Oh no, not another blog about the pandemic…
Wait! Hear us out – This one is different!
Back in March we took the topic head on, finally putting into words the pandemic’s effect on our industry, on our psyche, and on our hearts. The landscape is ever-changing and the future is still so uncertain. But there are things we never would have realized had we not been forced to take pause. In a sense, we were all caught up in the hustle. Now, we can see—and are continuing to learn—the problems that have been brushed under the rug, the routines that never really served us to begin with, and the parts of our work that we had quite possibly taken for granted.
We don’t have all the answers. If anything, we’ve accumulated more questions over the past 17 months than we ever thought we could ask.
But inquiry leads to insight—And insight to growth.
When we were all addicted to the hustle—stuck on the hamster wheel—we were losing our humanity on our quest for perfection. We were running ourselves ragged refining our double pirouettes, auditioning for every possible opportunity, creating content that we hoped would go viral, and compromising other aspects of our lives in pursuit of our art. Our schedules were full, but our heart and soul felt depleted…We were running on empty.
But everything we thought we knew was a lie. We’ve removed our rose-colored glasses and, dare I say, hindsight is 20/20?
We have always been and will always be dancers—whether or not we’re actively performing. But now we’ve realized that we’re dancers and…
What does that mean?
Let’s get into it…
We are dancers and we are resilient.
We have learned that nothing—not even a global pandemic—can stop us from dancing. We adapted to train and teach from our living rooms and garages. We experimented with performing outdoors, sharing our craft online, and collaborating from tiny Brady Bunch-like Zoom boxes. We didn’t listen to those who said that New York City was dead, that live theater would never come back, that we should drop our dreams and completely change careers. We worked tirelessly to keep our studios and stages afloat, to support our fellow struggling artists, and to maintain our own health—physical, mental, and emotional.
We are dancers and we do more than dance.
We have learned that spending time outside the studio actually makes us better artists—more well-rounded humans. Constantly grinding and working towards perfection is not only unsustainable, it kills the intrinsic vibration of our art—the energy that we impart and feel as performers. Our other interests and hobbies, our friends from school or work or down the street, and our long-term goals and aspirations all inform our artistry and contribute to a balanced, sustainable, and healthy life.
We are dancers and we have work to do.
Who are the voices on stage, behind the table, writing the checks, and sitting in the audience? How can we expand, enhance, and honor the stories that are told while taking a hard look at how and why certain narratives are silenced? Dancers were once meant to be seen and not heard. But our voices matter—both in sharing our own stories and ensuring that others are seen and heard, too. Our industry has come a long way in terms of equitable working conditions, more diverse representation on stage and in administrative and producing roles, and in the kinds of conversations that are brought to the table. But there is still work to do—and acknowledging that is the first step towards making change happen.
We are dancers and we are grateful.
There is nothing quite like the live performing arts. Nothing compares to the energy, the possibility, and the excitement. It’s an ephemeral experience between artist and audience. Even in class, the joy, the sweat, and the healthy competition are magnetic. Did we ever think we’d miss the “leave it all out on the floor” three-at-a-time groups at a cattle call audition? Or the annoying sound of candy wrappers and coughs from the audience during a silent moment in the show? Or not getting your favorite spot at the ballet barre? We’ll never take those moments for granted again.
Stay tuned all month as we speak with dancers, educators, and choreographers about how they’ve learned how to embrace being “a dancer and…”
Photo: Kailei Eva by Rachel Neville