Breaking the Fourth Wall
Dancers are using new media to get closer to audiences.
Social media maven: NYCB’s Megan Fairchild. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB.
In a world of online over-sharing, it may not come as a surprise that dancers are using visual platforms like Instagram for personal expression. But some are turning to even more intimate forms of media like Viber chats, vlogs and Periscope live streams to give audiences an honest look into their lives. In many cases, social networking is the first step toward attracting fans and marketing their skills.
Helping young dancers is the primary goal of New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild’s weekly “Ask Megan” series on the Balancing Pointe podcast, in which she talks about everything from leaving home for the School of American Ballet to how she prepares her pointe shoes. Fairchild also participates in “A Ballerina’s Life,” a live public chat on Viber. Through the app, users can follow a conversation between Fairchild and Sara Mearns, Ashley Bouder and Stella Abrera, among other dancers. “This world is confusing and stressful, and I want to dispel ideas that in dance you’ve got to deal with a life of drama,” she says. “I like letting people see us as regular people—that after a long day we need a glass of wine and talk about stuff other than ballet.”
Barry Kerollis, a former Pacific Northwest Ballet corps member, has a similar goal. His blog, Life of a Freelance Dancer, candidly recounts the ups and downs of his current career as a freelance dancer and choreographer in Philadelphia. Since 2012, he’s penned more than 140 posts on topics such as doing taxes, life on tour and auditioning. Most of his 100,000-plus views have come from dancers themselves. He also has an online video series, “Core-ography,” in which a dancer shares a personal experience on film, and then creates a piece inspired by the story with Kerollis. “Pennsylvania Ballet’s Lauren Fadeley was my first Core-Artist,” says Kerollis. “She talked about suffering from clinical depression. She was nervous to share, but ultimately found it liberating because she didn’t have to hide anymore.” In another episode, a dancer talks about his struggle with drug use. “I hope this series can be helpful to others who may be in similar situations,” he says.
Through these platforms, Kerollis has bolstered his social media following. But he’s seen more tangible benefits, too. The blog gave him a product to show while he was raising money for “Core-ography.” And talking about being a freelance choreographer has actually helped him book more dancemaking gigs—employers can watch videos and familiarize themselves with his work ethic and personality.