Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh. Photo by Claire McAdams, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Connor Walsh on the "Most Beautiful, and Terrifying," Thing About Being a Dancer

It's no secret that I love what I do. I find dance to be one of the most honest and magical ways to connect with myself and the people around me. There are no words, paint or instruments between us and the world. Just the movement we create and the people who embody it.


As the incomparable Jiří Kylián said in the documentary Forgotten Memories, "I don't think there is such a thing as abstract dance because if you put a human being on the stage who has feelings and loves and hates and has experiences, and is made of blood and bones and skin, and has a brain and heart, what's abstract about it? As far as I'm concerned there is no abstraction whatsoever." This idea really resonates with me. It is impossible to dance and not share and, I think, discover something about yourself. That is possibly both the most beautiful, and terrifying, thing about what we do.

I feel this deep sense of vulnerability when I dance. Whether it's during my morning pliés or the most imposing choreography, the responsibility to translate music, mood and imagery makes me become a vessel of human expression. I must listen to what's within myself, use it and share it.

Like in anything, we are not perfect. In order to improve we have to step outside of our comfort zone and reveal our weaknesses. Sometimes it's that pirouette on your bad side or an arabesque that refuses to go as high as you'd like. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. When I watch a dancer, I want to see an authentic connection of their movements and emotions, regardless of the character. I strive to have the confidence to reveal the same.

As I sit in my home through a global pandemic, I take comfort in watching our beautiful community explore the possibilities of how we can share dance with the world. In fact, I find inspiration from it. But what I know now more than ever is that I dance to connect. To connect to music, to myself and to the people around me in a way that no technology can replace. Until we're through this period, I will slip and slide around my apartment with everyone else. But I will treasure the moment when we all are our most human selves dancing for and with each other again.

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Relegated to the last phases of COVID-19 reopening, many dance companies have hung on precariously through slashed ticket revenue, reduced government funding and slowed philanthropic giving.

"A heartbreaking reality is that some companies may not recover financially from this pandemic," says Nora Heiber, the Western executive at the American Guild of Musical Artists. Many large companies will survive by tightening their belts, but smaller groups, hardly with an abundant cash flow to begin with, may face closures, leaving their dancers afloat in a tenuous job market. We asked three experts, including a dancer who has been through a company closure, to weigh in on what to do when your job disappears.

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