“Go into the arts, I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Until quite recently, all I wanted to do was dance. I grew up auditioning for ballet companies and annual production of the Nutcracker and The Lion King. Weekends were spent rehearsing my solos for competition, performing and touring with provincial companies, and teaching the wee ones how to point their toes.
After high school, I found myself at a crossroads, seriously deliberating whether to pursue dance professionally or to obtain a university education. The practicality of a university degree is not lost on me, despite my decision to study English rather than engineering or commerce. However, I do sometimes wistfully pull out my toe shoes or attend a drop-in class that caters to trained contemporary and classical dancers. I still shed a tear whenever I attend a Broadway show, be it in New York or Yorkton.
Dance, especially ballet, can be a controversial subject. Many argue that it imparts a destructive bodily self-consciousness, self-hatred and an unhealthy perfectionistic streak. I can’t deny that is sometimes breeds emotionally under-developed young adults, with overly narcissistic desire to succeed. For me, however, it gave me a vehicle for communication and self-expression when words didn’t seem to fit. It also taught me self-acceptance, for the parts of myself that didn’t seem to fit with my small-town upbringing. Feeling perpetually awkward throughout your high school years is certainly not a rare phenomenon, and a natural part of growing into the person you’re supposed to be. But when I danced, I felt invincible. I worked hard to master my technique, which has paid off in my adult life and in my editorial pursuits.
Check out this video from CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance? Canada entitled “Will I” from the musical RENT. It’s choreographed by Mia Michaels, and features Saskatchewan dancer, Mackenzie Green.