success. Dancing again has reminded me that I have everything it takes to make my new dreams come alive.

You know what, so do you. Whatever it is you are dreaming of, you can achieve it with a blend of hope and resilience. These are not talents that come naturally to me, but skills I work tirelessly on every single day. If you are willing to put in the work, you can and will succeed.

Still, you will get stuck sometimes. More often than I want to admit, I face moments in life I cannot move through alone. I am immensely grateful for the inspiration and support I have always found exactly when I needed it.

Returning to the Rockette line reminded me just how much other people have always mattered on my pursuit of happiness and success. Even if only for a day, I was part of something greater than myself. Dancing with this special group of women has brought lasting joy and meaning to my life.

Now that I am back in what is mostly a solitary grind as a stay at home mom of four, I am wondering,

Why can’t motherhood be this way?

Or rather,

HOW can motherhood be this way?

I'm not sure what is realistic given the hectic lives of moms these days, but I think we need to make a conscious effort to find connection whenever, wherever, and however we can...

And trust that when we become MOM, we organically become part of the greater group that is motherhood: women who are united by a legacy of love and strength.

Or at the very least, maybe we need to be more conscious about lifting each other up whenever we can. This, I notice, happens organically through a moment of shared vulnerability. Sometimes, we just need to admit,



"I suck and my kids suck too sometimes."

"Yeah me too."

"You are not alone."

Small moments of authenticity like these just might help someone else find the strength she doesn't think she has. At least, the comfort of knowing I wasn't alone in "the shit" is what helped me find the joy in dancing again.

Even if only for a moment, on that stage, I was thriving.