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Stories From a Dance Career Episode 9


It was good to be back in The United States, back in San Francisco...the place I was born. From the time I was a young boy I had hoped one day I would be a member of The San Francisco Ballet.


SFB is a company steeped in tradition. This company was the first to perform The Nutcracker in The United States, and had developed over its nearly 75 years, at the time I was auditioning in 2012, to be the premiere company for new choreographic works.


Marie-Claire sat watching me at the front of the studio as I took class. Helgi, Ricardo and Bruce were watching me too except they weren't wearing the constrictive moon boot imprisoning Marie-Claire's foot. Only a few days earlier she had still been in a cast and we had bought the boot online because Vienna didn't like using them. It was protection, but it had a dire cost.


There was so much anticipation as we entered in to Helgi's office after class. Would he hire us both even though he hadn't seen Marie-Claire dance because of her injury? What positions would he offer us? Had we made the right choice in deciding to leave Vienna?


Helgi has a way of not mincing words. One might call his manner blunt, but it wasn't that. It was just that he stated things simply in his calm Icelandic accent. After nearly 30 years as SFB's director he had no need to play verbal games.


I was offered a soloist contract that day...

Marie-Claire was offered Corps de Ballet.


If this decision wasn't already complicated, it had just been made even trickier.


Let me see if I can break this down for the non dancers.


Most ballet companies have 3 ranks- Corps de Ballet, Soloist and Principal.


San Francisco Ballet followed that structure. Vienna on the other hand had 4 ranks. Corps de Ballet, Demi-Soloist, Soloist, and First Soloist.


At the time of our audition, Marie-Claire was a Demi-Soloist and I had just been promoted to Soloist. Essentially, the roles that we were dancing in Vienna meant that I was like equivalent to a SFB principal dancer and Marie-Claire was like a soloist at SFB. Helgi's offer was tantamount to a demotion for both of us but it was also an opportunity to explore new horizons in dance that weren't available in Vienna.


The next few days were filled with tears, arguments, confusion and depression, as well as elation, excitement, hope, and anticipation.


It was a bittersweet moment in time. I had always wanted to dance with SFB and now I had an offer to be a part of this company, but as with all change it had a price. It was uncharted territory both professionally and personally. If we accepted the positions and moved, would it work out in the end or would it only create more heartbreak...the very reason we were looking to leave Europe in the first place.


I'm a firm believed in saying yes when an opportunity arrises and figuring out the logistics later. Indeed we said "yes" to the chance, "yes" to the change, if only we knew what that yes would truly mean.



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