The Transition Stage
The transition into being a professional dancer is a perplexing one. It’s kind of like Britney’s “not a girl, not yet a woman” but you don’t sing about it while wearing bell bottoms and standing on a cliff. Or maybe you do – to each his own. But when it comes to describing your current state, it can get a bit tricky. On forms that ask for your occupation, do you put the side job that actually pays your bills, or do you put PROFESSIONAL DANCER written beautifully and proud as a peacock?
What constitutes being a professional dancer anyway? I guess that answer is also “to each his own.” For me, I figured I could properly title myself a professional dancer when I finally got paid to dance. Well I’ve done that now, and I’m holding onto that title with both hands.
Anxious and jittery. That’s how my body and mind had felt for over a year. I don’t mean I was literally shaking everywhere I went; I simply mean I greedily wanted more than what I currently had. I get that way when I don’t perform for long periods of time, and it had been about a year and a half since I had last stepped on stage. It was the longest I had gone without performing in front of an audience in my 17 years of dancing. And yes, I suppose you perform for yourself every time you dance, but there’s something about being on a stage that makes my life a little brighter; a little happier; a little bit more fulfilled.
I’m so glad that my “firsts” in NYC have been memorable. My first job? World’s largest candy store I had to audition for. First Christmas away from family? Mexican take-out and A Christmas Story. First professional gig? Allegra Kent‘s “Ballerina Swan”.
We had a cast of four – three dancers and a dancer/puppeteer who made a swan puppet look elegant. We worked for a company called Making Books Sing that brings children’s books to life. We took Allegra Kent’s book about Sophie the swan who wants to become a dancer and transformed it into a show. It was choreographed by my first dance teacher, so if that doesn’t show how life can come full-circle, I don’t know what can. Allegra (can I call her Allegra?) would randomly pop in and out of rehearsals, and she came to many of the shows. A bit starstruck, it took me off-guard how thankful, supportive, and hilarious she was. She was so appreciative to see her book come to life, but we were a bit nervous about performing in front of her. However, she never told us that we fell out of a turn or our line wasn’t perfect; she simply thanked us over and over. And when we realized that flowers were being thrown at us at our last performance, nobody could stop laughing when we realized it was Allegra holding an H&M bag, standing to make sure she reached all of us with at least one pink carnation.
It might not have been the grandest of theaters or the biggest of productions. And it was even me doing (gasp!) ballet. But though it was my first, it won’t be my last. For the little girl whose goal it was to perform in New York, she can mark that off her list. For the big girl whose dream it is to perform for thousands in beautiful theaters around the world… well, she’s still working on that one. But she plans to check that one off her list, too.