Why I Dance: Dores André

December 16, 2015

Principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet

Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB.

The search for friendship
was what first brought me to ballet. When I was young, my extracurricular activities were piano and swimming. I loved them both, but they each felt lonely in their own way—piano for its solo performance and swimming for its silence. So when the opportunity arose, I asked my parents to enroll me in something more social. Something I could do with friends. (And something where I wouldn’t swallow so much water.)

Twenty years later, I’m still here—not only for the friends, but for a whole lot more than I ever imagined.

I dance because I love dancers. Dance attracts people without agendas: people who would rather move to music and express themselves artistically than become wealthy or famous. They are people who choose to endure significant physical pain simply because they can’t picture a life without dance. Those are exactly the kind of people I want to be surrounded by every day.

I dance because it’s temporal. As soon as it’s seen, it’s gone. Dance has forced me to live in the moment, and I’ve come to realize that there is no better way to approach life.

I dance because it rewards hard work unlike many other careers nowadays. Though it doesn’t always ensure success, a strong work ethic will certainly move you down the path to achieving your goals. When I was in the corps de ballet, there would be times when I would be placed in the fifth cast. Although it was discouraging, I continued rehearsing in the back of the studio, and I actually ended up performing sometimes if the first four cast members were unavailable. By continuing to work hard, I kept improving and today I am a principal dancer.

I dance because it has exposed me to diversity I couldn’t find elsewhere, and that continues to make me a more tolerant and altogether better person. Recently, William Forsythe asked us to improvise a particular step and I felt it had a Latin quality. I assumed it would for everyone else, too. Instead, they looked at me as if I was joking around—but I was completely serious! At San Francisco Ballet, everyone brings a different flavor to each new step because it’s a melting pot of different cultures. We come from every corner of the planet, and that enhances my dancing because I’m introduced to new things I could not have thought of before.

I usually say, “Try dancing and not smiling.” It comes down to this: I dance because it makes me happy. To me, a lifetime of happiness seems like more than a fair trade for unsightly feet.