Norwegian National Ballet Soloist Whitney Jensen Shares Why She Decided to Start Over
Whitney Jensen in "Don Quixote." Photo courtesy of Jensen.
The first time I performed a solo, I was 6. It was at a competition, and after I danced, I remember hearing the judges and friends of mine say that I made them cry. Sidenote: I had been mouthing the lyrics from The Hunchback of Notre Dame's "God Help the Outcasts" while dancing, and those lyrics could make anyone cry. But I do think I touched those people because I sincerely felt what I was trying to express.
Jensen and Matthew Golding in "Swan Lake." Photo courtesy of Jensen.
I grew up with very supportive parents who would remind me and my sisters that dance is a tool that we could use to spread light to people, to make them feel something.
As you grow as a professional, ego, expectations and jealousy are bound to come into play. I began dancing to "prove" something—that I deserved the promotion or to be cast. This state of mind took away from being my best. I danced with more aggression than confidence, and I noticed that I didn't enjoy it at all. It became work, and the pure joy of movement that I once had was gone.
After almost two years of feeling this way, I knew I needed to make a change. I made an active decision to start over and revisit the approach I took when I first started dancing. I began to allow myself to be inspired by other talent around me and found that I no longer was dancing to prove anything.
Jensen and Garrett Smith in Jirí Kylián's "Tiger Lily." Photo courtesy of Jensen.
Today, when I am performing, I feel the most incredible sense of peace and I crave the ability it gives me to just be present. But the most rewarding thing to hear after a performance is that I made someone feel something. That for them, it was a memorable experience. The audience may not always remember or even care how many turns you did or how high you jumped or how flexible you were, but I do know they will remember if you moved them.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."