Sharing the struggles and celebrating the triumphs of being African American in the ballet world and beyond.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where's My Spotlight?

 It’s never a good feeling when a dancer is not selected for a desired role on casting day. I have seen many disenchanted young dancers carry this disappointment into the next performance. However, I often remind them that the joys of performing are not confined to soloist and principal roles. The love of this wonderful art should not end when the spotlight leaves you.

Some of my fondest performances were less intense ballets as a member of the corps.The pressure of a solo performance, or more intense role, was removed and I was free to become a part of an uninhibited and collective experience.  I sometimes used less spotlighted roles to experiment with hair, make-up, varied technical approaches and even experimenting with a new pointe shoe. In each role I would also search for moments of inspiration that would allow me to get lost in the composition and choreography so that I could make the performance my own. My love of dancing was not pegged to the amount of attention I received. Although, I am keenly aware of dancers desire to feel rewarded and appreciated by being cast in premier roles. Casting often seems like a vindication of our efforts. However, we should not let disappointment rob us of the joy that comes with being totally connected with our passion.  The focus should be on how we perform, not what we perform—we should seek to immerse ourselves in every role, and in so doing, make it indelibly our own. 

I, like many young dancers, would have given anything to perform certain ballets, and I have certainly had my share of casting upsets-the occasional ballet dream became more frequent and vivid during these times. However, I can look back on all my performances and say I made the most of each one, whether a proud soloist or free-spirited member of the corps. I didn’t let casting steal my joy of performing—and neither should you. After all, you never know who may be watching.

Stay inspired!