You know that quote, “So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days?” Continue to remind yourself of that.
It’s been one year since our world was upended. Broadway shut down (for what the League anticipated would be one month), the ballet cancelled its Spring season, universities shipped students home, and dance studios across the country were forced to close their doors.
At first, we hunkered down—feeling somewhat grateful for the compulsory vacation (lots of “Tiger King,” bread baking, tie dye, and family time), praying that our loved ones would stay healthy and safe, and remaining hopeful that we’d be back in action soon.
But days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and now months into one year. And while we’ve worked so hard to keep our artistry alive through dance videos, virtual performances, and Zoom classes, the proverbial hustle has never felt harder.
Over the past twelve months, we have worried, adapted, connected, pivoted, struggled, cultivated, and renewed—we have survived. And with the vaccine rollouts and a new administration underway, we’re finally able to envision (even if we can’t yet see) a light at the end of the tunnel.
We are making our way through this challenging time, and that is something to be proud of.
Anniversaries remind us of how much we’ve grown and usually celebrate or honor a passage of time. This marker, however, can take us down a rabbit hole, leading us to compare where we are now to not only where we were a year ago, but where we could or should have been today. Maybe you were meant to make your Broadway debut, celebrate your high school or college graduation, tour outside of the country, or choreograph an exciting project. Maybe a year ago you were so close to nailing your triple pirouette and this morning it’s a challenge to even just find your center. Maybe you’ve made a big transition in your life—going back to school, picking up a 9-5 job, moving home with your family, or perhaps even starting a family of your own. Maybe you’re not taking class or choreographing as much as you were last winter. Maybe you’re not dancing at all.
…Am I still a dancer?
It’s the question we’re all terrified to ask ourselves, but also the one that keeps us up at night.
Can I call myself a dancer if I’m not performing in ___ show, teaching regularly at ___ studio, working as part of ___ company, or dancing ___ hours each day?
Who am I if I’m not dancing?
Pause. Take a breath.
Even if you’re not starting each morning with ballet barre does not mean you are not evolving as an artist. Over the past year, we have embraced flexibility, gained fortitude, connected in new ways, and become inspired by and increasingly engaged with the world around us.
We all know that dancing is more than just steps. Yet, it’s easy for us to say, “If I’m not dancing, I’m not a dancer.” But that statement whittles the definition of “dance” down to an act, not an art. Everything we’ve gone through this past year—the struggles, the transitions, the moments of pause, and the unexpected twists and turns—have all informed the artists that we are and always will be.
To help our community process this complex anniversary, we’re leaning into the conversation we have all been somewhat avoiding. Each week this month we will be talking with dancers, educators, scholars, health professionals, and business leaders to acknowledge what the dance industry has been through over the past 12 months, dissect the truth about where we’re at today, and lead our community into where we’re going (…and here’s a hint, the only way out is through).
Stay tuned for insightful perspectives from:
- Al Blackstone (Emmy-winning Choreographer and Dance Educator)
- Emily Bufferd (Educator, Producer of The Young Choreographer’s Festival)
- Lucille DiCampli (Founder/Head Agent at LDC Artist Representation)
- Robert Duva (Broadway Talent Agent/Manager)
- Alyssa Epstein (Performer, Educator, Graduate Student (MA in Performance Psychology)
- Allen Fields (Master ballet teacher, Artistic Director of Fields Ballet NYC, former Artistic Director of Minnesota Ballet)
- Nicole Fosse (Founder/Artistic Director of The Verdon Fosse Legacy)
- DJ Gray (Visiting Musical Theater Dance Professor at Indiana University, Choreographer, Broadway Veteran)
- Diane Grumet (Co-Artistic Managing Director of Steps on Broadway, Artistic Director of the Steps Beyond Foundation)
- Rachel Harvest, MS RDN CDN (Registered Dietician, Behavioral Health Specialist, Personal Coach, Former Professional Ballerina)
- Terry Hyde (Psychotherapist/Counsellor, Founder of Counselling for Dancers)
- Shannon Lewis (Choreographer, Director, Educator, Broadway Veteran)
- Richard G. Maloney, PhD (Clinical Associate Professor and Director, Performing Arts Administration graduate program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University)
- Dana Moore (Educator, Reconstructeur with the Verdon Fosse Legacy, Broadway Veteran)
- Georgina Pazcoguin (NYCB Soloist, Broadway Dancer, Co-Founder of Final Bow for Yellowface)
- Lizz Picini (NYC-based Performer, Creative, and Educator)
- Selena Robinson (Performer, Arts Administrator, DEI Consultant)
- Jason Styres (Casting Director/Creative Director of The Casting Collaborative)
- Donna Walker Kuhne (Vice President of Community Engagement at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Owner of Walker International Communications Group, Inc., Former Director of Marketing and Audience Development at The Public Theater, Former Director of Marketing at Dance Theatre of Harlem)
- Martin Wechsler (Senior Advisor, Dance Presenting for The Music Center, Los Angeles and the Associate Producer, Fall for Dance Festival, New York City Center)
- Jeff Whiting (Director/Choreographer, Founder of Open Jar Studios)
…and many more.
Subscribe to the Rachel Neville Studios Newsletter so you don’t miss out on this critical conversation—and be sure to tune in to our Clubhouse conversation (@RachelNeville) this Thursday, March 4th at 7:30pm EST.
*Photo by Rachel Neville