During the disruption of the onset of the pandemic last year, Ballet Arizona’s Eastlyn Jensen discovered something about herself that would behoove others to pay attention to.
The arts and academics are not exclusive spaces but rather those that intersect Venn diagram style to create a more complete person.
When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, a seven-year old Eastlyn proclaimed, “A scientist”. Well this future scientist was destined to be a ballerina first, and thanks to the pause in the long and odd hours a dancer typically undertakes, Ms. Jensen didn’t need to defer her acceptance to university any longer and started at Arizona State University.
Aside from how she ended up adding studies to her plate, Eastlyn shares how this shift in focus gave her the opportunity to see, strengthen, and approach her activities in a different way.
by Eastlyn Jensen
I would say that I have always been a hard worker. Prior to the pandemic, I would take class in an effort to improve my technique, strength, and ability. When everything was shut down in March 2020, it felt a bit soul crushing. I had no idea how to stay in shape with the gyms and studio being closed, and it almost felt like I needed to find a new purpose with my life as I was unable to do what I love.
After what seemed like an eternity, I applied and started my studies at Arizona State University, which has now become part of my daily routine.
Time away to re-energize
When the 20/21 Ballet Arizona season started, my work ethic was much more intense. As mentioned earlier, I worked hard in every class but coming back, I had much more drive and determination. I felt a greater appreciation to be back in a studio. Being able to move and really jump felt so liberating.
Although coming back had many challenges, including getting back into shape and trying to figure out and coordinate my body, every correction given in class is now treasured.
It is not that I took corrections before COVID unseriously, but I will admit that there were days when I was tired and wouldn’t apply them as rigorously as I should have. I’d find myself taking a Scarlet O’Hara approach, telling myself that I would concentrate and work on it tomorrow.
Now, living through an unpredictable pandemic, I push myself each day, treasuring each moment, not knowing what the future may hold.
Being grateful and having a positive outlook
Reading the news, seeing how COVID has negatively affected so many people’s health, livelihoods, families and mental well-being, substantially reinforces how fortunate I am.
I am extraordinarily grateful to be working knowing that many other companies have had to cancel their entire season.
Ballet Arizona is blessed to have a fabulous facility with an indoor theatre (not to mention an unbelievably supportive community and donors), allowing us to continue to provide live and streamed performances. The instructors and staff are dedicated to keeping us as safe as possible while moving forward with new choreography and future performances.
I sympathize with all artists: dancers, musicians, performers, etc. who are not working, understanding the emptiness one must feel by not being able to do what they love. So to me, every day doing what you love is a gift to be treasured. Maybe the bright side of it all?
Staying strong and hopeful
Although I wish that 2021 would return to “normal” again, where people can gather without worry about potential health risks, I think that this year will continue to be difficult.
I have grown accustomed to dancing in a mask, but in this art form, social distancing is a major challenge. It feels strange going to work but having to be extra spatially conscious and cautious. Because the company is like a family, it can be hard to remember to socially distance. Choreography for corps work as well as partnering often require dancers to be in close proximity.
I predict that many of the arts will continue to face obstacles this year due to lingering fears and pandemic precautions. Hopefully, given the vaccines and immunizations, the social situation will become less austere such that a glimpse of life before COVID will return… at least that is my hope.
Until that time returns, I will treasure the gift each day of dancing and performing as it comes, knowing that things can be much worse.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.