Megan Fairchild in Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. PC Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

"As Artists, We Remain a Beautiful Light of Hope in the Middle of All the Darkness"

From the minute my journey as a dancer began at age 4, there were no other options of what I might do with my life.

Sure, I tried other "after-school activities." I tried desperately to master The Phantom of the Opera with my squeaky violin rental—a headache for my parents who paid for private Suzuki method lessons at our house. Constantly attempting famous show tunes on my violin, the effort was completely futile. I actually remember thinking, 'Surely this sheet music is wrong, this sounds nothing like the Phantom of the Opera.'

I even tried my hand at gymnastics. But when my mom's brilliant bribery of $100 for my first mastery of a kip or a back handspring didn't produce any results, we quickly threw in the towel.


Fairchild in Peter Martins' Swan Lake. PC Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

But in dance, and quickly just ballet, I never needed to be bribed. I never had private lessons. It was truly what I was best at. And it feels good to pursue something you have the talent for.

I always enjoyed the discipline of the art form – a precise list of rules of what was right and wrong, each position and step. As I got older and learned variations, real snippets from real ballets, I was even more hooked.

The musicality of the movement became addicting. Perfectly choreographed steps that could elicit no other imagined options of choreography—was there anything more fulfilling?

Fairchild in Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3. PC Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

As an adult, my reasons for being a performer have expanded. We are living through terror attacks, mass shootings, reignited racial tensions and political drama. At first it seems dancing is such a juvenile endeavor; not able to offer the world any solutions for its problems.

And then I quickly remember our purpose as artists. We will always remain a beautiful light of hope, an escape, in the middle of all the darkness that exists in the world. And for me, that gives my life purpose and enough meaning to continue my favorite after-school activity as long as I can.I am empowered to have the influence we have as artists. To connect to the audience on a visceral level, and bring back some humanity and hope into the world…what a pleasure it is. I couldn't imagine a better reason to be dancing.

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Courtesy Schelfhaudt

These Retired Ballroom Dancers Started a Dance-Themed Coffee Company

Like many dancers, when Lauren Schelfhaudt and Jean Paul retired from professional ballroom dancing in 2016, they felt lost. "There was this huge void," says Schelfhaudt.

But after over 20 years of dancing, plus United States and World Championship titles, reality shows, and high-profile choreography gigs (and Paul's special claim to fame, as "the guy who makes Bradley Cooper look bad" in Silver Linings Playbook), teaching just didn't fill the void. "I got to the point where it wasn't giving me that creative outlet," says Paul.

When the pair (who are life and business partners but were never dance partners—they competed against one another) took a post-retirement trip to Costa Rica, they were ready to restart their lives. They found inspiration in an expected place: A visit to a coffee farm.

Though they had no experience in coffee roasting or business, they began building their own coffee company. In 2018, the duo officially launched Dancing Ox Coffee Roasters, where they create dance-inspired blends out of their headquarters in Belmont, North Carolina.

We talked to Schelfhaudt and Paul about how their dance background makes them better coffee roasters, and why coffee is an art form all its own:

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