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Weekend Round-Up, I Guess?

Totally failed to write about my own show, as you do. 😆

It went well—not perfect, but well enough that the audience thought it was. I got a nice word from our director, BG: “Your musicality was perfect.” As a dancer, that’s not a word you hear often.

Also quite a few nice words from folks in the audience—friends and perfect strangers both. E’s husband told me: “You stole the show—I mean that as a compliment!” That was a lovely thing to hear, but I think the best thing was K’s friends, who described my dancing to her as “powerful,” among other lovely words I wish I remembered right now.

K, meanwhile—my friend-turned-ballet partner who made me take myself seriously as a dancer some while back by telling me that I reminded her of Nureyev— described my attitude turn as beautiful, floating, and apparently effortless, with the free leg raised to 90 degrees.

I was glad to hear that, because in both the tech run and the full dress run I didn’t account for how remarkably grippy this particular batch of Marley was and wound up with 3/4s of an attitude turn and the world’s tiniest promenade 😅 During the actual show, it felt great, but that’s not always the most accurate barometer!

In the end, I think everyone was pretty happy with things.

There’s an immense peace that comes over me when I’m on stage. It’s like being immersed entirely in the stream of the present. Time is at once infinite and fleeting. Choreography appears like a divine gift. I don’t have to think about it: it’s just there.

“Did someone order a choreography?!”

There was a weird moment right at the beginning when I realized, with surprise, not only could I actually see part of the audience quite clearly[1], but was sharing a moment of eye contact with a woman out in the seats. That was really, really cool—also a crystal-clear visual memory that I’ll carry forever.

  1. In many theaters, the lighting renders the audience effectively invisible. You might catch the glare off an eyeglass lens, but that’s about it.

There’s something special about realizing that, hey, there are actual people out there, and they’re connected with what you’re doing, and it means something to them. For some performers, that’s kind of a nightmare, but I loved it—especially for this piece, which was full of emotion and human connections (both literal and metaphorical).

Anyway, we followed our terpsichorean triumph with one heck of a party, then hauled our heineys outta bed for class (my calf was iffy, so I opted not to jump—Memorial is a beautiful house, but the floor is pretty hard, and we did a bunch of jumps in our warm-up class before the show). Followed that with an hour of contact improv and 3 hour rehearsal: #dancerlife never stops 😛

This morning I opted to stay home and rest the legs a little, even though I’m adding Monday AM to the rotation. Back to class as usual tonight.

Possibly the best news: BG asked us at our party how we’d feel about performing more often. He has plans in the works. Obviously, I’m so there.

In the meanwhile, though, the next blip on my radar is another gala thing, this time with an excerpt from the Culture of Poverty, on April 30th.

Four years ago, when I stepped back into the studio, I never would have imagined living this life.

Nor would I have imagined becoming Sir Twinkshirt of the Footroller.

Honestly, if you’d described it to me, with all its chaos and exceedingly complicated scheduling, I would have, like, fainted (though it was wouldn’t have changed much, if anything).

In the end, though, this is what happens when we stumble into a driving passion: it, like, you know, drives.

And now, back to our regularly-scheduled laundry day.


Werk Werk Werk Werk

So here’s how we’re doing on the work front so far this year:

  • Culture of Poverty: I got B Cast, which is great. Last year, I don’t think I would’ve made the cut. I think I might’ve mentioned this already. We start rehearsals Sunday, basically as soon as I get back from BDSI’s SI audition.
  • Collabo show: my piece got a green light, and I’ve got a partner to work with, so that’s rolling forward. We start reheasals on Thursday.
  • Suspend company: I’ve got a company spot, and we’re on to callbacks for specific casting next.
  • PlayThink: this year, I’m both performing and teaching. I’m pretty excited about that, y’all! …Speaking of which:


    Ohai! It me!

  • And, of course, I’ll continue with CirqueLouis.

It’ll be interesting to see how rehearsal schedules shake out for all of this stuff.

This weekend, I’ll be jetting over to Lexington for the Ballet Detroit Summer Intensive audition. I have no idea, honestly, if I’ll make the cut, but I can say that last year I wouldn’t have been brave enough to go. A friend of mine from LexBallet SI is also going, so that’s pretty exciting!

I’m trying to go into it with the mindset that, regardless of the outcome, I can learn a lot from the audition process, and in many ways it’ll be a lot like taking a masterclass (only presumably with a number pinned to your shirt :P).

The weird part is that it’s hard to imagine that my first successful audition was last year, and that before then I felt pretty unsure about auditioning for things in general.

One of the general goals I set down for this year was to reduce my impostor syndrome about working in dance. I think that part of that is going out and auditioning for things—taking risks; seeing how things work out—and another part is choosing atleast  some of my auditions strategically, based on my own strengths as a dancer and what kinds of dancers are needed in different markets.

Though I am making money as a dancer now, I’ve come to regard what I’m doing this year as a kind of apprenticeship. Not to say that my command of technique is finished—nobody’s ever done learning technique—but I’m learning the elements of artistry; how to approach roles; how to take direction and use it effectively (I try to be biddable, so to speak, but I don’t know if I always apply direction as well as I could).

I’m lucky to have good mentors in the midst of all this stuff. Señor BeastMode, in particular, has given me a lot to think about for our Showcase piece this year. I think last year he was kind of feeling us out; figuring out how much technique he could throw at us, given the compressed rehearsal schedule.

This year, he’s giving me very specific directions about approaching the role I’m playing in this piece—what kind of movement quality he’s looking for, how to use my eyes, etc. I’m learning how to ask questions to clarify points I don’t quite get in ways that get the answer I’m actually looking for (all too often, I’ll ask, “What was the thing at the end of that phrase?” in a way that sounds like, “What was the beginning of that phrase?”).

This is all stuff I can carry into the other jobs I’ll be doing this year—and into every job I land going forward. To some extent, these are also the points that determine what kinds of jobs you land as a dancer. Being able to ask a clarifying question intelligently at an audition isn’t a bad thing and, of course, reputation matters in a community as small as the dance community.

I’ll also, obviously, be spending this year learning to juggle the insane schedule that seems to be pretty much the hallmark of #dancerlife always and everywhere 😛 It may sound trivial (it may not: you guys know me pretty well by now :D), but part of me is like, “Holy crap, I’m going to have to figure out how to cook and eat food in here somewhere.”

So, basically, I’m doing the stuff you do as a company trainee, only I’m working for 2 different companies as a non-trainee ^-^

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about the coming year, busy though it’s likely to be.


Ballet Lessons: On Sacrifice

Yesterday, D and I met up with some of my ballet girls at a showing of the Norwegian documentary Ballet Boys, which follows three teenage dancers at a critical period in their training—the point at which they’re deciding whether to continue training and possibly to pursue careers as dancers.

One of the three is absolutely all-in. The other two aren’t as certain. One of them mentions the reality that one faces as a dancer in training: that there’s no time for a typical adolescent social life. He walks away, briefly, from dance—but he literally can’t stop dancing, and ultimately he returns.

I was reminded of a conversation I had not long ago with my friend RH: I said something about how working in dance involves a lot of sacrifice, but it’s willing sacrifice, joyfully given. He said something to the effect that he didn’t see how sacrifice came into it.

For a second, I honestly felt kind of angry. I almost responded with anger.

Then I realized that my anger was the knee-jerk response that dancers evolve as a defense against the fact that people who don’t dance haven’t the faintest hint of a clue about how hard it is; how much it demands. They often seem to legitimately believe that we spend all our time riding unicorns and eating cotton candy and swimming in the fountains of money we get paid for it, when in fact our lives are more akin to monastic vocations—we work grindingly hard, often for peanuts, because we’re called to the Work.

And then I realized that, okay, from his perspective, the commitment and sacrifice required probably aren’t visible, let alone obvious.

RH doesn’t dance, but he knows that I love dancing. He knows that dancing makes me unbelievably happy.

He works in technology, and he loves tech—but he doesn’t love his work in the all-consuming way that I love dancing. The work that he does in the tech sector isn’t the work he’d choose to do if money was no object, and it doesn’t always really work for him. Dancing is absolutely the work I would choose to do if money was no object, and it works for me in a way that nothing else ever has.

Perhaps a bit ironically, I’m working in dance in part because, at the moment, money is an object: to dance at the level I want to, I need to make dance pay for itself. But it’s still what I’d be doing if we suddenly received a windfall that would set us up for life.

That doesn’t, however, mean there’s no sacrifice involved.

Great! Only 10,000,000 more repetitions and you’ll almost have it!


Every now and then, someone will say to me, “I wish I could do what you’re doing.”

I try to listen and respond with kindness; with an openness to the nuances of meaning that underpin what they’re saying. I try to factor in things like financial challenges and family commitments (kids change everything).

But what I want to say, most of the time, is this: You could.

Part of what people are saying, when they say that, is this: I wish I was talented enough.

Sometimes, the people saying it are more talented than I am. They may not have as much training, but in terms of raw aptitude, they have the goods. They just need the training to use their aptitude.

I have pretty strong aptitude for dance, don’t get me wrong—but talent isn’t really the deciding factor.

Sometimes they mean, “I wish I’d danced as a kid.” There’s an assumption that it’s essential to start before your bones stop growing—especially in ballet.

Early training does exert some influence—but it’s not the deciding factor, either. My bones are constructed in a way that allows for 180-degree turnout; my feet were definitely shaped by my early training. But there are much, much better dancers than I—professionals at major companies with a lifetime of training and still have less turnout and mediocre feet; but also late-starters without great turnout or awesome feet who have gone on to forge careers out of nothing.

Early training isn’t the deciding factor, either.

The deciding factor, at the end of the day, is sacrifice.

Welcome to Dancerlife. By continuing, you agree to commit every waking moment for pretty much the rest of forever.


So what, then, do I sacrifice to work in dance?

First and foremost, time.

To work in dance, you have to dance. Dancing eats up oceans of time.

It’s not like training to race bikes as a serious amateur. That you can do around a life that allows some time for other pursuits. You work to develop fitness and riding skills and racing know-how—but a lot it you can do (and ultimately do do) alone, in the interstitial hours around the job that pays for the bike and the racing license and the entry fees.

Dancing requires technique, fitness, and artistry. All of these things, in turn, require a time-commitment that will eat your life. You can potentially fit your training in around another job (and make no mistake, your training is a job), but in so doing you must acknowledge the fact that you will literally have time for nothing else.

I don’t race bikes anymore. I barely ride anymore. I don’t play video games that can’t be squeezed into a few minutes here or there. I’m never up to date on TV shows. I rarely manage to swing a night out, and when I do, it’s almost always with other dancers from the class or rehearsal that ends right before said night out.

I thought this was a choreography still, but actually it could totally be a depiction of dancers trying to have a social life (via the amazing NYC Dance Project, via…erm…Instagram?).

I schedule my “life” around dancing. Even my occasional bouts of paid non-dance work are subject to the demands of class and rehearsal schedules. I give up weeks of the summer, when sane people are enjoying cookouts or canoeing, to sweat my ass off with other dancers in the interest of professional development (but also because I love dancing more than anything else).

SI: not, “Are you going?” but “Where are you going?”

I rarely manage to snag an evening alone with my husband. Fortunately, he’s okay with that. We make the most of whatever time we can grab.

If he wasn’t okay with that? To be honest, I’d still choose dance.

My time belongs to dance, and it will for the foreseeable future.

As a function of time, I’m also sacrificing money. I could land a job tomorrow that would pay thirty times or more the amount I made as a dancer last year. It might even allow me time to dance as a hobby. It would, in one fell swoop, make us very secure, financially-speaking.

It would also mean giving up the career, such as it is, that I’m building now.

Dance is a demanding muse.

I have back-burnered every other interest except circus arts, and circus arts make the cut only insofar as they allow me to function within them as a dancer and don’t interfere with actually dancing.

I still write, but I do my writing in shreds of time snatched at the ends and beginnings of my days. I often fall asleep while writing in bed.

I know it’ll take me longer to finish the projects I’m working on, but I don’t care.

These are a handful of the things that I’ve cast into the fire in the name of dance.

I don’t mind. They’re joyfully given. I would do all of it again in a heartbeat. If you forced me to live my life over, I’d even do it sooner.

But a sacrifice is a sacrifice, willing or not. That’s the one and only thing that separates me from my friends who would like to do what I’m doing[1].

  1. Except the ones who have kids. Denis is a consenting adult who can walk away if he gets sick of playing second fiddle to a career that pays poverty wages. When you have kids, you’re responsible for them in ways that force you to make different decisions. It can be impossible to do what I’m doing and keep the kids fed and housed. In short, kids change everything.


Sometimes, the same people who say they wish they could do what I’m doing are the ones who skip class to just chill, or who opt not to take rep class because it would conflict with game night, or what have you.

I restrain myself from saying, “You could do what I’m doing if you chose dance over everything else.”

I can’t play this lute! I have rehearsal!

Most of the time, I don’t say it.

I recognize that I wouldn’t have understood, back before I started dancing again and realized, finally, that dancing was the only thing I had ever really wanted to do. Either you step into the studio one day and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would and will shove everything else off the table to keep dancing, or you don’t.

Both ways of being are valid, good, and necessary—but only one usually leads to working in dance.


As humans, we are great at wanting to want things.

I want to want to paint more often.

I just actually want to dance.

This doesn’t need a caption, does it?

As dancers, we face the generally unconsidered, usually unspoken, and often unconscious assumption that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice if you do it to achieve something that gives you joy; that helps you to be a whole.

And yet we recognize the sacrifices of medical students, many of whom pursue their calling for exactly same reason that dancers pursue dance.

As dancers, our calling places tremendous strictures on our time and finances; on our relationships and our personal lives. Just because we’re making art, rather than medicine, that doesn’t make our sacrifice less worthwhile.

Doctors, when they’re skilful and lucky, save lives by cracking open chests to work on hearts.

Dancers, when we’re skilful and lucky, save lives by cracking open hearts.

Sometimes, those lives are our own. Sometimes, they’re other lives.

Regardless, at the end of the day day, the life of a dancer—like any other dedicated life—is one of sacrifice.

Because of that, however, it is also one of transcendence.

Or, well … close enough.

Marching On (In February)

I … think? … I’m done with auditions for the rest of the month, at this point.

Yesterday’s was actually rather a soaring success, except for my usual habit of forgetting some bit of the modern combination and faking my way through that part so I could get to the next bit, then remembering it right after … but there are two thoughts that cheer me up.

First, nobody had the combo down cold. We all missed bits and pieces.

Second, that’s one of the skills they’re looking for at dance auditions. What happens when you fall off the script (because it happens even to top-tier dancers)? Do you freeze like a deer in the headlights, or do you roll on just as if you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to? (Bonus points if you can fake your way through well enough to make it look like everyone else was wrong. I don’t think I accomplished that, yesterday, but I didn’t freeze, either.)

The dance improv bit was, of course, a blast, because I love improv.

The trapeze bit went pretty well despite the fact that apparently whatever demiurge manages music for trapeze auditions believes it’s great fun to mess with mine. I recovered from that and had to improvise a fair bit, but it turned out rather well. And, of course, I didn’t fall off the trapeze this time[1].

  1. Last year’s audition for “Orpheus” is still the one and only time I’ve fallen off a trapeze. It’s also my number-one go-to story to tell when, inevitably, groups of people start reminiscing about stupid moments in their lives. There’s something special about making what seemed, in the moment, a very logical decision to drop myself off a trapeze from ten feet in the air rather than risk breaking my arms. Dancers get it; circus people get it; athletes get it. That said, there are entire hosts of people who think I’m crazy, and they’re probably right—but I’d still do it again in a heartbeat.

Once again, at this audition, they’re not necessarily looking for a polished cirque-style act: they’re looking for expression, musicality, and the ability to command the audience’s attention (and also sound technical elements, obviously). The piece that I showed is one I’m slowly working on set to the Indigo Girls’ “Kid Fears,” and it’s intentionally struggly, so it probably didn’t really hurt anything that I was, in fact, wrestling with my own choreography (much of which I didn’t apparently remember).

The acting part was flat-out awesome, and reminded me how much I actually really like acting, my anxiety about struggling to memorize scripts notwithstanding. Maybe what I really like is cold reading. Who knows? Anyway. I really liked the part they handed me, and ran with it.

Today’s audition was also lovely. Almost nobody showed up, so it was really just three of us mostly doing some improv stuff. I already know that our AD likes the way I improvise, so that was just pure fun. I showed the bits of my piece that I could, given my lack of a partner, and described the idea as a whole. Both our AD and the guy from U of L whose group we’re collaborating with liked it, so it looks like it’s a green light there.

My next audition is a couple of weeks away, and I’m happy to have a bit of a breather. The stretch from the past couple of gigs through now has been pretty intense.

Not that I’m complaining. The other night I was kvetching about some company-related annoyance and suddenly though something like, “Oh, hey. I’m complaining about work because that’s what we do. If it wasn’t a pain in the *** sometimes, it wouldn’t be work.”

And that actually felt, in its own way, rather lovely: like, this is my work, and it’s work that I love. And I think I’m becoming rather good at it. Maybe not world-beatingly good or anything but, you know, serviceable. Which has, to be honest, always been the goal. As a ballet boy I’m smallish and muscly and I bounce like a rubber ball, which puts me squarely in the demi-character camp, and I’m fine with that. Not everyone always has to be the prince (and, honestly, there are a lot of ballets in which the prince never gets to do anything cool outside of the pas de deux). As a circus artist, I’m reliable, adaptable, and versatile: not a specialist, but a generalist, and the kind of generalist who can pinch-hit almost anywhere.

I feel like that’s a good thing to be. I’m not here for glory: I’m here because I love to move; because I can’t not move.

And if sometimes that means I’m stressed out and hounded from pillar to post … well, that’s part of it. That and Auditioning for Poverty are pretty much hallmarks life as a dancer, or indeed as any kind of performing artist, or indeed possibly as any kind of artist.

You do the Work because the Work is what moves you … sometimes more literally than other times.

Everything Is About To Be In Rehearsals

And I am going to explode. Also I am clearly going to need more colors of pens.

Also, modern was good tonight. I’m delighted by the occasional overlap of Modern and L’Ancien’s class, in which Get Taller As You Close is a recurring theme.

Also, it sometimes makes me nervous partnering girls who don’t come from the Wonderful World of Ballet (where everybody understands that it’s better to accidentally grab some side-boob than to drop someone when you’re learning to catch things like a roll down from Bluebird lift or, worse, fish drive from Bluebird lift ). Not that anything bad or weird has happened recently. Just one of those things you ruminate about when you’re a dude and your work life sometimes involves catching girls you don’t know very well.

Also, last night, I got to use pas de chat Italien in a grand-allegro zig-zag, and whilst it proved immensely successful, I’ve decided I should probably work on some other jumps.

I’m not Catholic, but I suppose I could give it up for Lent?

A Good/Bad Weekend

No class Thursday night because BW had a show, and Friday is currently my day off, though in this case I spent it driving D around.

On Saturday, my second class with L’Ancien was profoundly mixed. I got a “Good!” at barre once, which was really nice, but I was a total disaster at jumps. Like, all the jumps.

L’Ancien gave us a warm-up jump combo that went:

first, fifth, changement, entrechats quartre, trois, cinq

Only, for some reason, what I kept actually doing was:

first, entrechat quatre, changement, wtf, oh no, where even am I, jeté battu?

L’Ancien came over after and stood directly in front of me and made me mark through the steps by myself while he talked me through them. I still had trouble with it, but didn’t figure out til I left class that part of the problem was not knowing where I was supposed to close fifth the first time.

I knew the trois was supposed to finish in back, and was constantly doing mental math to try to make that happen. I thought about it in the car, I thought about it whilst making dinner, and I’m still thinking about it.

L’Ancien did preface that exercise with, “This one’s for your brain.” Which it was.

I think I’m going to ask BW to let us do that exercise on Thursday this week. Also to review odd-counted entrechats, which I’ve had to do twice in the past week-and-change, but haven’t done prior to that in more than a year, if memory serves.

I also flailed through grand allegro. It started with chassée, and I realize now that I was doing tombé instead. At one point I even tried to add the chassée, but didn’t subtract the tombé. You guys, what the actual?

I realize now that it may simply have been the opening salvo of whatever illness has knocked me onto the ropes. I am definitely thinking with far less clarity than usual right now.

That said, Saturday’s show, “Death Defying Acts,” was really very good.

DDA was based on a book of poetry, and the author came for the second show. Fortunately, our intrepid director chose not to tell us that the author was in the house the until the show was over.

Even I would’ve found it a bit nerve-wracking to, in the closing performance, interpret a poet’s character knowing that the poet was right there! (It would be totally different if the poet/author was involved in the rehearsal process, of course—the challenge in this context is that of not knowing if you’re fitting their vision, or at least interpreting in a way that they find satisfying.)

After, the poet told me she was in awe of my Zorada, which meant the world to me. I also got a couple of nice mentions in facebag reviews, one of which described me as a “graceful dementor”—which is rather exactly what I was going for.

Here I am, gracefully dementing with my friend AM, who played a very leonine lion.

I also literally didn’t drop the ball (except when I was supposed to) and while I think I’ve actually done the piece better in rehearsal a couple of times, I think my performance was entirely acceptable even by my standards.

Yesterday, I woke up with a sore throat, a headache, and a fever. I opted out of class, but did go to see “Chicago” (a friend of mine gave tickets) which was awesome even with a really terrible headache. We did hightail it out of there after the first curtain call, though, even though the orchestra plays a fun little set after. My head was ready to explode, and I just wanted to buy some DayQuil and lie down.

After that I went home, ate a chicken pot pie, went to sleep, and, excepting a brief period in which I woke up and read for a little while, I stayed asleep until this morning, when I had to get up to take Denis to work. I would probably still be asleep if still being asleep was an option.

D kindly let me sleep until about 15 minutes before we had to leave, which I appreciate. It takes me basically no time to throw on some warm-ups and make a cup of coffee, and that gave me about 45 more minutes of shut-eye while he showered, shaved, and so forth.

I’m skipping class tonight so I won’t give whatever I have to everyone else (and also because I’ll probably be asleep). I’m hoping that my intensive rest plan will have this licked before tomorrow evening’s modern class, or before Wednesday’s evening class and rehearsal at the outside.


You mught be a dancer if you’ve ever paused in the midst of making a sandwich at 11:30 PM[1] to run through some choreography because you accidentally brushed your foot against the floor and suddenly tge waltz turns make perfect sense.

  1. Which you’re making because you returned home from class at 8:30 and promptly forgot to eat dinner

Cue Predictable Spasm Of Self-Doubt

Every time I’m forced to take a break of more than a couple of weeks from class, the re-entry period is an exercise in grinding self-doubt.

First, taking a break almost inevitably involves gaining a couple of pounds–generally a sum that the average person would barely notice, but which is all too visible when you return to the studio and are constantly surrounded once again by people with less than 10% body fat.

I may be all about body positivity, but I’m not very good at applying it to myself. I’m also entirely aware that I have somehow stumbled into working in a field in which the folks who decide who gets hired and who doesn’t tend to lean strongly towards lean bodies. Toss in the fact that, given my build, a little more size in the thighs interferes with my fifth position, and you’ve got a recipe for Dancer Meltdown in 3 … 2 … 1…

Worse, it always takes a few weeks to re-awaken and rebuild the muscles responsible for correct execution of classical technique–and even as people who don’t dance continue to harp on about my “natural” grace, I wind up feeling like a half-grown stirk in a dressage ring until things start working together again.

This week has been all about finding my core, not dancing like a swaybacked wildebeest, and remembering how the hell to do turns[1].

  1. Though, bizarrely, whilst I was not dancing, my chaînés improved dramatically–regarding which, WTactualF?

Predictably, the resultant emotional fallout has been a constant stream of thoughts like WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO AUDITION FOR THINGS?! and I’LL NEVER BE READY!

Me on Thursday, via Wikipedia, link to follow.

So that’s where I am right now. Off to my last week of sandbagging in Saturday beginner class, which I hope will leave me feeling like I can actually dance, and then Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,in which I’ll attempt not to dance like a swaybacked wildebeest before a captive audience of so freaking many.

A Little Gratitude; A Few Thoughts On Working As A Dancer

First, something that it never occurred to me to do.

Every now and then I notice that a blogger I’m following will post something like, “1,000 Subscribers! Wow! Thanks!”

I haven’t done that, or at any rate I don’t think that I have … so, um, to all you amazing people out there who follow this blog for whatever reason? Thanks!

It turns out that are more than 2,000 of you. I find that completely baffling, but not in a bad way. I mean, I’d still be writing this blog even no one subscribed (qv: if a hipster blogs in the wilderness and no one subscribes, does it make a sound?), but I’m weirdly delighted by the idea that somewhere out in the world there are people who, for whatever reason, like the stuff I write enough to add it to their feeds. 

Special thanks to the handful of you who regularly comment. I live at this odd little nexus of the Ballet Blogger Universe, the Mental Health Blogger Universe, and the Bike Blogger Universe (even though I read bike blogs much more I actually ride right now), and there are folks in all three of those worlds who, even though I know some of you only by your blog handles, feel like friends.

It’s a funny old world, but I’m glad I’m living in it now, in the age of the Innertubes. I’m grateful for this ocean of virtual strangers, this sea of compulsive writers and readers who leave open windows into their lives and who stroll around the virtual block glancing in at windows of others like themselves, pausing now and to wave or chat across the virtual flower-boxes.


Bizarrely, the rest of this is really long, so here’s a more tag:

Anyway, onwards.

I’m doing better, lately, mental health-wise. At least on average, anyway. 
I suspect that this comes down, in part, to the protective effects of dancing so freaking much.

Like, it’s definitely physically taxing at times (though still nothing compared to last year’s M-L & Co intensive), but for me that’s a good thing. That means I generally sleep better and, in turn, my mood stays more stable.

Add to that the generally-positive effects of exercise, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being good at something (and getting better at it), and you’ve got a nice recipe for better mood.

That said, I’m still struggling a bit with my schedule.

Split shifts aren’t my ideal—but they’re my reality right now, and are very likely to remain as much well into the foreseeable future.

So I’m working on learning how to adapt[1].

  1. …Just as I’ve learned to begin sentences with the word “So,” even though it makes my inner Prescriptive Grammarian gnash his teeth and howl with rage.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that I need one day each week on which I do not schedule anything; on which I can stay home and clean the house and gather my wits about me in preparation for the next sortie.

In the past, I assumed that eventually I would settle into a stable and predictable kind of working life; one in which most weeks would be essentially the same in terms of schedule, if not in terms of content.

That, however, is not the rule for performing artists these days where I live. Indeed, I suspect that it hasn’t been the rule for performing artists almost anywhere, ever.

Had I realized that I was, in fact, doomed to stumble into a sort of career in the performing arts, I might have twigged on to this earlier.

As a dancer, you rather live by the gig unless you’re attached to a company (even then, you still probably need a side-hustle unless you’re either attached to a major company that can afford to pay a living wage or supported by a generous spouse). That makes for an ever-shifting schedule as projects come online, develop, reach fruition, live out their performance runs, and subside.

Most of us have day jobs (even I have a day job: besides being responsible for the housework, I’m still the web lead for D’s business—he just pays me mostly in ballet tuition), so by necessity rehearsals skew towards evenings.

Classes, meanwhile, skew towards mornings—probably in no small measure due to the fact that our teachers are usually also working dancers, directors, or choreographers with own rehearsal schedules, and many of them teach youth classes in the afternoons.

The result is a split-shift reality in which the middle of day becomes “free time”—by which, of course, I really mean the time when we Do All The Things.

This is convenient when it comes to scheduling haircuts, check-up, and shopping trips.

For me, it’s less convenient where getting other things done is concerned. I don’t change gears very well, and I have serious trouble estimating how long any given job will take.

I’m getting used to it, though. These days, I find that when I get home from class in the morning, if I know I’m heading back out in a few hours, I’d rather knock out a few jobs around the house than sit down and read or write—because inevitably, if I start reading or writing, I’ll have to stop at some inconvenient point. Instead, I mostly read or write after I come home in the evening.

Obviously, my day off is an exception.

On my day off, I like to linger in bed, reading or writing, until I feel like doing other things. Then I get up and get going.


I don’t think I could manage a schedule like this at a normal job. I need more time recover mentally from working in an office or a retail environment, though maybe that wouldn’t be true if I worked in the bowels of some filing department, retrieving things and putting things away with minimal actual interaction and little changing of gears.

Basically, for me, interacting with people burns a lot of matches—unless I’m dancing. This might be because interactions in rehearsal follow simple patterns: you receive choreography, you learn it, you take your corrections, now and then you might ask a question or advance an idea. 

Mostly, you don’t have to talk.

I had a winter-break job at a warehouse once that I thought of as a of live-action video game: 12 hours pper day, 3 days per week (more if I felt like it), orders rolled onto the screen of my scanning gun, and I went on merry quests throughout Warehouse World to fill them. I have a very keen spatial memory, so I was good at it, and I actually liked the work because I never had to sit down and only rarely had to interact with other people. Basically, my day was like one long scavenger hunt, only I got paid for it.    

Maybe I could do something like that on this kind of schedule—but it’s hard to say. I suspect that there’s something specific to doing the thing you love most that makes you more willing and more able to jump through crazy hoops do it[2].

  1. Honestly, nobody would ever do ballet in the first place, otherwise, because ballet is basically the art of jumping through crazy hoops and making it look effortless.

Regardless, I would still need one “downtime” day; a day like today on which I can let my brain off the leash—one on which I might still need get things done, but can do them in my own time.

When I worked with horses, even the best schoolmasters and the prospects in the most stringent training got one day off every week to run around in the field just being horses. They needed that.

So do we. So, very much, do I. 


Some while back I wrote about the weird point at which I realized that I’d come to identify myself as a dancer, and how it had happened sort of under the radar —by the time I realized it, it was already a fait accompli. 

This weekend, it dawned on me that a similar thing has happened again. Without noticing it, I’ve come to think of myself as a working dancer; someone who will to continue to go and audition for things and work in dance for the foreseeable future. Someone for whom even going to auditions in the first place is not actually evidence of madness[3].

  1. Or, at any rate, of any madness other than that common to working dancers in general. What it that us think, “Hey, here’s a difficult and challenging thing that I love to do! How can I make it stressful in addition to being difficult and challenging?”

I mean, there was a definite thrill that came with my first successful audition—I didn’t somehow fail to notice that.

But the intervening period, I’ve evolved a sense of myself as someone who does dance in a kind of official capacity. Like, when someone asks what I do, it no longer feels weird to say, “I’m a dancer.”

Ironically, perhaps, the best tool I have for understanding it is my own Impostor Syndrome. 

It’s still around, of course. I don’t think Impostor Syndrome ever entirely goes away in any field that invites the thought, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!” Rather, one might say that it evolves into a question of degree rather than kind.

As such, I no longer feel like actually working as a dancer is some kind of impossible pipe-dream. I can’t feel like that because I am, in fact, working as a dancer.

Instead, my mind has neatly created a new division; one in which there working dancers and, I don’t know, Working Dancers, and I can call myself one but not the other without laughing. 

I am okay with that division. I suspect that, going forward, it will help to keep me humble. Besides, it afflicts every working dancer I know, including BW, who in a recent conversation about cross-training said something about “all the really amazing dancers,” which T and I found terribly charming because it was so unmistakably clear that he does not number himself in that group.

T and I, of course, very much do number BW among those stars. To us, he is a treasure: to himself, he is just him, warts and all. Not that I’m assuming he has actual warts.  

Such is life. As dancers, we are keenly aware of our own faults. Even Nureyev was: he fell in love first with Eric Bruhn’s precision, because precision was not his own natural strength, and only later with Bruhn himself. 

There is always Impostor Syndrome.

So my Impostor Syndrome no longer makes me afraid that, any day now, I’ll get an email saying, “Oh, sorry, there was a clerical oversight. We didn’t really mean cast you. Thanks for coming to all those rehearsals, though!” 

Instead, it’s more of a sense that when I tell people what I’m doing work-wise, I should qualify myself: “I mean, I’m not in a company. I’m freelancing right now, doing local shows, auditioning for stuff.” It’s the thing that makes me add the qualifier “semi-” before “professional,” still. 

I still feel like I more or less fumbled my way into this work, but I imagine that I’ll keep on fumbling forward now that I’m here. There will be more auditions and more gigs; more split shifts; more grateful kvetching about the weird reality in which one must decide to eat dinner at 3:30 or at 10 and in which one has difficulty identifying one’s co-workers in their street clothes.  

Maybe if I keep at it long enough, I’ll even get to be as good at it as some people seem to think I am. 

Of course, by then, my goal posts will have moved again, along with the locus of my Impostor Syndrome.

For now, though, there is a part of me that still thinks, “Huh, wow,” on the occasion that I find myself thinking about where I hoped to go when I returned to dance, or when I applied to Columbia’s DMT program, or when Dr. K told me that for someone like me, “…The sky’s the limit.”

I’m still trying to talk myself into believing that last one. As a dancer, I still feel so raw and so unfinished and like there’s so much I to learn, ballet-wise at any rate.  

But I’d be lying if I said that those words didn’t act as a kind of springboard. And here I am, in a place I didn’t really believe I would ever find myself until, rather suddenly, I did. 

You Might Be A Dancer If, Continued 

Please ignore the shoes making their break for freedom. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • You have a tumble dryer or a clothesline, but laundry day at your place looks like this anyway
  • And by “laundry day,” you mean “any day that ends in -y”
  • Your bedroom resembles a fire sale at a Sansha outlet 
  • You have so many tights (Footed! Convertible! Capri! Short! Really effing short! Strappy!) and joggers you don’t know where to put them all, but only two pair of regular trousers
  • Which you never wear because ugh
  • You are more than typically grateful to the inventors of the Utilikilt
  • You miss pockets, but not enough to make you wear regular clothes(1)  
  1. Besides, they make hoodies with zippered pockets now. 

In case you’re wondering, when a dancer and an aerialist love each-other very much, the result is:

  • A closet like the one above
  • A ridiculous collection of matching tights that the dancer almost never wears because deep in his black-feathered heart of hearts Serious Ballet Boy Is Serious (…but only about ballet). 
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