My mother passed away during this past ABT Met Season. It spurred changes in me and my art that I could not have foreseen. I used to tell people that I dance simply because the music obliges me to. As though I'm compelled by some unseen force, like a man possessed. Perhaps that's the reason I started dancing, but the reason I continue is an entirely different matter.

I had never lost anyone truly close to me before. My mother died of a panoply of cancer. The degeneration of a wildly vital woman was something I will not soon forget. My director and coach, Kevin McKenzie, had often asked me to recall feelings of loss, and apply it to my portrayals. But before this year, death wasn't a part of my personal reality, and I couldn't draw from such an experience.

Every Sunday during ABT's spring season, I would take the train to Connecticut, and my father would pick me up and drive me to visit my mother. I remember being in the middle of Alexei Ratmansky's Shostakovich Trilogy, dancing his sensitive and brutal “Chamber Symphony," when I witnessed a real turn in my mother's health. She became emaciated and incoherent, but instead of complaining, went to a peaceful and loving state of mind, like that of a docile child. “Chamber Symphony" is based on Shostakovich's life, which was riddled with oppression and loss. This obviously has nothing to do with a dying mother, but I imagine the pain of losing someone you love so much being somewhat universal, so I used it. I walked through the corps and shrank in posture in a descending crescendo of shuffling steps. I imagined I was a doomed man scuttling down the neon hallways of some forgotten hospital ward, dragging his IV along like a macabre pet on a walk.

The tears came. But I'm not one to sit and cry; it wasn't until I could use my life in my art that I began to feel better. Not only through the movement, but the music as well.

I thought this essay would be bubbly, would have my bite and humor. But sometimes real life creeps in, making even a clown into a somber man. I may have started dancing because the music made something in me feel right, accepted and beautiful when nothing else could, but I continue dancing because life keeps happening all around me: love, loss, laughter, tears, parties, racism, homophobia, war. And since I haven't yet figured out how to feel things in a traditional way, this art will have to be the window through which my vital madness escapes.

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Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.


Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

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