How did you get into that?
November 13, 2010
Twenty-five feet in the air, strategically wrapped up in a long strip of fabric, waiting for my musical cue to fall from the ceiling. I’m wearing a gold unitard, my hair is in a mohawk, the light performs its own dance reflecting off the glitter covering my body. The audience is silent, they can feel something dramatic is about to happen. ... 5, 6, 7, 8... I unravel 20 feet in two seconds, hooking one knee over the fabric to stop my fall. The anticipatory tension of the audience released in an audible gasp, a mixture of both excitement and recognition of danger. An evil grin forms on my face, but only because that’s my character. I am playing Zap in “Zip Zap Zoom,” an aerial dance show based around fictional superheroes. As I exit the stage a young girl in the audience whispers loudly, “Mommy, is that the villain??”
When I say I’m an aerial dancer people always want to know, How did you get into that??
I’ve been a professional dancer for 12 years - modern, ballet, jazz, and contemporary and for the past four years, aerial. My relationship with dance has always been like a romantic love affair navigating through passion, uncertainty, glorification, and disappointment.
Early on my commitment was fickle at best. Dancing is fun! I’m bored. I feel alive! Pointe shoes make my feet hurt. I might be good at this! I’m obviously not that good at this. What about other activities, do I really have to choose? That was high school.
It should be of no surprise that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted in high school. Senior year people always asked, Well, where are you going to college?
I was playing eenie meenie miney moe with colleges, but when I finally landed on the answer it seemed even less clear! No gut feeling of relief nor disappointment illuminating what I really wanted! I never play for the answer I land on, I play for the reaction to the answer. Now what?
I really wanted them to ask, So, what do you want to do next? Aha, the missing piece! Eenie meenie wasn’t showing me all the options or rather, I was playing with the wrong question. Had I been given the latter question, my answer would have been more like, Well I don’t know, maybe I should move to New York City and take dance classes and find a company to perform with, or I could dance on a cruise ship, travel the world, be young and independent! I’m 18 the possibilities are endless! But with no guidance nor encouragement towards such wild fantasies, I attempted to fuse the practical with my dreams. So, I went to college and emerged 4 years later with a BFA in Choreography and Performance in Dance.
“If you can be anything else, a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a physical therapist, anything else at all, and be happy, do it, because otherwise it will never be worth the struggles that come with being a dancer.” This comment came from Jacques Heim, a choreographer for Cirque du Soleil and the Artistic Director of Diavolo. Despite his success at that point in his career, he spoke from experience, warning anyone interested in pursuing a career in dance of the physical exhaustion it would entail, the lack of solid income, and even sometimes, a lack of respect for dance as a profession. It wasn’t until I met Jacques and worked with Diavolo when I was 25 that the dots all connected and I realized that I didn’t choose dance, it chose me. There is something about dance that’s essential to the core of my being and I genuinely can’t live without it.