|Bowing as "Puss & Boots" at SAB workshop 2003|
I moved to Texas to join the Houston Ballet less than a month after my exit from SAB. Being thrown into a new environment, hours and hours of rehearsal, and figuring out how to live on my own, I quickly forgot how much I really missed New York City. As the year passed, I came to realize that having come straight from the country's largest metropolis made it difficult for me to enjoy my transition into Texas-living. I missed walkable streets, good public transport, and having thousands of people breeze by me on their own path. I quickly realized that I needed to find another company in a city where I could live happily. Thus, my journey to Seattle began.
|View of the Joyce Theater from the stage|
I don't know what seed had been planted in me that eventually grew into my yearning to jump ship. But when it happened, I was set. I wanted to live in New York, but I didn't want to join the vast ranks of New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre (if they would even take me). So, my partner and I agreed that I would only audition for companies in cities where we wanted to live. The list was San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, DC, and Miami. If all else failed, we would move to New York and I would freelance. Although this idea mortified me, it felt like the perfect backup plan. Alas, I was offered a job in Philadelphia and we moved to the Mid-Atlantic.
Although I was very excited to move back home (even though I am really from the burbs), I was even more excited to be close to New York again. I was already on a Bolt bus heading to an open rehearsal with a summer gig before I had even really settled into my new apartment. I got off the bus, looked around, and smiled very widely to myself. I was home. But, after spending three weeks in the city performing in the Guggenheim's Works and Process series a few months later, I had a realization. As an adult, I really didn't want to live in the city unless I could enjoy living there. When I was training at SAB, I was on full scholarship, which included classes, housing, meals, and a few more perks. My childhood in New York was a facade. I didn't have to worry about anything financially. It's a very different story as an adult and I wasn't privy to living in my favorite city and scrounging by. I have friends who live in the tiniest apartments at the highest prices. They often skip out on the finer things the city has to offer due to financial restraints. At the same time, I was happy with my transition into a new style of dancing in Philly. Why would I want to leave.
Well, as I have alluded to in the past, after nearly 8 months in our new home city, everything came collapsing down on top of me. I became injured and couldn't afford what I needed to recover. I could barely pay my rent with the greatly reduced salary I had accepted to try something new. And now that I was injured, fear was really starting to set in as I continued dancing through the pain just to scrounge by. Finally, when I decided to take time off to heal, everything imploded into me. The company had been hiding workers comp from me for months. I found out and the company responded with anger, threats, and lies. All other details aside, it nearly destroyed me, my career, and being. Not only did I fear that I would lose my home and career, I feared walking the streets of my city because I didn't want to run into any part of the close-knit dance scene that only knew a very skewed version of what actually happened. It only felt natural that I run away from the pain and fear and start anew.
After this very challenging experience, it crossed my mind many times that I should pick up and run to New York. Aside from being a great escape, there were freelancing opportunities galore. But money, my partner, and a handful of other life-items kept me from escaping all of this turmoil. Lucky for me, I had all of these things tying me down to Philadelphia. If it weren't for that, I likely would have been reacting, instead of making a conscious, thought-out decision. For this reason, we stayed in Philly and I started living the life of a freelance dancer.
It has been 16 months since these events happened and I am still happily a resident of Philadelphia. Although I find myself traveling more than half the year, I am always excited to return back home. At times, work has brought me to New York. And trying to connect with the greater part of the New York freelance community has kept me coming back. After last week's CONTACT event, I was asked to attend an audition to workshop a piece that could eventually be developed into a much larger show. I found out recently that I had landed the gig and will be spending two weeks in New York at the beginning of August.
What I have come to realize is that although I am not currently a resident of New York, being that it is the center of the dance world, I will always return. Whether as a student, professional, teacher, choreographer, entrepreneur or more. But what I have also realized is that while New York holds a large place in my heart, for the time being it is not my home. And I am perfectly happy with that. In fact, I love Philadelphia. Part of that is due to its' close proximity to New York City.
|Quintessential New York City shot - Columbus Circle|