My latest piece for Pointe magazine is about what I'd argue represents the essence of being a ballet dancer: taking class.
Taking class every day is the common denominator for all dancers around the globe and throughout time. Class where we refine, define and discover ourselves. It's a ritual that is always the same but different every time. It's comforting, dreaded, hard, cherished and endured. And as familiar as it is, there are certain times when class feels like a virtual minefield of hazards.
This particular article is about how dancers can handle what the editor and I coined "tricky class scenarios." That doesn't mean classes that are difficult technically, but ones that are awkward, uncomfortable, stressful or just strange in context and setting: an open/drop in class, a class full of dancers of widely varying skill levels, and an audition that is also a company's daily technique class.
I was each of those situations many, many times during my student and pro days, and most dancers worldwide experience them, too. I realized that pinpointing the specific ways to make those situations better for both oneself and everyone else in the class-- other dancers and the teacher, too-- might make for a good piece. The strategies one needs to use are pretty simple and common-sense, but still... for younger dancers, they may not be obvious, and for more experienced ones, perhaps they'd realize they'd been doing something disadvantageous, discourteous, or just plain wrong all these years. By writing this article I hoped to shorten the learning curve and encourage increased awareness and grace.
While interviewing my sources (longtime teacher Nancy Bielski, OBT dancer Carly Wheaton, and NYC-based freelance dancer Erin Ginn), I was yet again struck by the illustration of how ballet could a metaphor for life itself, and that training in it, living in its world, gives a person so much more than technique, poise, musculature and bragging rights. It breeds a special level of self-awareness. Of spatial awareness. Of self-worth and purpose, of singularity in a crowd-- standing out while fitting in. The unspoken "rules" of taking class in these challenging settings are what dancers either know instinctively or, with a little time, pick up and carry with them for life, in and out of the studio.
The article is now live on Pointe+, the new website for Pointe magazine that is, as of a couple of weeks ago, behind a paywall. While I regret I can't link to the full story without restriction here, you might consider buying access. It was great that Pointe was able to offer its content for free for a while, but this not-so-new model is not all bad, in my opinion. It's just like the old, pre-digital days when you had to buy a subscription to see the mag show up in your mailbox. It allows the magazine to have more and deeper content and, not insignificantly, to pay its contributors.