Prehistoric Arithmetic; Dance in the Media

Nobody loves a big ginger New Yorker willing-to-turn-himself-into-a-walking-McChunker Meal the way that I do. That’s right, I’m talking about documentary film maker extraordinaire, Morgan Spurlock.

I was really excited when I knew he was going to feature a ballet dancer in his new series, “A Day in the Life’(who would it be, who would it be!?)

Misty Copeland- the first African American soloist with American Ballet Theatre.

Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s stunning and amazing and all that jazz. But I wish he had chosen a different dancer, nay, a different company to highlight.







“Prejudice was defined as a kind of prehistoric arithmetic, in which some people counted and others did not”-

Karen Russell



Misty’s day included: getting up, showed her putting on makeup, being chauffeured to a dance school to talk with other young dancers of color, then meeting with her ‘producer’ or ‘agent’ or someone at some cafe (not ordering anything I might add) to talk about her new dancewear line, and then finally going to rehearsal in the middle of the day. End of episode.

No second job. No stressful bills. No annoying roommates. Did not show aches and pains and getting yelled at in rehearsal, Etcetra.

Now I know she’s a dancer with one of the best companies in the world, and therefore is actually paid much better for her actual dance work than the rest of us. So maybe she doesn’t need a second job that wears her out, or is a big enough celebrity that she has the privilege of being chartered about by a driver. And I’m not saying a dancer of her calibre doesn’t deserve some star treatment. But my gripe is, that this isn’t how I would say 97% of successful dancers live and I don’t appreciate the romaticizing of the life.

It isn’t all motivational talks, and design, and then a little dancing.

With every company I’ve danced with (not including the very small companies, especially those in New York where most dancers it seems, dance with multiple companies)  and for most working dancers that I know, life looks more like this:

Wake Up…Early. Usually some kind of workout/pilates/yoga/before going to the studio.

Technique class usually around 9. Rehearse all day.

Incredibly fast shower and go to your second job, which is usually either teaching or working in a restaurant or bar. On your feet. Get home somewhere around 10:30 or 11.

NOt that it isn’t a wonderful life, but it isn’t an easy life.

THat was what my days were usually like, I will have to ask some friends in other reputable companies. I am curious to know if that (basically a 9-5ish full day of dance)  is how companies like BalletMet in Columbus Ohio, or Ballet Arkansas or Joffrey Ballet in Chicago operate. That’s how it was done in Louisville, and in my mind, there isn’t a better company out there.

I hate to say it, but I think Mr. Spurlock missed the mark on this one. He’s clearly better at capturing the nature of the processed-foods cheeseburger.

On a happier note of ballet pushing boundaries, congratulations to David Hallberg– also of ABT- who is the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, where it really is true, they DON’T want our kind.


7 thoughts on “Prehistoric Arithmetic; Dance in the Media

  1. Hahaha, those Russians don’t want our kind, do they! When I was dancing with Tulsa Ballet II my life definitely fit your description. A couple friends of mine worked at Starbucks at 5am and then again after rehearsals were over…they may have actually lived at Starbucks. The most frustrating part was we never knew when rehearsal would be over, so how can you plan a schedule for a second job? We might be there 9-6 working out butts off, or we might get out at 3pm (but didn’t schedule a second job that night because we expected to be at the studio til 6). The most frustrating part was when we were just sitting there watching other dancers (“understudying,” but if someone was injured they more often took a second dancer out to even the corps before they put us in) until late into the evening, thinking, “I could be working a job that would allow me to afford my rent if I wasn’t forced to sit here doing nothing.” A lot of the other girls I worked with in the second company at Tulsa didn’t have other jobs because their parents financed them. Thank god, because honestly some of their moms even helped finance me (“Here is $100 for letting my daughter stay with you for a week.” Or “I hear you are struggling to make ends meet and you have cockroaches in your apartment. I feel bad for you, take this $100” …Yes! Food money! And it happened twice for me! Lucky me!! Though it does make you feel pretty pathetic to know that you actually NEED charity like that to survive). Most 1st company dancers at Tulsa didn’t seem to have second jobs or if they did they were teaching because they wanted to. They weren’t rich but it seems they made plenty of money to live off of. These people worked hard but they loved it and they were compensated for it. I think I would have loved it too if I had “made it” and could have afforded to only dance.

  2. Wow. Can we just delete that last comment which was the terrible, mindless rambling of somebody still lying in bed on a Saturday morning! I said “the most frustrating part” two times…so which was most frustrating? I think I need some coffee…

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