Why Being An Artist Matters Today

Kyle Abraham's "Pavement" addresses racism. Photo by Carrie Schneider.

Whatever your thoughts about the outcome of yesterday's presidential election, there's one thing everyone reading this has in common: We're dance artists. Which means we have a voice. We have a way to express ourselves that many others do not. Even if you don't know what to make of your feelings today, you have the ability to channel them into your work.

Dance has a long history of responding to political and social issues in the most brilliant, heart-wrenching ways, from Charles Weidman's depiction of mob fervor in Lynchtown to Liz Lerman's Healing Wars about soldier's trauma to Pat Graney's feminist Girl Gods to even Hamilton, and so many, many others. (Spoiler alert: Keep your eyes peeled for much more about this idea in our December issue.)

Pat Graney's "Girl Gods" is about female rage. Photo by Jenny May Peterson.

One of the greatest things about dance is how it reminds us that there is no one right way to be human. There's no single path to take to thrive. Just look at the amazing diversity of work today on stages large and small to see how so many different ideas can exist side by side.

Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet recently tackled gun violence in "White Fields." Photo by Paul Aiken.

So make something beautiful—whatever that means to you. Make something that opens minds and hearts. Use your body to say the things that can't be spoken in words. Harness the power of dance to shine a spotlight on the wrongs you see in this country, and choreograph a vision of how we can do better. Or simply let dance be an escape. Let it bring people together—we could all use a little more of that right now.

Health & Body
Getty Images

Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet, offers tips for creating a more body-positive studio experience:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Broadway

We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.

But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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