If you remember the episode of Friends called “The One With All the Jealousy”, you’ll remember that, entwined with the ongoing saga of Ross’ and Rachel’s faltering relationship was the story line of Joey’s audition for an apparent ‘non-dancing’ role in a musical.
Although his resume would suggest otherwise – three years of modern dance with Twyla Tharp… five years with the American Ballet Theater – Joey walks into the audition as a dance outsider and immediately finds himself surrounded by a studio full of well-trained and experienced dancers.
Adding to the intimidation factor, Joey is quickly approached by one of the musical’s directors who asks him to stand in for the production’s dance captain and teach the other hopefuls the combination for the audition.
You are no doubt wondering by now where I am going with this and why The Ballet Herald includes a Friends episode guide. Suffice it to say that the combination that Joey was tasked with teaching, a deluge of French vocabulary and accompanying lightning fast movements that Joey’s untrained eye synthesized as, “steppity-step and jazz hands,” was my impression of the immensely high barrier of entry that stood between most of us and the world of professional dance.
I could not have been more wrong…
I stopped merely watching dance with my eyes and started feeling dance with my heart.
My experiences as the dance dad of a daughter who is completing her 11th year of dance training and as a member of the Board of Directors of Avant Chamber Ballet have enriched my life in countless ways and helped me see the true color, beauty, and accessibility of the dance world. I stopped viewing dance as a myriad of technical maneuvers that had to be known by name to be enjoyed, and stopped seeing dancers as strict and robotic, like students in a Victorian finishing school with text books balanced on their heads flanked by scowling headmistresses. I stopped merely watching dance with my eyes and started feeling dance with my heart. From my vantage point in the rehearsal studio and in the wings and backstage at performance halls, I also discovered a new appreciation for the rigorous balance between athleticism and grace that is required of dancers. “Train Like a Ballerina” is not just a slogan or the name of a website, it’s a challenge that I am confident many athletes would fail!
Dance is blessed with creative, beautiful, and supportive people, and this became quite evident amongst the disruptions of 2020. Rather than allow their art to wither, teachers innovated and used Zoom to stay connected with their students, bubble residencies popped up to allow companies to work safely together, choreography was adjusted to accommodate on location filming and social distancing, and audiences have streamed performances from around the globe. One of the paradoxes of 2020 was that, although theaters all over the world were dark, I was able to watch more dance from my living room than I would have been able to watch live during any other regular season.
I hope you will join me in setting an intention this new year to do what you can to support the arts and artists.
All of this positive, inspiring news does not mean that the dance world is still not hurting. Patron contributions are down; seasons have been postponed, shortened, or cancelled; performance halls have slashed their capacities; and performers and other employees of companies and venues continue to be furloughed. As the euphoria of beginning 2021 and putting 2020 behind us fades, the dance world will still need us more than ever before. I hope you will join me in setting an intention this new year to do what you can to support the arts and artists. If you are able, please find local dance companies in your community that need support or companies in other cities that you have never been able to see perform before, subscribe to digital seasons, sustain or increase your giving levels, and support your favorite performers who might have launched their own teaching or fitness sites.
2021 brings with it hope, but there still remains a great deal that we do not know. As members of the dance community, we can all combine to do much more together than any of us can do alone.
Featured image for My Intentions for 2021 (stock photo)