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Unexpected Turns (With Christie Cunningham)

Episode #19
English Level: Upper intermediate
Accent: Canadian

EP 19 Re-release. Into the Story Podcast - Learn English with true stories. 500 x 500

About Christie Cunningham's Story

Christie’s love for ballet started at age three, leading her to dance professionally, but unexpected events taught her about strength and confidence when things get difficult.

On this page, you’ll discover incredibly valuable learning materials and other goodies, to make the most of the podcast episode, and to take your English much further.

Quote of the episode

"I think this is something that I learned through this experience—that who I am, it doesn't matter if I'm first class or in handcuffs, it's the same."'

Transcript

Bree: Hello it’s your host Bree. At the end of this podcast, I always say the same phrase. I hope that you have a good time, or at least a good story to tell. In life, most experiences can be put into these two categories.

The first category is that things go well for us: we experience success, we have a good time. But these experiences usually don’t teach us anything. As Bill Gates famously said, success is a lousy teacher. That means success is a bad teacher. And success alone doesn’t make a good story.

Other times, life takes unexpected turns, and we fail. It could be a small, subtle failure, or a big, spectacular failure. Now, these experiences usually hurt. But normally we learn at least something and they give us a good story to tell.

Today we’re going into the story of Christie Cunningham, whose story definitely has a few unexpected turns. Christie’s love for ballet started when she was just three years old and eventually led to her becoming a professional dancer.

Christie: I just went right up to the front. Long story short, in the end, I was the only one that made that audition out of the room of 200 people.

Bree: While being a professional dancer was glamorous in many ways, a few unexpected turns and failures taught her about strength and confidence, even when things get difficult.

If you love Into the Story, then please share it with a friend. It’s the best way to support this podcast. And thanks!

And now it is time to look at five words and expressions that Christie uses in her story today.

The first one is the phrase bread and butter. So if someone talks about bread and butter, it means it’s their main job, or their main source of income. The way they pay for their life. For example, for many musicians, playing concerts is their bread and butter. Or writing is her bread and butter. It pays all her bills. Bread and butter.

Next, out of the blue. Out of the blue means something happens suddenly and unexpectedly. For example, I was walking home and out of the blue it started raining. Or he received a phone call out of the blue from an old friend. Out of the blue.

Next is the phrasal verb bump up. To be bumped up means that you’re upgraded or moved to a higher position or level. For example, she was bumped up to a manager position at work. Or the airline bumped up her seat to business class for free. Bump,

Next, long story short. So this phrase, long story short, is used to explain only the most important parts of a story. Leaving out all the unnecessary details. For example, the car broke down. We missed the event and long story short, it was a terrible day. Or long story short, we decided to move to a new city after many discussions. Long story. Short.

And finally, to burn out. So this phrasal verb can mean a couple of different things.

First, literally, when a fire stops burning because there is no more fuel. For example, the campfire burned out after we ran out of wood. Or secondly, when a person becomes very tired and can’t continue because they have worked too hard. For example, after working non-stop for months, he finally burned out and needed a vacation to burn out.
[00:05:08] For an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a listening comprehension quiz, you can visit our website intothestorypodcast.com. Okay, let’s get into the story.

Christie: My name is Christie Cunningham. I started Loving ballet when I was about three years old. My granny was Scottish and she had been traveling and she brought me back a tutu from Scotland and she used to have a record player and she would play Swan Lake and we would dance around the living room. So I started going to professional ballet school when I was 4 years old in Vancouver. We had this show in Canada in the 90s called Adrienne Clarkson Presents and one of the things that is on this was a company called La La La Human Steps and I watched everything. I remember I would jump on my mum’s bed. I had a single mother at the time. And we were in a basement suite and we didn’t have a lot of money. But I’d just be practising barrel turns on my mum’s bed. They were always my idols. I never thought that I would ever do something like that in my life like I love dancing but I was also very realistic.

After high school, I was still dancing, I went to University. After I finished my BA then I went and started to try to make it as a dancer. I was training in Montreal although I wanted to be a contemporary dancer, I still had to pay my bills and the big bread and butter for dancers is always the Nutcracker and I wound up being in a local production of the Nutcracker and having to really work on my ballet skills and I was getting really strong.

Then I guess somewhere I saw this poster for La La La Human Steps that they were having an audition in Montreal. I was like oh I’m just going to do this, like just as a joke. Just for fun. I just went right up to the front super confident and there were about 200 people in the room with me. And at one point they opened the door and the director came in and he was watching us a little bit and then he just, out of the blue, he just walked over to me and said you know ‘hello my name is Édouard Lock’. I was like yeh, I know who you are. And he was like, ‘can you try this and this for me’. Long story short, in the end I was the only one that made that audition out of the room of 200 people.

I had a solo choreography and it was always you need to do it faster you need to get your legs higher. I was working on it outside of hours. I was late one night in the studio and I was just getting really frustrated cuz I couldn’t…. I was trying to get this grand battement faster faster faster and I was doing it again and again and again and I hear this pop! Something just happened in my hip. So I wound up going for an MRI and they said yeah you’ve torn your labrum. It’s a mess. I had a pressure because we were going on a tour and so I wound up… the company arranged for me to have an operation. The operation went well. Two months after the operation I was back in the studio. But in the time that I have been away, they had found another dancer to take my part. Eventually they said okay, we’re not really sure what we’re going to do with you by you’re going to come on the tour with us anyways and you’re going to be in the core. You’re going to be in the background and I remember it was Christmas… we’re working over Christmas and there was really just a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. Eventually we pulled a show together and then we went to Amsterdam!

It was my first time in Europe. I was 24 at the time. I was excited to see Amsterdam, to travel. Somehow I got bumped up to First Class and the other dancers had to stay in economy class. Yeah I think some people really hate me but I had a great flight to Amsterdam in first class. So then we were in Europe and we had the show in Amsterdam and then we went to Norway and then suddenly there was a problem with money and as I was sort of not doing a big role my salary got cut. I remember we went to Burger King, one of my friends in the company and we split a hamburger. We cut it in half and that was our meal for the day. And we are performing at a high level on very little sustenance.

Then, we were in Germany and then by the time we got to Italy, Édouard called me down for a coffee and he said you know Christie, it’s just not working out. We’re going bankrupt here and we can’t afford to have you on the tour. But we’ve arranged for you a ticket to go back to Canada. And at the time I just didn’t, I was just like hell no, I’m not going back to Canada! I’m just going to get another job, you’ll see! I’m going to get into another company and so I packed up my suitcase which at the time was full of some evening gowns, pointe shoes and dance clothes and I just walked away! I booked myself a hotel and I arranged this crazy audition tour for myself. But at that time I was recovering from a major injury I wasn’t strong so I was really not in a place where I should have been doing that and so I really burnt myself out. Eventually I got in touch with my cousin who is living with her husband and in England at the time. Can I come by and crash for a while by you? And she said yeah like for sure we’ve got space come on by we would love to see you.

So I got to Heathrow and got to immigration and there was just this really nice lady working there. She was friendly and smiling and asking me about things. And I just was so happy to have someone speaking to me in English and smiling at me and I just opened my big mouth and said you know my grandfather is actually Scottish and I could actually qualify for a heritage visa here. Suddenly appears like three men and they are like, ‘excuse me can you come with us to this back room’. So this guy, you know, was just asking me, you know, about what I was doing and I said you know, I came here with a dance company and I have been on tour and he was like ‘your whole story is a lie’.

They wound up taking all my things away and they put me in some cuffs and they took me to an immigration deportation centre. I had no idea where I was going. I was in the back of a track to essentially a jail. It was a prison. It was like you know big, with wire fences. The cell was, it was just me and some bunk beds and a really dirty nasty toilet and there was a TV. Really weird cartoons playing loudly and the lights were always on so you couldn’t sleep. And then I guess at some point someone came and said that we’ve arranged for you to be deported back to Canada.

Then the next morning they got me out of there and took me back to Heathrow and they loaded the airplane first and then I was with two security guards and they had me in plastic cuffs and I came on last and I just remember all the people looking up at me like I’m some kind of criminal coming on the airplane. So I arrived back in Montreal and the security guards led me in my handcuffs to immigration.

Before I had got the job with the company I had been working at the Hard Rock cafe in Montreal and my manager, the guy who trained me at the time, Gille, he had got a job with immigration. I got there and who should I see standing at the immigration counter but Gille and he was going to burst out laughing. Eventually I was released back into Canada but of course this became a grand story on social media. What’s going on Christie? We heard that you were arriving back at Trudeau airport in handcuffs! So yeh! It was definitely a good lesson on how things can switch on a dime and life is not predictable at all. When you’re younger, when you’re in your 20s, you kinda base yourself on the external things that are happening to you and this is something that I learnt from this experience: who I am, it doesn’t matter if I’m first class, or in handcuffs, it’s the same.

Bree: Life is indeed unpredictable. We never know what unexpected turns it will take. From dancing in her mom’s bedroom to performing on tour, and from flying in first class to being deported. Christie’s story shows us that what matters is our ability to move forward confidently.

To learn more about Christie Cunningham and her work, you can visit our website or check the links in the episode description below. Okay, folks, if you love this podcast, then you will definitely enjoy our newsletter too. Every few weeks, I’ll send you a quick email with practical tips and fascinating topics from the world of psychology and ways to make your life better. Just head over to intothestorypodcast.com and click subscribe. And it’s completely free.

Okay, that’s all for today. Now it’s time to say that phrase: until the next episode, I really do hope that you have a good time, but if not, at least you’ll have a good story to tell.

Bree: Hello it’s your host Bree. At the end of this podcast, I always say the same phrase. I hope that you have a good time, or at least a good story to tell. In life, most experiences can be put into these two categories.

The first category is that things go well for us: we experience success, we have a good time. But these experiences usually don’t teach us anything. As Bill Gates famously said, success is a lousy teacher. That means success is a bad teacher. And success alone doesn’t make a good story.

Other times, life takes unexpected turns, and we fail. It could be a small, subtle failure, or a big, spectacular failure. Now, these experiences usually hurt. But normally we learn at least something and they give us a good story to tell.

Today we’re going into the story of Christie Cunningham, whose story definitely has a few unexpected turns. Christie’s love for ballet started when she was just three years old and eventually led to her becoming a professional dancer.

Christie: I just went right up to the front. Long story short, in the end, I was the only one that made that audition out of the room of 200 people.

Bree: While being a professional dancer was glamorous in many ways, a few unexpected turns and failures taught her about strength and confidence, even when things get difficult.

If you love Into the Story, then please share it with a friend. It’s the best way to support this podcast. And thanks!

And now it is time to look at five words and expressions that Christie uses in her story today.

The first one is the phrase bread and butter. So if someone talks about bread and butter, it means it’s their main job, or their main source of income. The way they pay for their life. For example, for many musicians, playing concerts is their bread and butter. Or writing is her bread and butter. It pays all her bills. Bread and butter.

Next, out of the blue. Out of the blue means something happens suddenly and unexpectedly. For example, I was walking home and out of the blue it started raining. Or he received a phone call out of the blue from an old friend. Out of the blue.

Next is the phrasal verb bump up. To be bumped up means that you’re upgraded or moved to a higher position or level. For example, she was bumped up to a manager position at work. Or the airline bumped up her seat to business class for free. Bump,

Next, long story short. So this phrase, long story short, is used to explain only the most important parts of a story. Leaving out all the unnecessary details. For example, the car broke down. We missed the event and long story short, it was a terrible day. Or long story short, we decided to move to a new city after many discussions. Long story. Short.

And finally, to burn out. So this phrasal verb can mean a couple of different things.

First, literally, when a fire stops burning because there is no more fuel. For example, the campfire burned out after we ran out of wood. Or secondly, when a person becomes very tired and can’t continue because they have worked too hard. For example, after working non-stop for months, he finally burned out and needed a vacation to burn out.
[00:05:08] For an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a listening comprehension quiz, you can visit our website intothestorypodcast.com. Okay, let’s get into the story.

Christie: My name is Christie Cunningham. I started Loving ballet when I was about three years old. My granny was Scottish and she had been traveling and she brought me back a tutu from Scotland and she used to have a record player and she would play Swan Lake and we would dance around the living room. So I started going to professional ballet school when I was 4 years old in Vancouver. We had this show in Canada in the 90s called Adrienne Clarkson Presents and one of the things that is on this was a company called La La La Human Steps and I watched everything. I remember I would jump on my mum’s bed. I had a single mother at the time. And we were in a basement suite and we didn’t have a lot of money. But I’d just be practising barrel turns on my mum’s bed. They were always my idols. I never thought that I would ever do something like that in my life like I love dancing but I was also very realistic.

After high school, I was still dancing, I went to University. After I finished my BA then I went and started to try to make it as a dancer. I was training in Montreal although I wanted to be a contemporary dancer, I still had to pay my bills and the big bread and butter for dancers is always the Nutcracker and I wound up being in a local production of the Nutcracker and having to really work on my ballet skills and I was getting really strong.

Then I guess somewhere I saw this poster for La La La Human Steps that they were having an audition in Montreal. I was like oh I’m just going to do this, like just as a joke. Just for fun. I just went right up to the front super confident and there were about 200 people in the room with me. And at one point they opened the door and the director came in and he was watching us a little bit and then he just, out of the blue, he just walked over to me and said you know ‘hello my name is Édouard Lock’. I was like yeh, I know who you are. And he was like, ‘can you try this and this for me’. Long story short, in the end I was the only one that made that audition out of the room of 200 people.

I had a solo choreography and it was always you need to do it faster you need to get your legs higher. I was working on it outside of hours. I was late one night in the studio and I was just getting really frustrated cuz I couldn’t…. I was trying to get this grand battement faster faster faster and I was doing it again and again and again and I hear this pop! Something just happened in my hip. So I wound up going for an MRI and they said yeah you’ve torn your labrum. It’s a mess. I had a pressure because we were going on a tour and so I wound up… the company arranged for me to have an operation. The operation went well. Two months after the operation I was back in the studio. But in the time that I have been away, they had found another dancer to take my part. Eventually they said okay, we’re not really sure what we’re going to do with you by you’re going to come on the tour with us anyways and you’re going to be in the core. You’re going to be in the background and I remember it was Christmas… we’re working over Christmas and there was really just a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. Eventually we pulled a show together and then we went to Amsterdam!

It was my first time in Europe. I was 24 at the time. I was excited to see Amsterdam, to travel. Somehow I got bumped up to First Class and the other dancers had to stay in economy class. Yeah I think some people really hate me but I had a great flight to Amsterdam in first class. So then we were in Europe and we had the show in Amsterdam and then we went to Norway and then suddenly there was a problem with money and as I was sort of not doing a big role my salary got cut. I remember we went to Burger King, one of my friends in the company and we split a hamburger. We cut it in half and that was our meal for the day. And we are performing at a high level on very little sustenance.

Then, we were in Germany and then by the time we got to Italy, Édouard called me down for a coffee and he said you know Christie, it’s just not working out. We’re going bankrupt here and we can’t afford to have you on the tour. But we’ve arranged for you a ticket to go back to Canada. And at the time I just didn’t, I was just like hell no, I’m not going back to Canada! I’m just going to get another job, you’ll see! I’m going to get into another company and so I packed up my suitcase which at the time was full of some evening gowns, pointe shoes and dance clothes and I just walked away! I booked myself a hotel and I arranged this crazy audition tour for myself. But at that time I was recovering from a major injury I wasn’t strong so I was really not in a place where I should have been doing that and so I really burnt myself out. Eventually I got in touch with my cousin who is living with her husband and in England at the time. Can I come by and crash for a while by you? And she said yeah like for sure we’ve got space come on by we would love to see you.

So I got to Heathrow and got to immigration and there was just this really nice lady working there. She was friendly and smiling and asking me about things. And I just was so happy to have someone speaking to me in English and smiling at me and I just opened my big mouth and said you know my grandfather is actually Scottish and I could actually qualify for a heritage visa here. Suddenly appears like three men and they are like, ‘excuse me can you come with us to this back room’. So this guy, you know, was just asking me, you know, about what I was doing and I said you know, I came here with a dance company and I have been on tour and he was like ‘your whole story is a lie’.

They wound up taking all my things away and they put me in some cuffs and they took me to an immigration deportation centre. I had no idea where I was going. I was in the back of a track to essentially a jail. It was a prison. It was like you know big, with wire fences. The cell was, it was just me and some bunk beds and a really dirty nasty toilet and there was a TV. Really weird cartoons playing loudly and the lights were always on so you couldn’t sleep. And then I guess at some point someone came and said that we’ve arranged for you to be deported back to Canada.

Then the next morning they got me out of there and took me back to Heathrow and they loaded the airplane first and then I was with two security guards and they had me in plastic cuffs and I came on last and I just remember all the people looking up at me like I’m some kind of criminal coming on the airplane. So I arrived back in Montreal and the security guards led me in my handcuffs to immigration.

Before I had got the job with the company I had been working at the Hard Rock cafe in Montreal and my manager, the guy who trained me at the time, Gille, he had got a job with immigration. I got there and who should I see standing at the immigration counter but Gille and he was going to burst out laughing. Eventually I was released back into Canada but of course this became a grand story on social media. What’s going on Christie? We heard that you were arriving back at Trudeau airport in handcuffs! So yeh! It was definitely a good lesson on how things can switch on a dime and life is not predictable at all. When you’re younger, when you’re in your 20s, you kinda base yourself on the external things that are happening to you and this is something that I learnt from this experience: who I am, it doesn’t matter if I’m first class, or in handcuffs, it’s the same.

Bree: Life is indeed unpredictable. We never know what unexpected turns it will take. From dancing in her mom’s bedroom to performing on tour, and from flying in first class to being deported. Christie’s story shows us that what matters is our ability to move forward confidently.

To learn more about Christie Cunningham and her work, you can visit our website or check the links in the episode description below. Okay, folks, if you love this podcast, then you will definitely enjoy our newsletter too. Every few weeks, I’ll send you a quick email with practical tips and fascinating topics from the world of psychology and ways to make your life better. Just head over to intothestorypodcast.com and click subscribe. And it’s completely free.

Okay, that’s all for today. Now it’s time to say that phrase: until the next episode, I really do hope that you have a good time, but if not, at least you’ll have a good story to tell.

Episode's vocabulary List

*vocabulary featured in podcast

IDOL: A person or thing that is greatly respected, admired, and loved. Examples: “The young singer is an idol to many teenagers.” or “She met her childhood idol at the concert.”

*BREAD AND BUTTER: Someone’s main source of income or job. Examples: “For many musicians, playing concerts is their bread and butter.” or “Writing is her bread and butter; it pays all her bills.”

*OUT OF THE BLUE: To happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Examples: “She received a job offer out of the blue.” or “The storm came out of the blue.”

*LONG STORY SHORT: An expression used to explain only the most important parts of a story. Examples: “The car broke down, we missed the event, and long story short, it was a terrible day.” or “Long story short, they decided to move to a new city after many discussions.”

*TO BURN OUT: To have no more energy for a task due to exhaustion. Examples: “He burned out after working too many hours.” or “She felt burned out after the long project.”

GOWN: A long elegant dress worn to formal occasions. Examples: “She wore a beautiful gown to the wedding.” or “The ball required everyone to wear evening gowns.”

POINTE: The tip of the toes, often used in reference to pointe shoes worn by ballet dancers. Examples: “She practiced dancing on pointe for hours.” or “Pointe shoes are essential for ballet dancers.”

*TO BUMP UP: To move to a higher level or receive an upgrade. Examples: “He was bumped up to a manager position at work.” or “The airline bumped up her seat to business class for free.”

SALARY: A regular amount of money you receive for doing a job. Examples: “She receives her salary at the end of each month.” or “He is happy with his new job and the higher salary.”

SPLIT: To break or divide into parts or elements. Examples: “They decided to split the cost of the meal.” or “The log split into two pieces when he hit it with the axe.”

HERITAGE: Property that may be inherited or valuable historical or cultural objects or buildings. Examples: “The castle is part of the country’s heritage.” or “He learned a lot about his cultural heritage from his grandparents.”

TO OPEN YOUR BIG MOUTH: To say something that is meant to be a secret. Examples: “He opened his big mouth and told everyone the surprise.” or “Don’t open your big mouth about the party plans.”

HANDCUFFS (CUFFS): Metal circles used for securing the hands of people, especially prisoners. Examples: “The police officer put handcuffs on the suspect.” or “She saw the prisoner being led away in cuffs.”

PRISON/JAIL: A place of confinement for people who commit crimes. Examples: “He was sent to prison for his crimes.” or “The thief was caught and put in jail.”

TO BURST OUT: To begin suddenly. Examples: “She burst out laughing at the joke.” or “He burst out crying when he heard the news.”

TO WIND UP: To end something or be in a final place or situation. Examples: “They decided to wind up the meeting early.” or “He wound up in a different career than he planned.”

*vocabulary featured in podcast

IDOL: A person or thing that is greatly respected, admired, and loved. Examples: “The young singer is an idol to many teenagers.” or “She met her childhood idol at the concert.”

*BREAD AND BUTTER: Someone’s main source of income or job. Examples: “For many musicians, playing concerts is their bread and butter.” or “Writing is her bread and butter; it pays all her bills.”

*OUT OF THE BLUE: To happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Examples: “She received a job offer out of the blue.” or “The storm came out of the blue.”

*LONG STORY SHORT: An expression used to explain only the most important parts of a story. Examples: “The car broke down, we missed the event, and long story short, it was a terrible day.” or “Long story short, they decided to move to a new city after many discussions.”

*TO BURN OUT: To have no more energy for a task due to exhaustion. Examples: “He burned out after working too many hours.” or “She felt burned out after the long project.”

GOWN: A long elegant dress worn to formal occasions. Examples: “She wore a beautiful gown to the wedding.” or “The ball required everyone to wear evening gowns.”

POINTE: The tip of the toes, often used in reference to pointe shoes worn by ballet dancers. Examples: “She practiced dancing on pointe for hours.” or “Pointe shoes are essential for ballet dancers.”

*TO BUMP UP: To move to a higher level or receive an upgrade. Examples: “He was bumped up to a manager position at work.” or “The airline bumped up her seat to business class for free.”

SALARY: A regular amount of money you receive for doing a job. Examples: “She receives her salary at the end of each month.” or “He is happy with his new job and the higher salary.”

SPLIT: To break or divide into parts or elements. Examples: “They decided to split the cost of the meal.” or “The log split into two pieces when he hit it with the axe.”

HERITAGE: Property that may be inherited or valuable historical or cultural objects or buildings. Examples: “The castle is part of the country’s heritage.” or “He learned a lot about his cultural heritage from his grandparents.”

TO OPEN YOUR BIG MOUTH: To say something that is meant to be a secret. Examples: “He opened his big mouth and told everyone the surprise.” or “Don’t open your big mouth about the party plans.”

HANDCUFFS (CUFFS): Metal circles used for securing the hands of people, especially prisoners. Examples: “The police officer put handcuffs on the suspect.” or “She saw the prisoner being led away in cuffs.”

PRISON/JAIL: A place of confinement for people who commit crimes. Examples: “He was sent to prison for his crimes.” or “The thief was caught and put in jail.”

TO BURST OUT: To begin suddenly. Examples: “She burst out laughing at the joke.” or “He burst out crying when he heard the news.”

TO WIND UP: To end something or be in a final place or situation. Examples: “They decided to wind up the meeting early.” or “He wound up in a different career than he planned.”

Listening Comprehension Test

Take the quiz to find out how much of this story you have understood.

More about Christie Cunningham

Christie Cunningham Into the Story Podcast . Episode 19.

Christie helps people with Pilates training in Zurich, Switzerland – GHAM Training

Christie Cunningham, originally from Vancouver, Canada, performed as a professional dancer with La La La Human Steps and Deutsche Oper Berlin. She is the founder of GHAM Training and holds certifications in Gyrotonic®, Gyrokinesis®, Yoga, and Pilates. She currently lives in Switzerland with her family.

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