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Stories From a Dance Career: San Francisco Chronicles 2

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

Stories from a dance career episode 12

The tour to London was approaching quickly. It was going to be strange returning to Europe to perform on a new stage without Marie-Claire by my side. Even though I was born in San Francisco and had spent the first 12 years of my life there, the first few months of my time with the company had me feeling more like a foreigner than a native.

The company dynamics were so different to what I had grown accustomed to in the first 7 years of my professional career. In Vienna we used to perform at least 1-2 times a week without much down time between performances. Occasionally we would have a week here or there without a show, but we the performances were consistent throughout our ten month season.

In San Francisco, the ballet only performed in their home theatre for Nutcracker in December and then from January through May. The rest of the year was spent learning and rehearsing for that 5 month performance schedule with a couple of tours to different states or countries.

We had been preparing for 2 months for this 2 week tour to Sadler's Wells in London. It would be the first time I had ever been to the UK that wasn't just transiting through Heathrow airport. I had learned a part in Edward Liang's Symphonic Dances, but I wouldn't be performing it.

My first performance as a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet was in Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts. I loved the ballet, but my role was quite small and felt like much less than what I had been dancing in Vienna. Blow number 1 to my confidence.

It wasn't until the last day of the tour that I would get a chance at a bigger part, one of the three main men in Balanchine's Divertimento 15. "Divert", as everyone calls it, is one of Balanchine's tutu ballets. A pretty, storyless ballet that almost no one outside the ballet world has ever heard of and is rather forgettable.

I remember finishing the performance, feeling quite good about what I had put on stage only to face unexpected criticism about having the wrong head position while dancing. I remember feeling like I had let myself and my public down. It was a foreshadow of what was to come and was blow number 2.

The contrast of feeling at the top of my game in Vienna to what now felt like needing to claw my way to any recognition was not what I had expected and was starting to play havoc with my confidence. That partnered with the fact that I was no longer performing consistently or on stages that I was comfortable on started to sow seeds of doubt in my ability.

Blow number 3 came when I overheard 2 of the ballet masters talking about casting for nutcracker and how there would need to be some changes. Though I wasn't specifically mentioned, something inside me sent off alarms that I had let them down and was not at the level they were expecting.

I had never questioned my ability as a dancer and now I was starting wonder how and if I would be able to rise to expectations.

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