Return from Plum Village

Hi everyone!

Many of you may not be aware, but I’ve been off at a meditation retreat for the past three months.

I realize this is pretty unusual for us in the western world (though not in Asia), but I’m very happy to have done it. A meditation retreat at Plum Village was one of those things that fit in neatly with all of the reasons I detailed in my previous posts about leaving the world of professional dance.

This is going to be a kind of mid-year analysis with myself to see how things are going. Sorry, this post might be a bit self-indulgent… but I thought it might be an interesting exercise to revisit the four reasons I highlighted for leaving the dance world and to see where my life fits into those ideas five months later. Think of it as a reality check.

Continue reading “Return from Plum Village”

Another perspective on leaving the ballet world: Chloe Shelby

So, I just the left the world of dance. And you’ve heard my story. But there are lots of other stories out there, often untold to the dance world. Or worse, misunderstood. When we are involved in an endeavor that has required such dedication to reach our level, it can be hard to understand why someone would give all that up.

This is Chloe Shelby’s story. She came up through the school of Oregon Ballet Theatre when I was in the company. She was one of the top students in her class, technically skilled, and smart to boot. I remember watching her in class and onstage and thinking “Man, will I ever have that kind of control?”

However, once she joined the professional world, it turned out that Chloe’s talent wasn’t enough to keep her going. This is not to say that she didn’t have the skills! Even with pure talent, the ballet world is tough – and without an inner fire and devotion to the work, it can be incredibly draining. As she explains, the professional dance world was entirely different from the one where she had been formed as a dancer, and her drive to continue hit a dead end.

But her future is no less bright because of it. Leaving the dance world can lead to so many different opportunities, and Chloe was able to find that inner fire elsewhere.

Continue reading “Another perspective on leaving the ballet world: Chloe Shelby”

Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer (part 2)

This is the continuation of a previous blog post. If you’d like to navigate your way there, click here.


Number 3: I wanted to learn how to build good habits, and I wanted to create.

Now, this may seem like a cop-out to say that I needed to quit ballet to learn how to build good habits. I know many ballet dancers who are intensely devoted to the work and focused on their craft. They do hours of extra exercise during the day, watch ballet videos during their downtime, come to class an hour early to stretch and prepare.

But I wasn’t ever like that. I was good at being efficient. I did the work that I needed to, and avoided doing anything extra on my personal time. I made sure to fulfill others’ expectations at work: I was professional, knew the choreography, and I stayed focused during class and rehearsal. And with that I not only got by, but I did relatively well. Yet there was a resistance in me to any work that went over and above my work in the studio.

Continue reading “Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer (part 2)”

Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer

This might be the most personal blog post that I write to date, but it’s something that’s a long time coming (apologies for being away from the blog for so long!). I’ve been avoiding writing this post because it feels like a behemoth of a post, I’m a bit out of writing shape, and I don’t want to release something half-ass-edly. For those of you that know me, I didn’t want to simply tell you all that I had quit and force you to guess why (and receive all sorts of crazy comments); I wanted to share my decision along with the detailed reasoning behind it. This decision was not an easy one to make.

So… I’ve decided to quit being “a professional ballet dancer.”

For at least this year, I will not perform in any shows with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo or any other well-established professional company. Call it a gap year.

Why would I ever step away from the lifestyle that has given me beautiful moments, increased my status in society, and led me through my adult life to the place where I am now? This is a question that I too, have been asking myself. It turns out to be a rather hard question to answer.

Continue reading “Why I quit my job as a professional ballet dancer”

Cora Bos-Kroese on the genius of Jiri Kylian – and being a part of his legacy

Here you are, in part 2 of our conversation. In the first part, Cora shared what she looks for when running an audition for a Kylian ballet that she’s setting. If you missed part 1, check it out here.

In this second section, we talk about her relationship with Jiri Kylian, the way it shaped her knowledge of dance (and her life), and what makes his work continue to inspire and challenge her.


 

Continue reading “Cora Bos-Kroese on the genius of Jiri Kylian – and being a part of his legacy”

5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer

What is it like to be a dancer? What do we strive for? What do we fear?

In my previous article, I wrote about my perspective of the pursuit of perfection in a ballet dancer’s life, and about what that might entail. I got a great response from all of you, but it made me wonder: “How would others describe their motivation for what they do? What do they see as their ultimate goal in being a dancer, and what might be some of their personal obstacles in the way of progressing towards that goal?”

So I decided to reach out to several friends of mine – each in different places in their life, different stages of their dancing career, and different kinds of ballet companies – to get an idea of just how our goals and obstacles in this dancing life might differ, and to see how they might compare.

Turns out there’s plenty of common ground in their answers. Let’s meet my contributors: Continue reading “5 perspectives on the life of a professional ballet dancer”

Corporal questions: Ask me anything

Hi everyone!

The past few months have been an enjoyable exploration of putting down into writing the thoughts and the thought process that I go through during my days in the studio. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have.

But I realized, there’s just one thing missing: a two-way conversation. Continue reading “Corporal questions: Ask me anything”

On dancing and the pursuit of perfection

Not too long ago, a friend aptly noticed that I often refer to our goal as dancers as “reaching as close as we can to perfection.” He wanted me to unpack that statement. What does that even mean? Are we talking about technical attainment? Power or finesse? Maybe something else?

As Steven put it, we’re transitional beings… we’re of this world, and whether we like it or not, perfection is not an option. Such a thing is an illusion.rainbow-background-1149610__180

But having a personal idea of perfection does present a way forward. It is the needle on our compass. What are we reaching for in ballet if not an ideal?

The fact that perfection is unreachable doesn’t mean that our work is meaningless. No, we’ll never reach that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but we will see many things on our journey. Continue reading “On dancing and the pursuit of perfection”

VIDEO: Souffle Provisoire

Last year I had the honor of working with a close friend and dance maker, Johanna Henritius, and several other good friends, to make a dance film. The concept of this 10-minute video came to her in a dream, and in it she manages to focus on the human elements of dance. This is dance, but with much less of a focus on technicality or acrobatics. This is about capturing true emotions, and not the artifice or bravura we often see.

Three of us in the film dance full-time with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, so it was tough to fit in the time to film (much less rehearse!), but we made the time we could and attempted to produce something honest and touching.

As a first film project, I’m extremely proud of Johanna and what she achieved through this project, and I wanted to share it with any and all of you that haven’t experienced it yet.

Here’s the teaser:

 

If this intrigues you and you have 1o minutes to spare, check out the whole video at her website. I highly recommend it: http://henritius.com/film.html

Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism

A few months ago, Sports Illustrated released an article entitled: “How a book on stoicism became wildly popular at every level of the NFL.” This article detailed how The Obstacle is the Way, a book about the benefits of applying the ancient greek philosophy of Stoicism to life in the modern world, has spread throughout the NFL, including football players and coaches alike.

I read this book last year, and I found it to be full of wisdom and good advice.

This ancient approach has implications for anyone to live their lives in an optimistic, non-cynical way, but it’s especially relevant for those in a world where every little improvement makes a difference. Practice makes perfect, yes, but only with the right mindset.

If this approach can help the football world, I figure we in the dance world have something to learn from it as well. Even if the two are worlds apart in the kinds of people they attract, both worlds are part of the human enterprise of pursuing perfection, both mental and physical.

Stoicism is a philosophy that understands that while perfection may be unreachable, there are ways to reach a little bit closer. Step 1: Get out of your own way. Continue reading “Why the ancient greeks are the best ballet dancers: a brief look at Stoicism”