I am a dancer and I am grateful

I can’t imagine I am the only one who took dance—everything about it—for granted. Sure, I miss performing, I miss taking dance class with my friends, and I miss dressing up to go to the theater every once in a while. But on a deeper level, I miss the magic of dance as a live performing art…Ephemeral, experiential, and above all, alive

Dance has the power to connect people, to transcend language, to express ideas and emotions, to challenge our preconceptions, to elicit feelings of wonder, anger, sorrow, and joy, to spark inspiration and curiosity, to change minds, and to comfort hearts. 

Dance is so much more than steps woven together for a tutu-clad dancer on a bright proscenium stage. It is so much more than technique, resume, reach, or ticket price. To me (though, I am very biased), it is more than any other art form because it entrances the mind, body, soul, and spirit.

To dance is to physicalize what it means to be human and to share that human experience with other humans. 

Whether dancer, educator, choreographer, or theatre-goer, we have all realized so much over these past 18 months. Ultimately, the allure of the live performing arts manifests through the heart and soul of the experience. Audiences don’t really care how high your leg goes in an arabesque. That’s just anatomy. Yes, technical virtuosity and aesthetics are beautiful. But what’s interesting is telling a story on stage—relating to an audience, expressing ideas and inspiration, and cultivating intrinsic vibrations of energy and emotion.

Those qualities can’t be translated through a TV set or computer screen. The vibrancy of live performance (live class, rehearsals, and photoshoots, even) is sublimely unmatched. 

Life is getting back to (a new) normal. And we’re experiencing that new normal in a new, enlightened way. So, as we always do, let’s break it down. We’ve come to be (so) grateful for:

  • The ability to share space with our fellow performers—whether on a stage or in the studio.
  • The butterflies in our tummies when the overture begins at the top of the show.
  • Seeing a live performance on Broadway, at the ballet, or as part of local arts festivals.
  • Expressing ourselves without having to use words.
  • Learning a fierce new dance combination in jazz class with your best friends.
  • Crowding into packed holding rooms to wait (and wait and wait) to audition for your dream show or company.
  • Showing up to the same spot at the ballet barre day after day.
  • The joyous exhaustion at the end of an opening night performance.
  • Being able to touch each other—receive physical adjustments from a teacher, practice contact improv in your conservatory class, and just hug your friends.
  • Understanding that our art is about the journey, not the destination.

We sent out a survey to our blog readers because we wanted to hear from you…

What are you grateful for?

  • Finally being able to dance in the studio rather than in my living room.
  • Friends supporting each other.
  • The connections I was able to make with new people, even if online.
  • Online dance classes with master teachers from all over the world—especially on Instagram Live.
  • A healthy and strong body that carried me through a pandemic when others weren’t as lucky.

What have you learned about yourself and your art?

  • Respecting my own personal boundaries is incredibly important. 
  • It’s ok to evolve.
  • The hustle isn’t good long-term. It’s ok to be selective in how to develop my craft.
  • My identity and self-worth are not based on my career. I am so much more than my resume.
  • Dance is a gift of expression that I am lucky to have whether I’m on stage or not.

Take five minutes to jot down what you’re grateful for and what you’ve learned over the past 18 months.

As we get back to school, to company class, and to our touring schedule, let us not forget all that we’ve learned and grown ever grateful for. Succumbing to the hustle rids us of our humanity. Seeking perfection kills the energy that is so intrinsic to the magic of our art. You can’t ever be all things to all people, so stay true to yourself above all else.

Don’t lose your heart and soul—it’s what makes you an artist.

Photo: Adele Johnson by Rachel Neville



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