Ever since my daughter first stepped onto a stage at age 8, she had a presence that drew one’s eyes to her. Complete strangers, including a dad, told me they singled my daughter out as the one they watched throughout the recital. Of course, I wholeheartedly agreed that she was indeed the star of the show, even though she wasn’t. Surely, I’m no different from other moms.
As she has worked her way toward becoming a professional, my daughter has experienced a plethora of situations and people in the dance world. Some good, some bad, some so-so.
There are directors who manage like mini-Napoleons; others who remember what it was like to be a dancer. There are dancers who lord it over others, and dancers who work as a team. There’s stress over roles, in part because dancers are clueless as to what the director and his staff are thinking. And then, of course, there’s always the audience to please.
Appearance is important, especially in ballet. Ever since Balanchine introduced spaghetti-thin ballerinas to the art form, directors have adopted the look as standard. Heaven help the dancer with shapely arms and legs and an ample bosom. Although a little wiggle room is beginning to loom on the horizon. Thanks to the efforts of American Ballet Theatre’s stunning soloist, Misty Copeland.
My daughter’s life as a ballet dancer was the best it could be, given what she brought to the table and the opportunities afforded her as a result. Her decision to switch to contemporary dance seemed a natural evolution, since that’s where she was featured the most.
In her current job, dance is the focus for my daughter and her coworkers. Not appearance. Not roles. Not the director. Learning the new movement is exhausting, painful, and enervating. At day’s end, she literally collapses on the sofa applying frozen vegetable bags to both knees. Later, as she crawls under the covers, her lips form a small smile. She can’t wait to be at it again…
…dancing…for the pure joy of…dancing…