My friend Jonah Wilkins is a professional dancer and choreographer, currently at le Moulin Rouge in Paris. His road to glamor and glory included dancing previously at the famous Las Vegas ‘Jubilee’ Show. Look at those bodies. C’est magnifique, non?
- Hey Jonah, remember our ‘ballet club’: ABT’s La Bayadere? Where DID we find that garland!? haha
Dance is often praised as an activity that trains discipline into a person until it’s practically second nature. This is not only due to the rigor of the training, the hours, the mental strength required to handle pressure, competition, the aspects that those who don’t dance understand and comprehend. After all, other jobs require plenty of training and ability to handle crazy insane irrational cruel bosses….I mean, ‘pressure’.
One reason which high-level of dance, especially on a professional level, is respected for its disciplinary impact is because of the obvious aesthetic pressure on the body and the beauty requirements even beyond what that beautiful physical body can do in terms of skill.
We’ve already talked about how perfection doesn’t really exist in movement, or shouldn’t. But what about in the image of the dancer him or herself?
Most people care at least some of the time about how we present ourselves, how we look. And if we are all honest with ourselves, most people would probably change some things. It’s a normal challenge in our culture, here in the US at least, to not feel confident everyday. Dance, by nature, asks for that confidence every single day. The art of presentation means placing yourself under the spotlight, the microscope, the mercy of the watchful eyes who will either scrutinize, adore, examine you and all of your flaws, your excellence, you. And this is daunting.
The importance or standard of the image depends on the show and the company of course. And the notion of sacrifice varies person-to-person. It is up to you.
This is a letter written to the dancers of the Jubilee show from their director, the famous Fluff LeCoque, shared with me by Jonah. It was posted backstage and a few dancers said they reread these words nightly, a reminder of accountability.
If you are a professional dancer, your body is your tool everyday even in days out of the studio or off the stage. In this aspect, we never leave our jobs. We don’t get a break. We take off the shoes and the costumes but we still inhabit the tool that will carry us to success or failure the next day when we return to the mirror, the costume fitting, the scrutiny of our directors.
“It is up to you” does not just mean the actions. It means the value judgement of what do you want for yourself. For us dancers, it means the opportunity to perform, a contract, a body that works the way it needs to. When discipline is understood as a necessary part of what is valued or desired out of life, it doesn’t seem like such a punishment or challenge. Well, ok, most of the time.
Discipline provides the freedom to follow a dream to actual success. Otherwise, it will always just be an unrewarding struggle.
- A normal day for a dancer when you aren’t Misty Copeland
- A normal day for a DanceEdu Grad Student in New York– Did you finish your paper on Misty Copeland yet?
I think if it were me, I wouldn’t read this letter nightly because frankly, the words ‘caloric intake’ make me feel terrifically inadequate. Discipline should be an empowering choice, not a mandate of terror. It, like the dancer’s body, is a tool to get what you want. I would just stick to these five,
‘It is up to you’.