My 2014 Highlights - Best in a Year of a Gypsy Dancer

This year FLEW by!!!
This year has been a very fascinating year for me. I have had some really high high's and some really low low's. From experimenting with what it would feel like beyond my performing years to living like a gypsy in, sometimes, frightening situations, it has been a wild year that has shaped and formed me into the person that I am today. As 2014 comes to an end, I surely have grown by leaps and bounds and am very different than I was when it started. Instead of looking back at the times that challenged me, I'd like to remember the moments of greatest growth, change, and achievement. I hope you enjoy and that you are looking forward to another year in the Life of a Freelance Dancer in 2015.

In costume for Company C's gala performance
1. My year in dance began quickly and abruptly. After spending the first few weeks of 2014 worrying that I wasn't going to find any freelancing work, I got an emergency phone call from Company C Contemporary Ballet. They needed a principal caliber dancer to replace a company member that was injured earlier that day. If they couldn't find a replacement, they were considering cancelling their shows. After four different connections had suggested they reach out to me, I received the call to fly out almost immediately, learn two ballets in 4 days, and have my San Francisco debut at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It was quick, exciting, and quite rewarding.

2. After spending a week with Company C in Walnut Creek and another week in San Francisco, I found myself traveling quite a bit. Between January and December, I spent at least 24 hours (and up to 3 1/2 months) in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland, Los Angeles, Irvine, New York City, Anchorage, and am now flying as I write on my way to Seattle to close out the year. It has been a crazy year to say the least. When I look through my Instagram page, I'm still amazed at the multitude of places I visited this year.

3.  One of the most rewarding performances I had this year was dancing the role of Romeo with Fort Wayne Ballet. I only had a week to learn the entire three act ballet, which at times felt like an impossibility. Luckily, I had a great partner that I instantly connected with and we turned out a miracle of a performance in an extremely short period of time. I also found a new level of emotion in my dancing, as I was able to tap into places that I didn't even know I had. I never thought I would have the ability to genuinely cry onstage.

Fort Wayne Ballet's Romeo and Juliet w/ Lucia Rogers (Photo: Jeffrey Crane)
4. While I don't always end up living in the most ideal of conditions while traveling for work, every year I have the pleasure of meeting some really fantastic people that open their doors for me to live with them. Another reason that Fort Wayne was also so rewarding was because I got to spend two weeks with my hosts, the Possemato family. Not only did they provide a beautiful home. They treated me like family and made sure that I was more comfortable there than I would be even in my own home. Also, right prior to that, I got to spend a few days in San Francisco with my host mother from my time in Los Angeles with Barak Ballet.
Swamp tour w/friend and former colleague William Lin-Yee

5. One of my favorite gigs this year was dancing with Lafayette Ballet Theatre in Louisiana. While I have reconnected with a great many past friends since I began freelancing, I haven't had the opportunity to dance with any of my former colleagues from Pacific Northwest Ballet. Through the kindness of my friend Lindsi Dec, PNB Principal, I was connected and given the opportunity to dance besides three friends that I haven't seen since leaving Seattle.

Touring a New Orleans cemetery
6. To sweeten the deal in Lafayette, I was able to extend my trip and fly out of New Orleans. I had never been to this gem of a city before and, let me tell you, did it catch me off guard. I lived on the edge a lot last year and visiting New Orleans was probably one of the most daring trips I took. I jumped on a Greyhound bus for 2 1/2 hours and booked my hotel while wheeling my bag through the downtown area as I walked towards the French Quarter. Before I was in my hotel room (which was right in the heart of Bourbon Street), I already had a hand-grenade in hand. I had been traveling and working so much, that I didn't plan one part of the trip or do any research. I just showed up and let the magic of this musical city haunt me and take my breath away. I can't wait to go back and experience the magic that this city has to offer!

At Company C gala w/former SAB peer, Chantelle Pianetta
 7. One very special part of this past year was the fact that so many of my friends and colleagues supported me in my efforts to obtain work this year. As I stated above, four people suggested me as a replacement to dance with Company C in San Francisco. I also obtained work through the kindness and trust of friends in Louisiana, Oakland, and Anchorage. As I've stated in past posts, it is your connections and your network of friends that carry you through this unique career. I am so grateful to those friends!

8. While I didn't get to perform in the final performances with Oakland Ballet (I did get to dance in the Bay Area Dance Week and Oakland Art Murmur), I did have the wonderful opportunity to work with Robert Moses. Robert really threw me out of my comfort zone during the 5 weeks I got to work with him. He taught choreography in a style that was very challenging for me and at a lightning fast pace (I tend to start learning slow and catch up halfway through). The first few days, I felt very let down, as I was left out of much of the creative process. Then, all of a sudden, Robert had me perform my own interpretation (with improv) of a solo he had taught me. From there, I had a duet that opened the ballet, a few solos, and closed the ballet. Throughout the nearly 20 minutes of his new work, I only left the stage for about 2 minutes and was featured throughout. This was an amazing accomplishment for me, as I felt that I was struggling so greatly that he wouldn't end up using me at all. This was my greatest disappointment in suffering my injury.

One of the houses I stayed in (on left) while couch surfing in San Francisco
9. While my time trying to find a place to lay my head during the challenging period where my housing fell through with Oakland Ballet was the absolute lowlight of 2014 (and perhaps my entire career), the sense of humanity and kindness that I received from pure strangers that let me stay in their homes for periods of time was definitely an important lesson. I would probably be one of the last people to welcome a stranger, let alone letting them sleep in my home. But it was the kindness of the many people that took me in that really restored my faith in people and showed me that there really is so much good in this world.

10. Sometimes, I feel like California is beckoning me to move to the state. I spent a total of three months in the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, and Walnut Creek) and Los Angeles this year. I love these cities so much and am so happy that my career brought me to these communities for such extended periods of time this year.

I missed him, especially.
11. After my injury in California, I got to come home to Philly to recover. While it definitely wasn't a highlight to be injured, getting to spend 7 weeks at home was extremely valuable for me and my partner. Not only did I spend this time healing my body, but I used it to heal my mind and reconnect with a more normal lifestyle. This was the longest I had been home since the summer of 2012.

12. Perhaps, the biggest highlight of my year was being selected as one of the four choreographers for the National Choreographers Initiative. I had applied to NCI two times prior to being accepted into this prestigious workshop experience. It was a very humbling honor to be selected besides three amazing choreographers; Philip Neal - former New York City Ballet Principal dancer, Gabrielle Lamb - 2014 Princess Grace Award winner for choreography, and Garrett Smith - a young, prodigious choreographer currently dancing with Norwegian National Ballet. After three weeks of work with some amazing dancers that were hired from ballet companies across the country, I got to present my first nearly full work (I'm waiting for a commission to create the final movement) since I left Seattle in 2011.

Dylan Keane, Jackie McConnell, & Evan Swenson rehearsing my ballet @ NCI
13. While I was at NCI, I got the phone call from Alaska Dance Theatre asking if I was willing to move to Anchorage to be their next Artistic Director. I never applied for the job and I wasn't sure if I wanted to transition out of performing full-time. So, I was lucky that I needed some more time to heal my body and that they were willing to let me take the job on an interim trial. While, in the end, I chose not to stay on full-time as Artistic Director, getting the experience of running the artistic operations of an organization, influencing the community to feel inspired about dance, and training the young, talent of the Last Frontier was truly an invaluable experience that will only push me further on my hopeful path to becoming an international representative of ballet and dance.

14. This year, I achieved a handful of goals that I have been working towards for many years. All the way at the beginning of the year I was featured in an article for Dance Magazine. Twice after that, I was featured in Dance Informa Magazine. I also found myself featured on a major blog with over 60,000 subscribers as one of 49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art. It was an honor to be listed besides names like Daymond John (Shark Tank) and Will Wheaton, among others. I also scored an agent to represent me for choreography after showing at the National Choreographers Initiative.

Sunset along the Seward Highway outside Anchorage
15. One thing that I haven't really shared on this blog is that while I love the work that I do, there is an insane amount of pressure and stress involved in being a traveling dancer. The lack of familiarity, having to prove myself immediately upon arrival, not having the comfort of home to return to, the instability of regular income, the hustle of finding work, constantly learning choreography at breakneck speed, and much more can be wildly stressful. Over the last year, I developed severe anxiety and stress symptoms, to the point where I had a lump in my throat (for nearly 6 months), stress palpitations, and severe insomnia. Having the stability of nearly four months of work in Alaska gave me the break that I needed to relax a bit and relieve my stress. Getting to return to the same home every day and not wondering where the next paycheck would come from really helped me find my way back to a healthier place. Also having a roommate that I really bonded with and easy access to breathtaking, healing natural beauty helped. Three years of non-stop travel definitely requires extended breaks in one place here and there (even if it isn't home).

16. Lastly, I feel like this is a highlight of every year for me. I got to reconnect with so many friends that I haven't seen since my training days. As a national freelancer, moving from company to company, it is amazing to see so many friends that I trained beside who have become incredible, talented artists. This dance world is so small and it is so rewarding to revisit past memories and create new ones through art. Beyond this, getting to meet and dance with so many new artists is equally gratifying. Now, I can add them to my tight knit network and continue this cyclical ballet pattern.

Going away party at Alaska Dance Theatre
I can have a tendency to focus on the negative or on items that I feel need to be fixed. I feel it is only natural for most dancers to think this way, as it is how many of us were trained to achieve the feats that we have accomplished. Looking back on this list of my 2014 highlights, even with the challenges that I faced,  I really must say that this was a pretty damn successful year. Cheers to even greater successes in 2015! Happy New Year!


12 Reasons Dance is My Religion

For some reason, the holidays always put me in the mood to make lists. Best and worst lists of the past year, lists of things I'm thankful for, and lists of my hopes and wishes for the coming year. Well, I'm not going to resist that urge this Christmas. I am a Jew living in heavily Christian country, so I tend to love celebrating both holidays. And since Chanukkah is officially over on this here Christmas morning, I have decided to create a list in honor of the 12 days of Christmas. Since I am not really religious at all, and I appreciate celebrating all types of holidays, I have decided to create a list with a twist. With all of that said, I bestow upon you the 12 reasons dance is my religion.

1. Dance has been a part of my life since I was a very young age. When I was 2 years old, I kept running into my sister's dance class. After a few frustrating interruptions, the instructor of the class saw an opportunity. Instead of reprimanding the parent of the child, she invited me to stay in class if I could behave. And I did. From that young day of my life on, I have been immersed in the ways and the morals of dance.

This little boy couldn't stay out of his sister's dance class
2. Walking into a dance studio every day is like walking into a place of prayer. Every morning, I begin my morning ritual of plies, tendus, jetes, and beyond. Or, in a non-religious sense, plies are like my morning coffee and the rest of barre is like my breakfast.

3. Even my every day activities are ruled by dance. I think before anything that I do, "How will these activities affect my dancing." Exercise, risky activities (skiing, rollerskating, horseback riding, etc.), drinking with friends, sleep, etc.

Maria Chapman - So inspiring
4. Those people that I hold in highest esteem are my mentors and fellow colleagues that are professional dancers. I don't worship these people, per se, but I have more respect for them, their work ethic, and their inspiration than most anybody else.

R&J (Lucia Rogers) w/Fort Wayne Ballet (Photo: Jeffrey Crane)
5. When going through a difficult experience, I turn to dance to express myself, heal my wounds, and fill myself with joy.

6. While many religions learn the basis of their faith from ancient scripture, a great deal of learning is taught through oral tradition that has been passed on through the generations. Dance, like religion, is one of the last traditions that is almost completely passed on orally and ritually from generation to generation.

7. I give all my glory to my art!

8. No place on earth is more sacred than a stage or a studio.

9. Just like the holiday season brings families together in the name of religious events, ballet brings dancers together for something special every time they begin preparing for a performance. I have always felt a warm holiday-like bond by the end of a performance series.

Returning to Rochester City Ballet's Jessie Tretter for Nutcracker 2013 (Photo: Josephine Cardin)
10. I have an ongoing joke that I am going to create a religion called, "Exercism," or the religion of exercise. It would be a glorious religion! It makes you feel good, it treats your body and soul well, it inspires people to do good, and makes us all-around better people. Cheers to Exercism!!!! (I joke)

11. Just like there are multiple sects of religions, there are multiple sects of dance. Ballet has classical, neo-classical (Balanchine), and contemporary ballet. You can even break down these forms into smaller denominations; like Vaganova, Cecchetti, Bournonville, French school, Royal Academy of Dance, etc. Non-ballet sects have spanned from modern to post-modern, tap, jazz, contemporary, and beyond. While some followers of these sects of dance only hold values for their one form of dance, dancers display the most inspirational openness to joining and sharing in other forms of dance. In the spirit of collaboration, exploration, and growing one's idea of dance, most dancers are open to crossing into other belief systems of dance. If only we could experience this in religions across the world...

12. Even if I turned my back on dance, it will always be there waiting to accept me back with open arms.

Guesting in my home dance school's Nutcracker last year (Photo: Marla Kaine)
I'd like to wish all of my readers a happiest of holiday seasons!


Using Teaching to Supplement Your Salary

Teaching a contemporary class
Most dancers that identify themselves as independent dance artists need to have some type of backup plan to sustain themselves during off times, supplement their income, or throw some extra spending money in their pockets. While a handful of dancers choose to make some of their income working at a restaurant, as a barista, and at other non-dance jobs, I wouldn't be afraid to make the claim that a majority of freelancers use teaching dance classes to supplement their dancer salary.

Some dancers teach because it seems like the most obvious and practical way to work in their field when they aren't dancing in a studio themselves. Whether they are or aren't passionate about passing on our art, it is much more lucrative to teach an hour and a half dance class than it often is to work in other fields. Luckily, for me, teaching has never been an unfortunate necessity to help supplement my income. I have always known that I wanted to teach and freelancing has only allowed me to incorporate this aspect of dance into my schedule.

My interest in teaching didn't come naturally. In my earlier training years, I was more focused on the number of pirouettes I could execute than sharing my knowledge of dance with those younger than me. It wasn't until the age of 16 that I really took notice in the importance of having a passionate, caring instructor. Kimberly Martin, or Ms. Kim, was the first teacher that I had that went way out of her way to help me along my path towards becoming a professional dancer. I had many instructors that worked their asses off to get me to where I did, but Ms. Kim was a bit different. When she realized how passionate I was about dancing, she took me under her wing, coached me, inspired me, and even let me live with her on the weekends to extend my training as far as she could. Beyond that, I had incredible experiences with Claudio Munoz during my summers at the Houston Ballet Academy, Jock Soto and Peter Boal at the School of American Ballet, Paul Gibson as a Ballet Master with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Bob Rizzo of Riz-Biz Productions. As teachers and mentors, these people showed me how giving and unselfish the art of teaching can be. Existing in the somewhat selfish profession of ballet, where you spend countless hours staring in the mirror and working on yourself, I knew I had to find a way to pull myself out of the narcissism involved in self-correcting and instruct those that had similar dreams.

The first time I tried to gain teaching experience was when Peter Boal took over PNB. Sitting in my first evaluation with my new boss and former teacher, I vocalized my interest in developing my chops as an instructor. I assumed that we would quickly bond over this since his teaching had inspired me only a few years prior. It was a bit surprising when he responded, "I think you should really focus on your dancing right now." Nearly, a decade later, I don't necessarily disagree with his opinion. But I still wish that he had given me the opportunity to develop my skills under his tutelage.

It wasn't until a summer layoff a handful of years into my career that I got my first true opportunity to conduct a classroom. I was visiting home for a few weeks between seasons when the director of my home studio called to see if I wanted to teach a few ballet classes for their week-long intensive. I jumped at the chance and nervously developed a lesson plan for the class. Secretly, I hoped that I would show up, leave the paper sitting in the corner, and prove the genius of a teacher that I was on my first try. But in reality, having a written lesson plan helped me out a great deal, as I was no prodigy. Where I think I lacked in experience, I made up for in blind passion.

I didn't have many opportunities to teach outside of, maybe, three more individual classes at home until I began working as a freelancer. The closest I got to working with students would be the three years I choreographed new works on the Professional Division students for PNB's annual Next Step Choreographer's Showcase. While I didn't get to work with this young talent in a classroom setting, I still had the gratification of helping these kids along their path.

Once I started freelancing, I realized how important it was that I find ways to supplement my income. I googled Philadelphia Ballet School, came up with a contact list of training facilities in the region, and started sending my information out in search for work. Only a few schools responded and, of those, only one ended up working out. I was extremely excited to get in the studio, but I was also a bit nervous for my classes. My nerves had gotten the best of me and when the school director asked how much teaching experience I had, I lied and told them that I had three years. The honest truth was that the number three was just a little less than the number of classes I had taught. My untruth meant that I would have to show up with undeniable confidence and avoid any errors in instruction. Luckily, things worked out well. Perhaps, I was kind of a natural.

Adv. Ballet class w/Alaska Dance Theatre (My Students & Pianist)
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I have taught everywhere from local schools to pre-professional training academies and for companies that hold drop-in classes. Recently, I have added professional dancers to the mix; teaching company class for Eugene Ballet, the National Choreographers Initiative, and Koresh Dance Company. All of these have been incredible, but the most rewarding experience I have had in my short teaching career has been working for nearly four months as Interim Artistic Director for Alaska Dance Theatre.

Getting to spend so much time working with my students at ADT, I was able to see the fruits of our labor in working towards perfection. In almost four months of classes, the students that I worked with had exploded technically and grew a great deal as artists. My passion for dance and their trust in my instruction created this incredible atmosphere where you could feel a tingling energy the moment that each class started.

One of my students at Alaska Dance Theatre - When I arrived, her leg was at 90 degrees, knee was bent, & foot wasn't fully extended. This was taken two months later.
I always knew in my heart that I had talent as a teacher. Dance isn't just my vocation. It is my ultimate passion. I immerse nearly every moment of my day in the dance world. My approach to teaching is essentially my own version of (and a way better version than) No Child Left Behind. No matter talent, body-type, or level, I always try my best to make sure that every student receives a handful of corrections throughout class. The schools that I have taught at have ranged from recreational dance schools to academies that only work to train professional dancers. Here and there, I have heard recreational school owners tell me that the kids just want to have fun. My instant reaction to this is, "Dancing is a lot more fun when you can do it well." I am tough, but I am honest and I don't let dancers get away with wanting anything less than the best for themselves.

It is very sad that I will not be returning to Alaska for the upcoming semester (though I will be returning to teach at their summer intensive in June). But lost opportunities can lead to new ones, sometimes instantly. The last few weeks I was in Alaska, I learned that the famous Millennium Dance Complex franchise was opening a new school in Philadelphia. Not only is this institution bringing commercial dance classes to my city, it opened its' doors a block away from my apartment. It seemed too good to be true. So, I sent my information to the owners, was hired on the spot, and solidified my place on the faculty at Millennium. After returning home from Alaska to a week of Nutcracker and another week to adjust to being home, this Saturday I begin teaching an Advanced/Professional Ballet class and an Advanced Contemporary class at this renowned institution. I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue having a regular place to continue teaching and look forward to gaining more teaching opportunities in the near future! Cheers!


Dance Informa Magazine Interview - Dancing Multiple Nutcracker Gigs

Performing as Cavalier w/Ballet Nova in 2012 (Photo: Ruth Judson)

After spending four months directing Alaska Dance Theatre and nursing myself back to full health, I will be returning to the stage at my home dance school, Chester Valley Dance Academy. In honor of my one and only performance weekend of Nutcraker this season, I am sharing this article that I was recently interviewed for in this month's Dance Informa. Enjoy!

Dancing Multiple Nutcracker Gigs - Dance Informa


Why blog when it brings me no income?

A typical blog-writing situation for me
One of the first questions people usually ask me when I tell them that I have a popular blog is if it makes me lots of money. When I answer, "no," many people are baffled that I spend so much effort creating and working on such a time-consuming, journalistic venture. It was never my intention to use this social media platform to roll in the dough. I, initially, thought it would be nice if I could make a little extra cash through my writing. But I always had different, non-monetary motives.

A few years ago when I found myself unemployed mid-season, I immediately had to find a way to keep working. I didn't have a financial cushion to wait until the new dance season started. I desperately needed to find a way to make a living and continue on with my career. At that time, freelancing seemed like the only way to survive. I knew if I wanted to find employment, I needed to market myself. But I didn't know many other ways to sell my product outside of Facebook. While brainstorming up ideas, I remembered how much I used to enjoy blogging on Myspace. From that moment on, I knew that I had to create Life of a Freelance Dancer.

When I first started blogging here, people constantly told me I needed to include Google Adsense to my postings. But I always felt that I needed to spend a solid period of time developing my writing and audience before adding this money-making tool to my site. Additionally, I never really wanted my readers to feel that I was using them to make money with the facade of a blog. So, I gave myself a number, 10,000 views, before I would try to add these ads to my pages of writings.

It took me about six months to reach my goals on viewership, which was right on track for my best-case scenario. Right as I reached my mark, I wishfully opened my browser and started going through the application process to place Google Adsense advertisements on my blog. After a few days had passed, I received an email that unapologetically denied me use of this popular revenue tool. Why? Because the unique niche that made my blog so popular was also so unique that they didn't feel that they had any products that would appeal to my audience.

When I got the news, I wasn't really that disappointed. I didn't really want aimless, materialistic ads flashing at dancers and independent contractors around the world. In fact, I was afraid that the appearance of ads would not only deter building my audience, but that it could turn away the audience I had already cultivated from reading my content.

Lacking any instant financial reward leaves many who have inquired about my blog confused about why I would put so much effort into such a time-consuming activity. There are a few reasons why writing about working as a freelance dancer without any compensation is so worthwhile. The easiest and corniest reason (but still true) would be that I get to help people around the globe. Whether using my blog as a tool in one's own dance career or an unrelated career as an independent contractor, I get to help people move forward in their vocation and navigate tricky situations that are not all that common in the gainfully employed world. Beyond that, I am humbled by the numerous people that have sent me messages from the US to Iran to India and beyond about how my openness has helped them in their careers, times of need, and searches for inspiration.

Beyond all of this sappy stuff, writing about my experiences, successes, failures, and evaluations of situations does help me make a living. While I've never made a penny directly off of LOFD, developing a public persona on an online platform has helped me greatly. I can't tell you how many employers have told me that they have felt much more comfortable hiring me sight unseen and trusting my product because of this blog. Not only that, thanks to all of this, I have been featured in Dance Magazine and Dance Informa magazine and received professional writing jobs, too.

While blogging technically gives me no income, it creates the basis for me to make a majority of my income. Other than all of this joy, warmth, and glory, writing is one of the best ways that I have found to express myself. I get so much out of writing and have learned so much more about myself as a dancer, businessman, and person. For all of these reasons, having a well-read blog is way more valuable than having my readers make money for me by clicking on ads. 


Reacclimating to Home After Being Away

Excited to come home to Philly - Italian Market
On December 7th, I will return to Philadelphia after being away from home for 108 days, or about three and a half months. This has been the longest I have been away from home without at least passing through for a day or two in between gigs. The first time I spent more than a few weeks away from home, I was surprised to find that getting back into my normal patterns was much more difficult than I had expected. Spending any extended period of time in a different environment requires some adjusting to get back into the swing of things, even in the comfort of your own surroundings.

I've often found while preparing for a performance, my focus becomes very intense and I may become completely consumed by the process necessary to get ready for stage. When I worked at Pacific Northwest Ballet, this was built into the fabric of my every day life. I woke up in my own bed, worked at the same facility daily, and returned home to rest in my own apartment. When I had weekends off, I would rest, hang out with friends, and enjoy the surroundings of my city. Developing patterns over time and repetition are natural and make living your own chosen lifestyle comfortable.

Dance is my business (Photo: Brian Mengini)
While preparing for a show as a freelancer may be similar to my experience at PNB in some regards,
it can be quite different when you don't work where you reside. Essentially, a dancer is often forced to start from scratch with their lifestyle and friendships in each locale that they are hired. You generally can't call your close friends to hang out, go to that same yoga place that always helps you find your zen, find the exact same ingredients to that favorite meal you make every week, or drink at your favorite watering hole to let off some steam. Each freelancing gig can be an exciting, fresh adventure in a new city. But while you are building an alternative, short-term lifestyle elsewhere, everything still keeps running like usual back at home. Dealing with this reality can often be one of the biggest challenges for anybody that travels for extended periods of time with their work.

Back in 2012, when I first spent 5 weeks away from home with Alaska Dance Theatre, I was thrilled to return home to enjoy the familiar, see my partner and cats, and visit my friends and family. When I left home, tons of friends showed up to throw me a party to send me off on my adventure. Once in Anchorage, I became so immersed in my work that I didn't really think to shoot off a text message or make a phone call to check in with what was happening with most of those people. After my time away, I expected the exact same reception for my return upon my arrival. A few people had reached out to me on Facebook and stated how excited they were to see me. But the reality of my homecoming was more like walking onto an empty country field in the dead of night. Instead of stepping back into a scene of revelry, I came home to crickets. Most of those friends who sent me off were continuing on with their lives as they normally did. Nobody was holding their breath waiting for my plane to touch down.

Dan working from home
Beyond my local social network, another place that, surprisingly, had changed was in my home. While my partner and I had been together for over 7 years and talked on the phone nightly, he had started to develop patterns that didn't include me. Since he works from home, he had gotten used to working alone in our living space and enjoying the quiet and freedom that came with it. A simple midday question from me could lead to a stressful conversation about interrupting work-related activities. Where I used to be in a pattern of performing household chores, I had gotten more lax living in a home with a host family. I even expected extra attention. I felt like we had to make up for lost time. But things had continued on without me, even in my own home.

What I had originally thought would be an easy reintroduction, turned into a stressful period of examination and carefully executed re-entry. I spent my first week at home depressed and sitting around waiting for my phone to ring with invitations to reconnect. I quickly realized that any effort to see old friends was going to require me to be the one to reach out. One of my biggest challenges was that I had started freelancing almost immediately after moving to a new city. If I had been living in Philadelphia for a few years, it probably would have been easier to reconnect with friends. But I was still in the development period of most of my friendships in the city. I had to be very patient to connect again and found myself spending a lot of time exploring Philly on my own to occupy my time before my next travels.

Exploring Philly on my own
When it comes to reacclimating to living with somebody that you have a relationship with, I find the best route to take is to leave all expectation at the airplane door. Yes, you still have the same relationship that you used to have. But it is human nature to adapt to your surroundings quickly. For this reason, instead of stepping into your situation with expectations, I would suggest taking a step back and letting things find a refreshed order. Even though you missed each other, you don't have to feel that you have to fit five weeks of time into the first week after you've returned. Take your time, don't overwhelm one another, and allow for a little added space than you are used to. Where you may have spent every non-working moment together in the past, you have likely gotten used to spending a bit more time to yourself. See where each of you are and slowly start to get back into more common patterns.
Time away from your home environment allows for one to return with new and fresh excitement. But don't let expectation get in the way of a happy return. Reach out to friends while you travel and after you've come home, but don't put the pressure on yourself to have an exciting homecoming party waiting for you. Don't feel like you need to live your life exactly as you did before you left. And don't suffocate your loved ones with immediate expectations. While traveling for work and time apart can make the heart grow fonder, break mundane lifestyle patterns, and refresh your outlook on living, it can also add stress to what used to be regular patterns. If you approach your return with less expectation and more awareness, you can gain a great deal of life experience to enrich your lifestyle at home.

Me and Dan during 2 weeks inbetween gigs


How Failure and Risk Helps Me Succeed

A few months ago, when I walked into the advanced ballet class at Alaska Dance Theatre on a warm summer afternoon, I am pretty positive that I caught a few of the kids off guard. I am far from an easy instructor. In fact, I can initially come off a bit harsh in my teaching methods. I'm no bullshit and I will tell a student exactly what I saw. If I truly think they did well or if I have seen marked improvement, I will tell them. But I don't really care to coddle students, patting their backs with comfort, or telling them that it is OK and maybe they'll get it next time. At the time, there wasn't much room for nonsense, anyway, because I wasn't even sure how long these kids would get to have me as their instructor. After what was probably a shockingly difficult barre that required exact precision or a restart to the beginning, I stood in front of the class and told them this. "I want you to fail in my class. Ballet class isn't about succeeding. It's about trying the same step incorrectly multiple ways until you find what works for you. Trip, fall, hold your leg until it is shaking with exhaustion. The studio isn't a place to constantly succeed. It is a place to fail, so that you can ultimately become successful." I don't remember if an instructor ever put it to me this way, but perhaps I feel this way because this is how I live my life outside of the studio.

Attempting to get a good shot as the sunrises over Masada & the Dead Sea in Israel
I've been dancing my whole life, but I didn't fall in love with ballet until I was 15 years old. I was a jazz competition kid who just happened to get bit by the ballet bug while working with choreographer and former New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre principal Robert Lafosse. Once I fell in love with ballet, there was no stopping me from achieving a career. With that said, there were countless times that I was told to give up my ballet dreams and head in the direction where I excelled, jazz and musical theatre. Each time I was given that talk, sometimes from the people I most respected, it pushed me to work harder. After finally succeeding at getting into Houston Ballet's year-round program, I probably took the first major risk of my career. After accepting my offer to attend and an August summer intensive with ABT, I came home with three days to pack and head to Texas. As I tried to mentally prepare for a move that I had been waiting over a year to do (I was accepted the year prior, but my mom wouldn't let me go), I slowly began to feel that I shouldn't isolate myself in the middle of the country during the last year or two of my training. I begged my mom to let me risk this opportunity and we drove to New York City to audition for the School of American Ballet year-round program. We drove to Lincoln Center, I auditioned, and the next day I got my results directly from the horses mouth. "No. The notes say, generally poor technique and extremely large quadriceps. Goodbye." I was beside myself!

After this crushing failure, I could have easily jumped on that flight and began training. But I just couldn't bring myself to leave. One day later, we drove three hours south to the Kirov Academy of Ballet. After a private audition, the late director stated in broken English, "Very slow year for boys. One third scholarship." This was far from my full ride to the Houston Ballet Academy and way out of the financial abilities of my family, but we were able to get a sponsor for my first month in the academy. As I headed down to the Kirov, I knew that I had to get greater sponsorship to continue my training at the school, but I felt hopeful that I was still close enough to New York City to feel connected to the center of the dance world. Then, two days later, September 11th happened, my sponsor froze their assets and I was left with an impossibility to continue my training. After the school graciously allowed me to remain for the first two months, they eventually decided to put me on full scholarship and I finished out my year of training.

At the end of my time at the Kirov, I had obtained a corps de ballet contract with Colorado Ballet. While I was ecstatic to begin my career as a professional. I had also been accepted to the School of American Ballet on full scholarship for their summer intensive. SAB was my dream and it had eluded me until this point. Seeing four students who trained at SAB perform in the Nutcracker that Robert Lafosse had choreographed was the defining inspiration that changed the trajectory of my career. I knew that I had to take this summer opportunity to see if a year-round option opened up. If this happened, I was willing to delay my career to live my dream. I called SAB and asked if they were considering me for the year-round program. They told me to take the job with Colorado Ballet because they couldn't promise me anything. So, I excitedly, yet reluctantly, signed my contract and started looking for a place to live in Denver.

A few months later, I arrived in Lincoln Center to finally realize a 5-week version of my dream. After three amazing days working with teachers I had only read about in Dance Magazine, I was pulled into a conference room along with one other classmate. There I was with one of my peers being the first two dancers asked to stay for this world-famous year-round program. I was committed to Denver, but my dream had just arrived. There was no way I could turn down this opportunity, even though it meant I had to train for another year, as well as destroy a very positive connection in the dance world. I promptly called up the director of Colorado Ballet and profusely apologized as I explained that I had to follow my dream. That next year at SAB changed my life as a dancer.

SAB workshops 2003 (Photo: Paul Kolnik)
One ironic part of my path is that turning down Houston Ballet Academy to train at two other schools only led me to get a job dancing with Houston Ballet. I had an interesting year working as one of Stanton Welch's first hires as an Artistic Director. At contract time, Stanton doesn't typically offer re-engagement to any apprentice across the board. AGMA states that dancers can only spend one year with the company as an apprentice, so they either need to be promoted to corps or let go. Typically, the director waits to see amongst the corps who will stay or leave and, only then, starts to promote the apprentices into the corps. When we all were"let go," I didn't feel comfortable waiting around to find out if I would get hired or not. I quickly obtained a contract with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Boston Ballet and signed with PNB. I still wonder to this day if I would have been offered a corps contract, but I was ready to move on to a more positive environment in a more metropolitan city.

My time at PNB has been well-documented in this blog. It had it's mix of highs and lows. While I was secure in my position and well-respected as a union delegate, I was itching to experience something new. I risked all of this security and seniority to try my hand at working with a fledgling, start-up company. After a great first few months, I injured myself and the company didn't support me. I was eventually fired by that company, which I consider one of my greatest failures. It wasn't so great only because I had moved my life to Philadelphia, but more so because I had given up so much to take such a huge risk.

Taking risks daily
While I gave up all of my security and lifestyle to expand my reach and possibilities as an artist, I was now stuck in Philadelphia, burgeoning on poverty, and injured. In these dark circumstances, I had to find a way to survive. This brought me into freelancing, choreographing, writing, teaching, and traveling. If I hadn't experienced the failure that I did, I don't know if I would ever have traveled the country to dance, written articles that have been published in periodicals, been featured in dance publications, or directed an organization 4,000 miles away from home. If I had stayed at PNB, I would probably be stuck in similar circumstances that I was in nearly four years ago.

As I begin to close the chapter on my most recent risk-taking failure, I am curious where life will lead me next. I took a chance to do something that I wasn't sure if it would be a great or poor decision. While I could look at the whole experience as an utter failure, what I am realizing is that my life is much like a dance studio. I spend each day of my life exploring different ways of experiencing this wild career and testing out ways of achieving my best through trial-and-error, or failure. Some things have worked out perfectly on the first try and some things have failed immediately. But in the end, the knowledge that I have gained and the growth I have had will only make my future experiences more successful. Failure can have such a negative connotation in our culture. But I just don't really see it that way. It takes practicing a pirouette ten-thousand times to finally achieve the perfect one. And, sometimes, right after that perfect pirouette, you fall hard on your ass, get back up, and try to make it perfect again.

My greatest success at Alaska Dance Theatre


Using Independent Contracting as a Trial for Full-Time Employment

Often, independent contractors work for organizations to fulfill work on their own terms. But it isn't uncommon, especially in the dance world, for these specialized self-employed workers to use independent contracting as a trial period with companies that they might consider joining as a full-time employee. Many people work for themselves because they chose to do so a long time ago. While other people who work in this way are only doing it to make ends meet or because they have had a work experience that turned them off from full-time commitments. Using independent contracting as a tool to test the waters can be a very effective way of auditioning a company to see if their work environment is a good fit for oneself.

My view on the way home from Homer, AK
I have been keeping a secret from my readers for a few months. While I haven't been freelancing or working as an independent contractor, I took a job that mimicked the lifestyle/workstyle that I have been living for the past few years. Back in August, I accepted an offer to work as Interim Artistic Director for Alaska Dance Theatre. I moved to Anchorage on a 4-month trial contract towards the end of the subarctic Summer and began working to lead this important arts organization. I never applied for the job and was quite honored when they called me up during my time at the National Choreographers Initiative back in July. It has always been a dream of mine to lead a dance organization and the potential for this to happen at the ripe age of 30 was extremely enticing. While I found this exciting, I also needed to keep a level head about the situation.

As many of you probably remember, back in 2012, one of my very first posts was about freelancing with Alaska Dance Theatre. Dancing with this newly formed company was my first foray into traveling as a freelancer. I had danced in one or two gigs prior to this, but they were always in familiar places that were close to home. This was the first time that I had been offered work in a place that was foreign to me and, to be honest, I was scared shitless. It was the first time that I would reside in a smaller city. It was also winter; which meant it was going to be cold, snowy, and dark. Lastly, everybody talked about it being an extremely conservative state where Sarah Palin reigned supreme. I was pretty sure that I was going to be gay bashed or lynched by some pioneer with a huge beard and a passion for hunting.

A few weeks before I flew to Alaska for the first time, I had a nightmare where I was driving to the rehearsal studios on a snow machine. In my dream they were located up a tall, steep, and snowy mountain. In blizzard-like conditions, we got about halfway up the mountain when it became too steep to continue on the snow machine. We had to get up and ascend the mountain by foot. Before I ever found out if we successfully reached the studios or succumbed to the frightening weather, I awoke from my dream. I was clearly dealing with some internal stress about spending five weeks in the "Last Frontier."

I dreamt the Alaska Dance Theatre studios would be here (they're not)
When I finally made it to Anchorage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of my nightmares were only that. Yes, it was cold and snowy. But it wasn't as cold as people would think and the snow was quite beautiful. Yes, it was dark. But every day it got lighter by 5-10 minutes. Yes, it was a small city. But it had more culture and acceptance than I ever expected. Everybody hates Sarah Palin and the people are way more community-oriented than most other cities in the United States. I had a great experience in Alaska and gained a lot of respect for the place. So much so, that I returned a year later to dance with the company for three months.

While my first experience in Alaska was quite a nice surprise, my second time around was a bit different. Most of the positive light from my previous time in the state was still there, but the organization was displaying symptoms of financial instability, cultural challenges, and green leadership. By the time the three months were complete, I was ready to get back to Philadelphia. Nonetheless, I still left with a strong affinity for a place that probably would've never been on my radar had I not been working there as an independent contractor.

This past July, I received the call from Anchorage during an ideal moment in my life for this job opportunity to become a possibility. I was recovering from an injury and was working in a role that required more leadership as a choreographer for NCI. If a perfect storm of events hadn't aligned, I would've likely moved back to Philadelphia and continued working in the same capacity as I have been for the past few years.

While I knew the organization was trying to find its path when I left, I wasn't quite sure where the organization was today. In negotiations for my contract, it was mentioned that I could take the role as Interim Artistic Director to see if I would be a good fit for the organization. While I was hired as an employee, this setup mimicked the same work agreement of an independent contractor. Instead of being locked into a situation for an extended period of time, I was given a trial period to see if the organization was a good fit for me and me a good fit for them.

Me with the pre-professional company of Alaska Dance Theatre
I have had a mixed bag of an experience trying to lead an organization that is still trying to find its' distinct path towards excellence. And while I have loved my time working with the students of Alaska Dance Theatre and educating the community, it became clear that the puzzle pieces for me to continue with the organization weren't fitting together properly to keep me on board for a long-term contract. Had I taken the original offer for a year of work, I may have been left in a situation that wouldn't have been conducive for the growth that the organization is seeking. So, at the end of my term in December, I will move back to Philadelphia and begin to build a plan for the next stage of my career.

While my current experience isn't technically that of a freelancing independent contractor, it is functioning in the same capacity. Most of my freelancing work has given me the opportunity to work with companies that could eventually become my full-time job and home. I have had a handful of enticing offers that just didn't work out logistically, financially, and living between two cities with my partner. But while working with companies as a freelancer, I have always had this thought in the back of my mind that each and every experience could be the one that pulls me out of this nomadic lifestyle.

Looking forward to what's next!


The Rules of Company Class

I started writing this post back in July while creating at the National Choreographers Initiative, but quickly got distracted by the intensity of the choreographic process. It has been awhile since I posted, as I have been swamped while working the past few weeks in Anchorage, Alaska. While it is a few months since I started writing this blog, I feel that this topic is very relevant and hasn't been addressed much. So, I'd like to share. Enjoy!

National Choreographers Initiative dancers taking company class onstage
Back in October, I posted the rules of taking open class while prepping to dance with Barak Ballet in Los Angeles. Nine months later, I am back in the LA area having a completely different experience working as a choreographer for the National Choreographers Initiative. Each of us four choreographers have been offered the opportunity to teach company class for the professionals that have been brought in for this 3-week choreographic laboratory. I love teaching, so I happily took the director up on her offer. Having spent my first hour and a half on the other side of company class and digesting my vast experience taking class in an array of company cultures through freelancing has inspired me to gather a list of general rules for company class from both the teacher's side and the professional's side.

- Company class is a time for dancers to warmup their bodies and to improve their technique. This should generally be on their own terms. Some days a dancer is exhausted and just needs to wake their body up. Other days, a dancer may not have much rehearsal or may be understudying much of the day. During these periods, a pro may use class to push their technique to the next level. Company class is not an equal effort day to day.

- Company class instructors should approach class from an external perspective. Warmup should be approached very differently than classes that would be given to academy students. Yes, professionals need to be pushed, corrected, and kept on task. But company class should be nothing about the instructor and all about the dancers.

- It can be really effective for an instructor to offer combinations that relate to the work that is being prepared for performance. This offers the dancers an opportunity to perfect challenging sequences in choreography.

- Expectations of a dancer in company class should be very individual. If there is not a developed relationship with a group of dancers, it can be rude to make assumptions about why a dancer is acting a certain way in class. If a dancer changes my combination, I am assuming that they are making an important decision for themselves. Back to the first rule in this post, some dancers may be tired or hurting. Company class is a vehicle for the rest of the rehearsal day. Their is often an assumption that dancers must take class like they are students until they retire. Do every combination 100%, even if it doesn't feel good on your body. Of course, it is the dancer's responsibility to remain reasonable about their choices. For instance, if my back is sore from my recent injury, I may not perform arabesques or attitudes derriere in adagio or grand battements at barre. I am not being lazy. I am being smart about my body and extending the length of my career by making an educated decision to leave a combination out.

          (My mom sneaked video taking company class at PNB circa 2008)

- Apprentices and less experienced professionals should approach company class like they approached school class. It takes time to develop an understanding of what your body needs. I didn't start altering my approach to company class until I had my first injury three years into my career. At that point, I recognized that overworking any position in arabesque may be more detrimental to my dancing than beneficial.

- Instructors should try their own combinations with the music to make sure that the tempo is comfortable, doable, and what they imagined the exercise to be. To speak and hear a combination versus executing a combination is a very different experience.

- If a dancer is entering class with an established company, they should ask other dancers if they can stand in any specific barre spot before claiming space. If there aren't many spots available and you are waiting for dancers to show up and claim their regular spot, wait away from the barre until the instructor walks in. Typically, somebody will point you in the right direction of a dancer's place that isn't in attendance.

- I strongly believe that those who teach class should still be taking class. I find that I teach much better when I am checking in with my body and reminding myself what it feels like to dance. 

- If you are going to leave class early, you should always give the teacher a wave as you leave. To walk up and thank the teacher directly, as you would at the end of class, interrupts the flow for those who are continuing with class. Quietly grab your stuff, walk to the door, and wait for the teacher to acknowledge your exit.

- Generally, new or auditioning dancers should pay attention to the hierarchy of individuals in a class. If a dancer has been with the company for many years or is a Principal dancer, let them dance where they want to dance in center. Some dancers could care less about hierarchy, but some are very particular about this order.

- It is the instructors job to be sensitive about when to push dancers in class. I am a dancer that always appreciates corrections. As I stated before, some dancers just want to warm up and focus on their technique in rehearsals. If an instructor feels that a dancer is being lazy, then they can bring that up outside of class and try to push a dancer to work harder. One common error I see is that instructors make judgements about dancers that they barely know. A dancer that is altering a combination or skipping a combination is not necessarily a lazy dancer. Only when their is a developed relationship between a teacher and a professional is it fair to make a judgement.

- Teachers that don't teach to their ego are generally the most respected teachers.

- Do offer corrections to technique, but be careful when offering corrections in style. Once a dancer becomes a professional, for instance, they are very unlikely to change certain parts of their dancing. For instance, if a dancer takes their pirouette preparation from a straight back leg, they may not be willing to execute this from a bent back leg. If they have figured out how to execute a beautiful pirouette from one position, why force them to change it unless it is for choreography that requires unison.

- This is a pet peeve of mine, not necessarily a definitive rule. It is merely a suggestion. Professionals generally don't need to be given specific combinations for plies and stretching. Plies should be about telling the body that class is beginning and stretching should be about limbering your own individual needs. If a dancer doesn't know how to execute these on their own, they probably shouldn't be professionals. I tend to shut down if I am given an extravagant plie combination.

- In most companies that I have danced, it is generally acceptable to wear what you wish for class. When dancers are forced to wear a dress code or to take off their warmups, I have found that dancers are generally treated with a lower level of respect in those workplaces. 

- Instructors should learn to trust the dancers that they are teaching in their decisions. There is not often enough trust in dancers to make their own decisions.

- This is kind of a given. It is more common for dancers to talk in company class, whether catching up with a friend or discussing choreography for a later rehearsal. While it is ok to chat here and there, don't be disrespectful and talk throughout all of center. Show the instructor respect and offer your attention for a majority of class.

- One rule that I am a big advocate of is to support your fellow dancers. If somebody executes a major feat, show your appreciation. I'm also one of the first people to start clapping to the beat when a dancer accidentally ends up having a solo across the floor. Comaraderie and support go a long way in a difficult and competitive career.

- It is acceptable to miss company class here and there if your body really needs a break. Don't make a habit of missing class. If there is an instructor whose class you don't mesh well with, try to find a way to take another class to warm up, like open or academy classes.

- Now that you are a professional, don't approach class like you know everything. There is always something else you can learn.

- While most unionized companies don't require dancers to attend company class, keep in mind that this is more of a technicality than a pass to miss class. Beyond that, a great deal of casting, especially for incoming choreographers, takes place during class.

Company class can be a blur (PNB company class onstage circa 2004)
 - This is my own personal rule. I feel that company class, whether for a classical or contemporary company, should still be a classical ballet class. Ballet is the basis for most technical dance. When company class starts turning into an instructor's interpretation of a mix of classical and contemporary styles, dancer technique will suffer. Keep class as class.

- Whether you like the class or not, always thank the instructor and pianist after class. It is in our culture to clap at the end of class. If you really loved class, hoot and holler. Walk up to the pianist and shake their hand. Walk up to the instructor and say thank you. Instructors appreciate applause and recognition as much as dancers do. Most of them still are or once were in your position. 


Why Post So Openly on Social Media

A movement from my ballet, Distinct Perceptions, inspired by a friend sharing about his severe OCD on Facebook (Dancer: Jackie McConnell - Photo: Dave Friedman)

My partner and I have this very specific conversation pretty regularly. "Did you see what Jimmy-Jam wrote on Facebook yesterday?" "Of course I did! How could you miss something like that?" "I can't believe that they would post that for the public to see!" "Well, how is that any different than what I post online?" "It's not...I could never do something like that! I like my privacy..." And that is how it goes. Every day, some people feel the temptation to post anything from their dance movements to their bowel movements, while others will barely share an ounce of their happiest pleasures. When somebody shares information that is socially acceptable, usually something positive (only once or twice though without appearing egotistical) or something mundane, most people move on without mentioning a word. But if somebody posts their lowest point, their biggest vice, their most embarrassing moment, or their struggles, they are often met with uncomfortable opposition or the socially appropriate cold shoulder (with whispers abound). I am definitely an over-sharer when it comes to my online presence. And while it has benefited me and hurt me, at times, I continue to share my thoughts, my lessons, and my life for friends and strangers to read. Why?

Let's start off here. I am a performer. A majority of my life, I have put myself out there on a stage. Sometimes, I get to play myself. Other times, I get to play a character. As a ballet dancer, one thing I rarely get to have is a voice. In the studio, dancers are generally told what to do. On the stage, a dancer doesn't get to tell the audience how they are feeling, what choices they've made, or what decisions were made for them. Beyond that, dancers are judged by their bodies, their strength, and their physical intuition. Rarely their mind.

When I first started blogging on Myspace, I guess I just wanted an outlet. I had just moved to a brand new city 3,000 miles away from home. I had very few friends and very few outlets. If I wanted to express myself, there weren't many people with whom I could openly discuss and assess my new-found adulthood. At the ripe old age of 20, I started using social media. It was almost like having a conversation with somebody who was a really good listener. On top of that, it was kind of like a mini-stage where I could present a performance. But that performance was my reality, my inner thinking, and my real-life personality. Having that outlet made me feel relevantly normal. I could share simple personal things with whomever felt like listening. And since very few actual people wanted to listen at the time, it filled the void and relieved the stress of being somewhere foreign with little support.

I'd take photos when I felt lonely in Seattle - Elliott Bay
As social media has grown over the years, nearly every American has at least dabbled in some form of online platform. This has led to a wide variety of ways people approach online networking. When I first started blogging, I would post about my inner dialogue while sitting on the bus system in Seattle. Sometimes, I would post how I was feeling after a bad set of casting went up. People started criticizing me for sharing how I felt, but in the end I knew it was my choice. When a Principal with PNB came up to me and told me I need to stop writing my thoughts and feelings online, I found it wildly ironic that she was admonishing me while clearly reading a majority of the posts I was writing.

After nearly a year of blogging, I made my first big social media mistake. After a really bad break-up with my first love, an attempt of friends to get us together to potentially reconcile, and another friend dabbing my fresh wounds with bounds of alcohol, I posted a nasty attack towards my former love. It was probably about 3 AM in the morning and by the time I had woken up nearly 6 hours later, that post had been read well over 100 times. I immediately deleted the post and felt ashamed for letting myself stoop to that level. It's the only post I've ever deleted. I learned a lot from that error. But I didn't stop approaching my public posting from the most honest and open place I possibly could.

Over time, I have had a handful of experiences that have been affected by my social media presence. I find that people are initially excited by my postings. It lets them have a better idea of who I am as a person without really knowing me at all. I also find that companies love it when you post something positive. Like, "Such an inspiring day working in the studio today." But, the moment that things start to go negative,  the formerly projected excitement turns into disdainful judgement.

When I hurt my back in 2012 and was having a rough week in the studio with a choreographer who was treating me badly, I wrote a single sentence update about how lost I was feeling. A few days later, my boss (who had previously lauded my social media presence) pulled me aside and said, "You need to watch what you post online. Everybody knows that you are talking about us." The funny thing was that I mentioned no names, mentioned nothing of work, mentioned nothing of my injury. I was just feeling lost. But the second that there wasnt a big :-D on my Facebook, I was committing a foul act.

Sometimes, life is stormy - Mount Baldy, Alaska - 9/21/14
Recently, I have been watching an old friend on Facebook going through a hard time (I can also see that they are getting the support they need). Whether they are dealing with real life issues or having a complete emotional break down, I don't know. But watching this person post the darkest of life's moments for all to see online has been very interesting to watch. My partner keeps saying, "They really need to stop putting all of this for the public to see. It's mortifying!" While my reaction was, "Well, what if somebody else is going through something like this? Why should they be so ashamed to have this experience in public?" There is no right or wrong. But people learn from people. When one person smiles, often you will smile. When you watch somebody in pleasure, you often want to feel that pleasure. When a person cries, how often do people start crying around them? People are moved by people. And for some reason, people will often look down at other people who are experiencing something tragically moving because they don't want to be brought down by that experience.

What living a publicly present social life comes down to is that sentence in the above paragraph, "People are moved by people." Why should someone share what they are experiencing? Because it moves people to feel, it moves people to think, it moves people to act. Sometimes life is amazing. And sometimes, life just downright hurts. Sometimes, your boss makes you feel horrible. Sometimes, your organization gives you an award for being an upstanding employee. By reacting to life publicly, people are offering a real life cinema across the widest web of the world. And there really isn't anything wrong with that as long as you are willing to be open to the judgements, positive and negative, of all of those that interact in your web.