I know it has been awhile since I've written a blog post. Competing at the McCallum Theatre's 18th annual Choreography Festival, preparing Allen Abrams Core-ography video (check out his preview above), developing a winter intensive in Anchorage, creating choreography for students heading to Youth America Grand Prix, and just living my life sound like a pretty good excuse to me. With that said, I'm here for you. And I'm here to continue sharing.
Following in the footsteps of a fellow ballet blogger whom I respect, Rebecca King (Check out her Tendus Under a Palm Tree blog), and a common piece in Dance Spirit, I was inspired to write a letter to my teenage self. All the way back to my early teenage years, I have always been a very focused, committed, and determined artist. It gained me a great amount of respect during my training and early professional years. But, at times, as I have become more accomplished and spread out over vastly differing cultures withing the dance world, it has come back to bite me in the ass. Read on to see the advice that I would offer myself if I could go back in time.
|Audition Shot circa 2003 (Photo: Roe O'Connor)|
You may not believe me today, but you are going to have a career as a ballet dancer. Yes. Many of the people that you look up to will tell you that you will have a dance career, but will deter you from focusing your energy on ballet because of your body and late focus on technique. Your determination, and, perhaps, their misguided good-intentions, will open up a drive that will allow you to take whichever path you wish to follow. You may not seem to have the right body-type for ballet, but through hard work you will cultivate a tool that will be more than acceptable in most American dance companies. Through that hard work and guidance of mentors, you will develop technique, a clean line, flexibility in your feet, and consistency.
I know that you feel like the underdog most of the time; from being the only guy in your ballet classes, receiving summer program rejections when all the other guys are getting full-rides, and growing up in a family that is lacking the financial resources to pay for the training you need. But you will be raised and cared for by generous people outside of your family who are close to home and far across the country. These people will take you under their wing and offer you private coaching, scholarship assistance, advice, and even, sometimes, a place to sleep. They will see your drive and give you everything you need to help you achieve your dreams.
Be sure to find some time to relax and enjoy yourself with your friends. Your hard work and determination is good enough. Mistakes are a part of the process and you don't need to be perfect to be successful. Don't be afraid to joke and laugh with your friends every once in awhile, even if it is in the classroom. And don't judge others so much for their mistakes. You will learn just as much by watching your friends and peers.
Keep in mind that anxiety and stress can help you improve quickly, but can also be detrimental to your well-being. Once you start to achieve your goals, relish in that success for more than a day. Set new goals, eventually. But don't downplay your achievements by telling yourself that you haven't climbed high enough up the success ladder. Your daring determination can help you, but it can also hurt you. Find a middle ground.
At a certain point in your career, you will become your own boss before you are prepared or ready. Be kind to yourself and remember to breathe. It is alright to fight for your own worth, but make sure that your worth is in line with your fight. Sometimes, even if you have danced with a renowned company, people value experience over pedigree. Be patient, keep working hard as you do, and people will recognize your value.
When your body starts to feel the wears of aging, be kind to yourself. Keep it ready for the future, but don't be afraid to take some time to take care of it. When you need that time, explore different roles offstage to find what you are passionate about. See yourself as a leader and advocate who shares all of the knowledge you have gained along your path. With your keenly tempered sense of determination, you may actually leave a lasting impression on this world you are so passionately drawn towards.