Recently Stephen Petronio wrote an article in Dance Magazine, and I loved something he wrote, ”A Plie is just an exercise. How you execute it will determine the difference between a mundane career and a magical one.” I loved what he said because I talk a lot about instilling passion in movement, when I teach. I want and insist that my students show me the passion they feel for dance even when they are doing a plie at the barre. As performers its important.
This thought from Mr. Petronio got me to thinking about something slightly different though, “What is success in Dance? What is a magical career? I did not have a magical career by my own standards, my former ballet teacher’s standards, and most likely a lot of other people’s standards either. Was I a good dancer, even a passionate one? Many people tell me so, however, I didn’t make of myself what I could have due to the lack of ability to take rejection with a grain of salt, mostly. That hindered me from going for it, and “making it” into a big name company. I blamed it on my height and slightly bigger more muscular thighs in the past. The reality is that being told I was too short a number of times made my self esteem slip, and the ability to keep going back for more rejection, something I couldn’t do. On the other hand, I did work as a dancer despite myself. I worked mostly as a soloist, and I did get to dance in some fabulous choreography, and I did dance in front of thousands of people at a time. So, some people might say I was a fabulous success, while others might say that because I didn’t have a regular paying job, or dance with ABT or on TV or Broadway, that I was not much of a success.
Here’s my point. Over time our ideas and definitions of success change. I am happy to say that now, nearing my 50th year, I feel like a complete success, and guess what? My success has come in a small town, struggling to stay afloat as a studio owner in a culture and place that doesn’t honor western arts much, and where the poverty level is high. My success has come by way of my teaching, directing, producing, and mentoring teens and young adults in this small town. I have a popular studio, with about 15 boys and men taking ballet along with other forms of dance. When you have that many boys taking ballet in a town of 50,000, THAT is a success. When you run a studio that takes kids off the streets and gives them a cool place to hang out and gives them the chance to fulfill a passion in their lives, THAT is a success. When you give interview after interview for the newspapers in your town, and everyone knows who you are when you go about your business in town, THAT is a success. It is not the success I originally dreamed of when I was 16 for sure, and it may not be the same success that others in the dance world have, but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how you see yourself. If you see yourself as successful, then by all means you are!