“I see too many dancers littered on the road along the way to that one dancer on stage. I’m not saying everyone should be on stage, but that everyone should have the tools to get to that stage.” -Luc Vanier
Today in my Ballet Grad-class we did not dance. Instead we just spoke about our prejudices and thoughts, habits and life. A resounding change came to me when my professor said the quote above. We had just been talking about all the girls who dance until they are 16 and then never enter a class again in their lives. They don’t go on because someone has told them they aren’t good enough to continue, or that it’s too hard, or society says it’s something you do as a child, not an adult. Why?
A lot of students do things in high school that they will never do again. Why is that? It’s as if we were to read and write until we’re 18 and never use those skills again, never type something out, never read a book. That seems ridiculous right?
We are taught the skills to read and write as a child and are expected to continue using and growing those skills later in life. Why is that not the case with everything? We traditionally do not continue music, theatre, art, dance or sports unless we “excel” in them. Why do you have to be excellent to continue doing something? Why do you have to be the perfect ballerina to continue ballet later in life? Why do you have to play a sport professionally in order to validate playing that sport as you grow older? We need to give our students the tools in education, in music, dance, theatre and physical education for them to continue their education after they leave us. Not only that, we also have to encourage them! I fall into this trap, I do not encourage my students to go into theatre in college and beyond. I am happy when they decide to study further, but I have never told someone to study theatre. I have made a conscious effort not to. We have a stigma that artists lead hard lives… my friends are proof of that life. But we do not need to fully commit ourselves to the art form or sport to continue our education and enjoyment of it. We need to allow ourselves to be at the level we are in the sport or art and enjoy it for what it is and how we feel.
So, to all my former and future theatre students, I apologize for not fully encouraging you to pursue your love and education in Theatre. In whatever job you have now, please allow yourself to enjoy theatre as you did as a student. If that is just attending the theatre again, so be it. But you could start taking classes again, for the fun of it. Or audition for a play, for the fun of it. Remember the emotions you had on or back stage, and allow those feelings and emotions to continue to educate you and inspire you. Keep allowing theatre in your life. Please don’t give it up after you leave me.
And to my students whose passions lay elsewhere, don’t give up on those either. Continue swimming and singing, playing basketball and the viola. Just because you “grow-up” does not mean you have to give up a part of your life that brought you joy when you were younger.