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Why I Spend Every Sunday at a Homeless Youth Shelter
As dancers, we tend to find ourselves in a bubble—the dance bubble. We become consumed by our art-form, eating and breathing it every moment of our lives. Don't get me wrong, dance is incredible and deserves our admiration, dedication and even obsession. But we are also people and can contribute to the world in many different ways.
Shortly after beginning my career in dance, I started to feel like an incomplete person. It really was a dream-come-true to be a professional dancer, but I knew I was more than that.
One day, I got an invitation to a gala for the Human Rights Campaign. I couldn't afford a ticket but I figured I could volunteer for the event, so I did. I was hooked. I started helping at every HRC event I could make it to. LGBTQ advocacy became my outlet to the world outside the dance bubble.
In the coming years, I saw Utah pass an LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance, then legalize same-sex marriage. I was a very, very tiny part of the work that brought about these victories, but it still felt good to know I was involved in some capacity. While I was still working away on my career in dance, I felt like a more complete person knowing I also had an impact outside of the dance world.
That advocacy turned my interest to homeless youth, since nearly 40 percent of the homeless youth in Utah identify as LGBTQ. When I found out that Volunteers of America was opening up a brand new youth shelter, I contacted them about volunteer opportunities. I started off occasionally making meals, but after meeting the shelter's clients and hearing their stories, I was drawn to do more. I now go there every Sunday to work the front desk and run an LGBTQ support group. It's my version of church, and has taught me more than I could have imagined.
A selfie with other volunteers after making breakfast
Hearing the clients' stories of hardship and tragedy is eye-opening, heart-breaking and makes me grateful for my middle-class upbringing. But I'm also continually inspired by their perseverance and determination. Watching a client get a job, go to school or move into their own housing fills me with joy and admiration.
After my weekly visits to the shelter, I go back to work each Monday excited to dance. The shelter makes me grateful that I have a job at all (let alone one where I dance all day), but more importantly, the shelter reminds me what it means to be human and gives me a broader perspective on life—ultimately making me a better artist.
Today, I want to urge other dancers to to step outside the dance bubble and explore the world around you. I'm not going to tell you to go find your nearest youth shelter and start volunteering. But I encourage you to involve yourself in your community somehow.
Wherever you find yourself helping out, you will be good at it. Dancers are incredible people. We're hard-working, timely and creative. We learn quickly, pay attention to detail, can respond to criticism and can work in a team. We don't always give ourselves enough credit for our non-dancing skills, but these skills will allow you to do almost anything you want.
So what do you want to do? Dance, of course, but is that as far as you want your impact on the world to go? You already have the skillset to do so much more. Step outside the dance bubble and see how else you can make an impact on the world and how it can make an impact on you.
Lucas Horns, photo by Walker Boyes
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.
The ballet world will converge on San Francisco this month for San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a 17-day event featuring 12 world premieres, a symposium, original dance films and pop-up events.
"Ballet is going through changes," says artistic director Helgi Tomasson. "I thought, What would it be like to bring all these choreographers together in one place? Would I discover some trends in movement, or in how they are thinking?"
Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.
YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash."
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.