The other week I hosted a group of dancers at my house. The first day back after summer break there is always this buzz in the studio as dancers exchange hundreds of hellos and hugs, but it’s not usually until we are outside the theater that we properly catch up.
As I sat around with these individuals, I found myself smiling at all the different people represented, the different backgrounds and cultures, the different characteristics and styles; and yet, we all share a similar experience when it comes to ballet. It’s very bonding. Whether we are crying, laughing about our ballet bloopers, sharing about our successful pirouettes that day, or talking about the intense pressure we often feel, there is a connection that happens there in those conversations; a shared passion, sacrifice, and love for this art. It’s so special.
On the flip side of that connection, there is sometimes a detachment from the world. I remember when I first moved to Estonia, the first friends I made were actually from outside the theater. When the end of my first work week rolled around, people asked me what I was going to do for the day off, and I would reply that I was going to hang out with my (non-dancer) friends. Their shock always made me laugh. “You have friends… outside of work?!”, they would ask. For most dancers, especially if you are a foreigner, other dancers become your immediate friends and family. You literally spend 6-7 days per week with them, all hours of the day.
Why is that? One, I think it’s just easy. Moving to a foreign country and making friends is hard as is. Then add on that only a very small minority of people really can understand, or take the time to understand, the life you have lived and are in the middle of pursuing. It takes a lot of sacrifice and time. It is an emotionally, physically, and mentally all-encompassing art form. Sometimes it just gets exhausting re-explaining what it means to be a ballerina. Yes, dancers are slightly offended when asked if ballet is a real job.
Over the years though, I have seen a couple of dancers make a few friends outside of work. Dancers aren’t closed to the idea of having other friends besides ballerinas, it just takes a bit more time and effort.
Personally, one of my favorite things is when my worlds collide. Introducing my friends from work to my outside friends is so special to me! Part of me hopes that even this blog will serve as somewhat of a bridge from one world to another. But if you’re a dancer reading this, let me encourage you to put in the effort to find some friends from outside of work. It will keep your perspective correct, serve as a reminder that there is life outside of ballet, and be a breath of fresh air when you are feeling swallowed up by work. And if you’re reading this and you’re not a dancer, I am so happy that you care and are exploring the world of art. If you have dancer friends, don’t give up on trying to understand them, ask good questions, don’t judge, don’t call them lazy, take the time that is needed to form a friendship, and educate yourself on ballet. I have a few amazing people who have done exactly that; learned about my life, adopted my friends, were always understanding of my crazy schedule, and it meant the world to me.
If you could ask a dancer anything, what would it be?
Dancers, if you could tell the world anything, what would you say?