As the days have ticked by during the months of this Pandemic, I’ve certainly had my brain full of plenty of things to worry about, just like all of you. For me at this particular time in my life, I worry mostly about my almost-grown kids and what their life is going to be like for the next year, I worry about my husband going out on the front lines for work, I worry about my friends who are unemployed right now, and I worry about my clients in all facets of the Arts, who I talk to everyday and who have no idea how long they have to endure.
But the one other nagging worry, and feeling of helplessness, and sadness, is really going all the way back to my artistic roots as a dancer. Because for all the creativity, the zoom meetings, the moving everything to the “virtual” – there is no way for ballet dancers to do this well. Because the point (pun intended) is for dancers to be TOGETHER.
When you dance together, either partnering with one person, or dancing with 16 other dancers in the corps, the energy is built on the people in the room. It’s not simply the hands on ability for the teacher to correct and see you up close, but because of the sheer joy and harmony of moving together through space. You are literally BREATHING on each other. Let’s face it, there is no way to dance together 6 feet apart, and WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO? Not to mention moving through space in an expansive studio where you feel like you can fly. You can’t do that in your living room, no matter how hard you try. (Well, without breaking a lamp.)
I am literally flooded weekly by the hundreds of Zoom classes and virtual classes that are offered now at ballet studios all around me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, and even some brave ballet schools with students attending in person this summer, standing literally acres apart at the barre in sterile studios with masks on… and honestly, my heart breaks a little bit every single time. I can only imagine what a young dancer must be feeling- your years as a dancer are fleeting, there is no time to be lost, you don’t ever have enough time in this life at your peak as a performer. I fully admit that I would have absolutely lost my shit at age 16 or 17 if a global pandemic had come along and taken away my community, my world, my ability to work together, to BE together cohesively with my fellow dancers- my ballet family.
So, to the ridiculous levels of creativity that everyone in this world is challenged to rise up to, the endless zoom ballet classes, the dancers putting panels of Marley on their kitchen floors so they can continue to train and do their barre work and put their pointe shoes on without breaking an ankle on waxed linoleum, I bow down to you. And especially to my friends who are ballet teachers – I know you have learned all kinds of new technology and stepped so far out of your comfort zone just to endure this, (and are probably hating most every minute of it) I feel you and I applaud you.
And to the ballet students and professional dancers, I am rooting and cheering so hard for the day that you can feel the air from someone else’s movement brush by you as you move through Grand Allegro, when you have to lean back at the barre because someone’s Grand Battement comes just a little bit too close to your face, when you can grab the hand of your partner, look into their eyes and feel their sweat, their energy, their grit, and their passion. When you can BREATHE together. The same air, in the same room.
This. is. Ballet.