"Even at My Lowest Points, Choosing Not to Dance Has Never Been an Option"
Cirio in Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet
When I was born, the delivery doctor exclaimed to my parents, "You have a dancer on your hands!" I had been a footling breech baby and entertained myself by jumping in utero, until I jumped so hard that I broke my mom's water and was delivered as a C-section. Cut to present day: I wake up each morning, head to the building where I've worked for almost 16 years, strap on my pointe shoes and dance almost seven hours a day as a professional. Yes, every day I choose to dance, but in some ways, it is as if dance actually chose me.
With Paulo Arrais in Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet
Growing up, I wanted to be that girl who was skilled at sports and could hang with the boys. Alas, that was not the case. I was fast and could run the bases or a soccer field, but when it came to hitting the ball or kicking it into the goal, I would disappoint. Instead, I excelled most when I was dancing. I was the shy girl, able to express herself without words, and dance gave me the opportunity to work and train in something that made me feel whole.
I loved the four walls of the ballet studio. However, ballet is a competitive world, and I attended a highly competitive school. My fellow students and I were all vying for attention and corrections from teachers, and for the same parts. I sometimes felt very alone. But I found solace in class, rehearsals, performing, watching ballet and focusing on being the best I could be.
When, at 16, I was hired by Mikko Nissinen for Boston Ballet II, my love affair with dance sometimes became toxic. Not being chosen for parts because of the way I looked, weight issues, disappointment with reviews and competition with others took a toll on me. Yet, I still pushed forward, finding my comfort in the studio.
As the years passed, I've realized that even at my lowest points, choosing not to dance has never been an option. I know I'm at my absolute best mentally, physically and emotionally when I'm dancing the most. The stage is one of my best friends. Not everyone will like me as a dancer and as a person, and that is okay. I've learned I enjoy passing on my love of the art form to the next generation and inspiring other young Asian dancers. I often hear dancers say, "Dance does not define me." Although dance does not define all of me, it certainly is a big part of what defines me, and I'm not ashamed of that.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.
Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.
We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.
A previous lab cycle. Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade, Courtesy RRR Creative
Choreographic incubator Broadway Dance Lab has recently been rechristened Dance Lab New York. "I found the nomenclature of 'Broadway' was actually a type of glass ceiling to the organization," says choreographer Josh Prince, who founded the nonprofit in 2012.