Those words…it’s fine. What do they connote?
“Having a blast!…I’m on top of the world!…Life couldn’t get any better!”
“Life is so-so. …I’m getting by. …It’s just a job.”
Most folks understand that dancers put their bodies through the ringer. Afficionados of the art form consider dancers to be athletes.
The fact that they make pennies compared to NFL football players or major league baseball players doesn’t lessen the passion dancers have for what they do. I would go so far as to say that money is a minor consideration when these artists look for work.
Dancers subsist on nights in…recovering from the day’s work, and preparing for the rigors of the next. Rarely, if ever, are they hung over from a night of partying hard. Dining out often means sharing tapas or appetizers with wine. Most dancers cook their own meals. The luxuries they might enjoy include a massage, a yoga or pilates class, new dance wear, a pedicure…an occasional concert or hockey game.
Of course there are those few designated principals who, every now and then, might be able to purchase a pair of designer jeans at $400 a pop. Every sport has its stars, after all.
While my daughter was comfortable in her previous job, she felt as though she’d hit a plateau. And as a member of a ballet company, there’s little a dancer can do to change the dynamics.
With the repertoire in place a couple of years in advance, casting is more or less set in stone. Unless there are injuries or a phenomenon joins the ranks, the die is cast as to who dances which roles. It’s not uncommon for a dancer to perform the same role forever. Not much challenge in that. Ask any dancer who’s done the same thing in The Nutcracker for say…10 years.
While the position of soloist is somewhat fluid, especially in smaller-sized companies, principals are dug in for the long haul. It’s not to say they haven’t earned their prima dona ranking…they have. It’s that they will dance all the leads for as long as they remain. And they will make it known, subtly or not so subtly, that they are not to be messed with. Try and get past them for a role…and your stress level just went through the roof.
Molds are meant to be broken. Individuality should be encouraged, even celebrated, not discouraged.
However the bigger issue is…the patrons. Whether seated in Yankee Stadium or The Metropolitan Opera, the paying public holds “all the cards.” It determines what succeeds and what doesn’t, and who makes it…and who doesn’t.
So when life doesn’t line up the way we would like, it makes sense to chart a new course.
My daughter’s chosen path as a freelancer has breathed new life into her career as a dancer. She is thrilled to be working with a choreographer who pushes her to do her very best every day. She is equally humbled to know a man who respects her as a professional, like himself.
That Dominic Walsh was a principal with Houston Ballet for many years and, now in his 40s, still dances with the same bravura, gives my daughter someone to emulate. She considers herself fortunate to have befriended a renowned artist in the dance world. I know she wishes…
…there were more like dominic walsh…her mentor and friend…