It’s funny… knowing a dancer and being able to recognize them really changes your relationship with the dancer and the piece they’re performing in. I’m not claiming that I know Beckanne Sisk or Katie Martin as friends but I know them like I know other actors and actresses. Maybe the stage is too far away from the audience? One of the differences between movie actors and dancers is that you ALWAYS see movie actors up close and personal. During a dance performance, being able to see the dancers is really dependent on where you sit and even then, if you’re not good at matching pictures in your Playbill to people on stage, you still might not know who is who.
Take Misty Copeland. Recently while perusing Discount Dance Supply’s online store I noticed that a great deal of the leotards were modeled by Misty and that totally changed it for me because I know she’s a real person with a curvy body. I can connect with her because I recognize her. The other dancers just sort of blur together into generic amazing feet, legs, etc.
I took a Tap Intensive two summers ago (never take an intensive that has all the levels in one- ugh. Didn’t learn much.) and one of the lecture/question-and-answer sessions was with James Whiteside, then Principal at Boston Ballet. I had seen him perform in Forsythe’s Second Detail several months prior and he was PHENOMENAL. That piece is PHENOMENAL. The only reason I was able to identify him was because he had super light, almost white, blond hair that matched his partner. I asked my ballet buddy who the blond guy was and bam! James Whiteside now on my “to watch list.” The lecture made him a real person. Seeing him up close, in regular clothes and talking about his life was so cool because I was able to put a voice and personality to the dancer. I noticed that he wasn’t in the program for one of Boston Ballet’s shows and turns out that he is now dancing for American Ballet Theatre! Go James!!! 🙂 If I hadn’t made some sort of connection or kept him in my mind I would have never noticed that he left Boston Ballet. He would have been just another dancer.
Similar story. I was a work-study at Jose Mateo Ballet Theater for a couple of months. Some of the company members would take open class and I remember checking in Sybil Watkins every once in a while. She had a really gentle almost timid air about her. I never had class with Sybil because I took the lower level classes. My mom and I went to see one of Jose Mateo’s performances and we were seated at a table right at the front of the stage. Jose Mateo’s theatre is very intimate and black box-like except in a beautiful church. You are literally feet away from the dancers! You can see their muscles rippling. 🙂 In any case, Sybil really stood out to my mom and I because of her beautiful lines and flawless technique. After that performance I always looked out for her. Again, while reading the program for the Nutcracker I noticed her name was no where in sight. I scoured the web to see if there was any update but nothing. Since I’m a little bit neurotic, I found her on facebook and messaged her (I know, I know). Didn’t expect a response but after a couple of months she messaged back saying she had moved to Singapore with her husband! What a great adventure! 🙂
Making dancers less anonymous is what really brings you closer to dance. Breaking Pointe not only showed the world different facets of dance, it also introduced these lovely dancers to the world and gave them “a name.” If you see them in a picture or in a program you’ll say “HEY It’s Katie!” Wouldn’t it be great if more dancers were known? Not just by dance aficionados but by other people too.