How To Be A Real Person

“Without the outlet that a dance career provides, emotionally and physically, a dancer is…well, still a dancer.”

I’m not writing this post because I know the answer to this question. But it is something I often wonder about. I know I am not normal (don’t misunderstand, not ashamed by this at all). I lead a life that is dictated by my art and all the struggles that come with it. What is frightening, is that it is not a life I can lead forever. Even with the best care, the human body cannot withstand the complications of ballet technique forever. So whether we all like it or not, we need to come to terms with existing in the “real world” at one point or another.

Work materials "Never Stand Still" -Jacob's Pillow
Work materials
“Never Stand Still” -Jacob’s Pillow

I don’t use the term “real person” lightly. There is a significant difference between a practitioner of the arts and those in more standard or common professions. While the lifestyle of a dancer is selfish in a way, with that inward perspective comes the necessity to support such a lifestyle. Professionals in the dance world, of every caliber, typically require an additional source of income. So although the morning and early afternoon is filled with nothing but artistic dreams and lilting classical music, a dancer’s lifestyle requires a focused and diligent late afternoon (and evening) of teaching or a second/third job.

“I don’t use the term “real person” lightly. There is a significant difference between a practitioner of the arts and those in more standard or common professions.”

Normal Thursday work uniform (2014)
Normal Thursday work uniform (2014)

Though there is a distinguishable difference between ballerinas and the general population in terms of workload and schedule, dancers exhibit a great deal of mannerisms that can be easily misunderstood (from a very comical perspective, this video is always relevant). For example, I went to Starbucks on Friday pretending my Yumiko leotard was a top (so very obviously not a top, since it’s skintight and shows a great deal of my shoulders and my upper back, but I really find it no different than someone sporting a tight fitting Lululemon top after leaving the gym). I stand casually in an open fourth position all the time, and I have the posture of royalty. I hear a few notes of classical music, and there’s a good chance it’s something I’ve danced to once upon a time. A picturesque landscape provides an excellent opportunity for a ballet photo, whether or not dance apparel is available. And I’m constantly fidgeting around, shifting my center of weight, and stretching my feet, because I can’t stand still. Any time spent in stillness feels like time wasted. As dancers, we are hyperactive, constantly ready, kinesthetically aware, and energetically driven.

I have so many pictures like this...traditional 1st arabesque out of doors (The Mount-Home of Edith Wharton, 2015)
I have so many pictures like this…traditional 1st arabesque out of doors (The Mount-Home of Edith Wharton, 2015)

So what do we do when we need to be normal? Without the outlet that a dance career provides, emotionally and physically, a dancer is…well, still a dancer. We will all move on eventually, but once a dancer, always a dancer. No matter how hard we try we can’t separate ourselves completely from this world. You take at least a piece of it everywhere you go, whether you’ve turned your back on ballet or are clinging to it for dear life. We’ll never really be normal, and that’s okay. Regardless of where you stand at this moment, be proud of your lack of normalcy because on the horizon another reality awaits you.

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