Why I Dance: Anastacia Holden

October 31, 2013

A Joffrey dancer with a strong command of space, Anastacia Holden grew up in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Michigan. She trained there under Judy Rice and continued training under Maniya Barredo in Alpharetta, Georgia. She began her time at the Joffrey Ballet as an Arpino Apprentice before joining the company in August 2005. Since then she has performed more than two dozen ballets, including works by Kylián, Jooss, Balanchine, Tharp, Tudor, McGregor, and Millicent Hodson’s reconstruction of Nijinsky’s Sacre du Printemps.


When I was a kid,
my mom taught folk dance for adults, much of which was Balkan, and often there was Romanian music blasting off of vintage vinyl. The music was energetic, exuberant, and exciting; there were women singing and deafening explosions of horns. And the dance they did to this music? It was jumping and turning and pivoting and stamping to exhaustion. At 6, I couldn’t resist the urge to get up and try bouncing around with the adults. This became a regular thing for me. I joined in with the adults whenever I could, until, of course, I had to do my spelling assignment—or simply collapsed from exhaustion.

I believe that our paths in life are shaped by the experiences we have and, perhaps, a bit of predestination. My mom tells me that even before I was born, I would kick wildly every time there was music playing. There seemed to be something inherently musical and naturally physical about me. These qualities inspired my mom to enroll me in ballet and piano lessons.

During the 10 years that I studied piano, I learned about the individual musical elements that go into creating a mood. I learned how, by changing one note in a scale, you can change the listening experience, and how to explore the space within a phrase.

As I continued with my musical and balletic studies, I began to understand that much of what I enjoyed in music was similar in ballet. I began to love the different emotions that play together within dance, to appreciate the small details that can change the viewing experience, and to relish the challenge of exploring how far I could stretch my limbs in the surrounding space.

These things that I discovered as I matured are the things that keep me dancing today. After a decade as a professional, I still love the harmony between two great forms of art—music and dance—that together create a unique and individual experience for dancer and audience. I enjoy the minutiae in the work process, the attention to detail, like lingering on a note or the tilt of a hand. I enjoy the repetition, the precision, and the constant striving for an ideal. I enjoy the solace of hard work when every night I can go home with a sense of exhaustion and accomplishment. I love that I am constantly challenged with new works that test my physical and mental limits. And I am thrilled by the release and adrenaline of the culminating performances after so much work.

But on the best days, I simply dance for the reason I did as a child, because the music makes me want to.



At top: Anastacia Holden in Val Caniparoli’s
Incantations. By Herbert Migdoll, courtesy Joffrey.