“…if you support the arts, I thank you. You have made a difference.”
Behind every great man there is a great woman, right? (or vice versa, of course) Well, behind every great arts organization, there is a great community. This past weekend my ballet company, The Charlottesville Ballet, hosted a “Hard Hat Gala”, an opportunity to showcase our newly gained space and to request the help of our community to finance a vision for the future.
The event was very well attended and attracted both new and familiar faces. After a sampling of dance performances, staff joined with attendees to toast to the new space. The response was tentative at first, but by the time we finished, glasses had been raised many times. Everyone had a story to share and had felt an impact that they were grateful for. As a dancer, I am constantly working on my craft, and as a teacher I am forever trying to help my students improve and learn, so it is a breath of fresh air to hear such appreciation and love. It also offers humility-yes, we are the vessels of movement, the top tier of the dance community, but without the strong support of those around us, our vision cannot be met.
A ballet performance is simply not a ballet performance without the glitz and glam. A pas de deux (or trois or quatre) is not in its full glory without costuming and a good dose of dramatic lighting. Although I have done a good share of my own sewing (I actually fully assembled two tutus of my own at the age of 16 at an intensive…this led to quite the appreciation for the costuming world), there are some things I dare not manage when it comes to costumes. And the list of responsibilities goes on and on once you step backstage. From the stage manager to the lighting crew, the sound board operator to the backstage volunteers, we do not stand alone as professional dancers. We need these people. They are a key part of our success, and without them the show does not go on.
We can talk a big game about production and the essentials for a dazzling show, but be ready to put your money where your mouth is. Before the music rights are obtained, the theater rented, backdrops hung, and a crew hired, everything must be financed. A ballet company cannot rely on ticket sales alone-there are countless donations, grants, and sponsorships that keep it afloat. It is the relationship with our loyal supporters that ensures that we are able to hit the stage, put on a show, and be the performers that we are. Whether it be the support of family and friends, individuals, companies, or the community itself, donations and monetary support are essential to the lifeblood of a ballet company.
“…behind every great arts organization, there is a great community.”
Finally, I must pay tribute to the students. While there are obvious monetary benefits to having a school or academy connected to a working ballet company, there is a youthful passion and spirit that helps drives the mission as well. The students are the next generation. They are tomorrow’s artists and teachers. The impact we have on their lives is more than we know. It is our passion, and our instruction and care that helps them to take the same leap of faith that we did-to venture out into a career fueled by love and intention, a career that requires the utmost perseverance and focus. With each class they take or rehearsal they observe, our actions ignite in them a desire to emulate the lives we lead.
So if you support the arts, I thank you. You have made a difference. Thank you to anyone who has ever smiled supportively from the audience, and thank you for your congratulations and your love. Thank you for believing in this art form, and for offering your time, your energy, and your unwavering support. Dance is a personal thing, between a mover, the movement, and their space. But behind that fourth wall is the audience-the fuel and the foundation for it all.