After spending a few years in a regional or non-touring ballet company, it’s easy to forget that there are a multitude of different companies and dancers out there. We are occasionally reminded by old friends and social media, but aside from galas and summer benefits, professional dancers rarely get the chance to mingle and collaborate. We sort of live in our own worlds, in different cities, performing on our own stages, dealing with the typical ups and downs of ballet company life. We hardly ever post negatively about our jobs, what with artistic directors on Facebook these days and networking being an essential part of our careers. From the outside eye everyone looks fabulous and perfectly happy, getting married, getting promotions, working with awesome choreographers and having a blast. The truth is, dancers are fighting for higher salaries, job security, and union benefits. They’re dealing with injuries, dancing too much and dancing too little. It’s important to maintain perspective in a craft that can easily disillusion you. The comradery of other dancers can remind us that we aren’t alone, that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and that sometimes things are as wonderful as they look on Instagram.
Ballet West’s National Choregraphic Festival launched in May. Four other companies joined us over a course of two weekends to present new works, in a gorgeous theater in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. What will hopefully become a Sundance film festival for dance, the festival is an incredible opportunity for dancers and audiences alike. Salt Lake is an ideal destination in May (except it snowed this year), to attract outsiders and make locals proud. It’s a gorgeous pristine city with a growing love of arts and culture. Audiences are hungry for performance art and rarely get the chance to see other top tier dance companies perform. Ballet West embraced the dancers of Sarasota Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre and Pacific Northwest Ballet with open arms. Many familiar faces, the dance world is surprisingly rather small, and several new ones took company class together and shared the stage for a run of three performances each weekend. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with other dancers, and to empower and support each other. Discussions about choreographic processes, summer plans, AGMA negotiations and daily company life were frequent. There is a bond that exists between dancers that doesn’t form between co-workers of many other professions. The difficult training, long studio hours and required vulnerability create a mutual understanding between people from so many different walks of life. It’s rare and it is wonderful, and your dancer friends truly do become like family. So remember when you’re ever feeling alone, or disheartened, or bursting with exciting news, it takes a few to tango…..my pointe exactly.