Why I Dance: Jonathan Porretta
Porretta in Molissa Fenley's State of Darkness. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
As clichéd as it sounds, asking me why I dance is like asking a fish why he swims or a bird why he flies. I dance because I'm meant to. It's who I am. Even as a little boy in New Jersey, whenever adults would ask me what I wanted “to be" when I grew up, I'd answer, “I wanna be a dancer!"
I'll never forget the first time I was shown a video of Mikhail Baryshnikov. My mouth dropped open and my eyes widened. I got closer to the television screen like a moth to a flame. I couldn't believe what I was seeing: His magnificent jumps, astounding turns and artistry.
For me, Baryshnikov was a god. Growing up in a town where a boy like me wasn't quite the norm, having him as my role model reassured me that what I wanted to do in life and who I wanted to be could really be achieved—there were other people out there just like me.
Nine years later, I got to take ballet classes from him at the School of American Ballet, where I trained. I was so nervous and excited. I couldn't believe I was going to meet him! The lessons he taught me in those few classes have lasted me throughout my entire career, right down to the way I hold the barre when facing it, always with wrists crossed to keep myself squared. I even teach this to students now. And I always say, “Baryshnikov taught me this."
To this day Baryshnikov is still my hero. He represents more than just stellar talent and artistry; to me he is freedom. Freedom to be who you are and fight for what you want. The stage is where I truly feel the happiest and most comfortable with myself. Even on days when I'm exhausted and sore, I feel so lucky that I have been given the gift to do what I love every day of my life.
It's hard to compare the feeling you get after hitting your last pose in a ballet. That moment of realizing what you've just accomplished. Not every ballet is as rewarding as others, but to be in front of a crowded theater, giving the audience everything you've got and feeling them feeding you their energy back—I live for those moments when everything comes together onstage.
It's those moments that I savor. Dance is and will always be my first true love.
Just hearing the word "improvisation" is enough to make some ballet dancers shake in their pointe shoes. But for Chantelle Pianetta, it's a practice she relishes. Depending on the weekend, you might find her gracing Bay Area stages as a principal with Menlowe Ballet or sweeping in awards at West Coast swing competitions.
She specializes in Jack and Jill events, which involve improvised swing dancing with an unexpected partner in front of a panel of judges. (Check her out in action below.) While sustaining her ballet career, over the past four years Pianetta has quickly risen from novice to champion level on the WCS international competition circuit.
Sean Dorsey was always going to be an activist. Growing up in a politically engaged, progressive family in Vancouver, British Columbia, "it was my heart's desire to create change in the world," he says. Far less certain was his future as a dancer.
Like many dancers, Dorsey fell in love with movement as a toddler. However, he didn't identify strongly with any particular gender growing up. Dorsey, who now identifies as trans, says, "I didn't see a single person like me anywhere in the modern dance world." The lack of trans role models and teachers, let alone all-gender studio facilities where he could feel safe and welcome, "meant that even in my wildest dreams, there was no room for that possibility."
It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?
Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?