I hate team sports because in everything from kickball to red rover, I was frequently the last one picked. One nice thing about dance is never having to suffer that unwanted wallflower moment. If you are cut during a company audition, you can tuck tail and run while everyone else is busy forcing their turnout. Casting is done behind closed doors so no one needs to hear the teachers and directors saying, ‘We can’t put her in those costumes, she’s too fat!’ or ‘Oh man, where do we stick THAT train wreck?‘ No one wants to be the last chosen, the runt of the litter, the dregs of the tea-cup.
I also hated team sports because I knew that inevitably, the ball would come in my direction, I would flail or flinch in some cowardly way, and let the rest of the team down. I have a very distinct memory of a crush-worthy boy in eighth grade shouting, ‘You idiot!!!‘ at me in gym class for my attempt to spike a volleyball- which looked more like swatting at a swarm of fruit flies. It’s not the idea of failing in front of others that bothers me- if that were the case I’d never have the courage to perform or go to an audition. I just never liked the idea that someone else’s success or fate was tied so closely to my abilities. I always felt that as a dancer, I was only responsible for myself.
As I’ve become older and stuck around this profession I have come to see it as a business, one that will either sink or swim. Unfortunately, it seems that most sink or at best, stay barely afloat. As we fight for opportunities, recognition, respect we all have to pull our own weight and help each other where and whenever possible. The question becomes, where does the team end and the opposition begin? Who is on my side and who is not?
Everyone knows about the competition in a typical dance environment between coworkers for the best parts, those moments downstage in the spotlight. Everyone wants to have some kind of title or role, the BEST turner, the BEST extension, the skinniest- the MVP in some sense. In the cess pool of comparison, even fellow company members might be seen as an enemy to a personal sense of victory or failure. What isn’t often mentioned is competition between companies.
In the end, I believe that creators of quality art are on the same team. The opposition is not fellow artists, it is a lack of respect or funding or interest in art. The great and I suppose terrible thing about art and proving our quality is the fact that there is no score card, no real measurable proof of worth. You could say number of tickets sold proves great artistic stature but how many paintings did Van Gogh sell in his lifetime? zero. Though he was cooped up with the sunflowers for most of his life, with no team to help support and promote him.
Art is subjective, and what is ‘best’ to some is total you-know-what to others. I tire of hearing artists claim themselves as best over other groups when best doesn’t exist. It will be a sad day when there isn’t enough room for all of the hard-working, talented artists. If you’re the only company in town then what a monopoly on the dance market you’ll have but I still don’t think anyone will buy a ticket just because you’re the only option. Therefore it looks desperate and childish to do anything to put other companies down. I think people come to shows because they’re fans of your style, or one of the dancers, or the choreographer. But imagine if we all supported each other, inspired our audiences to go to our ‘competitors’ shows, and raised the interest in and exposure to art of varying mediums in a bigger way than our singular self or company. We can actually all win. The lack of respect from within our own walls, within the circle of artists is actually the weakest link. I guess I have a team-mentality after all.
To clarify, with this post I AM NOT saying ‘promote me, support me!’ Well, maybe I am. But I am also saying, if you are a talented artist, please let me know when you have a show and what I can do to help.
Throw me the ball. I promise to catch it. I also promise to throw it back.
Celebrating the weakest link in my leotard collection as promised- the last one I would ever chose to wear if I had any other clean options. I’m just part of the variety of dance in this picture, from classical ballet to modern to bad 80’s flashdance. Just call me the MVP- Most Vulgar Poser- of this beloved team.