"I Realized the Power in Loving the Dancer I Am by Loving the Man I Am"
My parents felt it was important to give each of their six kids a place in the world. For me, my mom sensed that place might be hip-hop class. In the very safe space that was the dance studio, I was able to express more emotion than in any other part of my day. It was a training ground for how to exist in a small town with a passion that colored outside the lines of a Midwestern male archetype.
Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Palmquist
I took as many styles as were offered and spent weekends in hotel ballrooms full of young, like-minded dancers. The pressure rose for my parents. How to pay for such an expensive hobby? How to teach me that winning competitions wasn't the most important part while also knowing it would go a long way toward building a confidence I didn't yet have?
After leaving home, I started to feel less and less like-minded among dancers who were perfectly happy to do as they were told, never finding it at odds with their sense of self. I was wispy and subtle and felt connected to music from my hips and neck. I sensed I wasn't quite the dancer that directors were looking for. Yet I wanted my parents to feel reassured that I had a place.
Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Palmquist
It wasn't until I was learning A Chorus Line from Donna McKechnie and Wayne Cilento, for American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, that I realized the power in loving the dancer I am by loving the man I am. I was struck by how they left room for dancers' instinctual flair inside the blueprints of eight-counts.
I am so grateful to my parents for giving me access to my own place in the world. In a way, they taught me everything I know about dance by teaching me everything they know about unconditional love.
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.