I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.
I dance to teach. This art is passed down in an unbroken chain from one person to another, forming a historically transcendent community. I aim to learn all I can about my art, and to dance as thoroughly as possible, so that I will have a rich artistic inheritance to pass on to my students. In this way, I dance as an investment in the next generation of dancers.
Farley in his Songs from the Spirit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Farley
I dance for justice. I am part of a great lineage of dancers of color. In a recent rehearsal for the finale of George Balanchine's "Diamonds," I looked down the line and was overcome to see so many radiant faces in different shades of brown. Our very presence in New York City Ballet is both a testament to the perseverance of those who came before us and a dazzling vision of what classical ballet can become.
I dance as thanksgiving. I first encountered dance in the context of Sunday services at my family's church in North Carolina. Nearly all of my six siblings participated in our church's dance program. For me, dance was worship before it was performance. I have that same mentality all these years later. My dancing is a gift I seek to steward and cultivate as an offering back to the divine gift-giver.