Why I Dance: Sadie Bo Harris

July 31, 2013

A striking and expressive dancer, Sadie Bo Harris is one of the senior ballerinas at Nashville Ballet. She trained at the Harid Conservatory and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, becoming an apprentice of Nashville Ballet in 2002. Since joining the company in 2003, she has performed lead roles in
Swan Lake, Giselle, Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella, and Salvatore Aiello’s Rite of Spring. Thinking ahead to her eventual transition, Sadie is studying social entrepreneurship at Belmont University. Surely her sense of humor will help in her future career. She once told an interviewer, “I have to put on red lipstick before a studio run of a show. I’m convinced it improves my technique.”

At left: In rehearsal for Paul Vasterling’s
Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Anthony Matula, Courtesy NB.


I find a peace on the stage that is like nothing else. For that brief time, I feel completely present and whole. The heightened state of awareness that the stage demands creates a clarity that I love. This passion is difficult to encapsulate, but when I’m onstage I know exactly why I dance.


Even though I look for ways to describe why I dance, much of the time I don’t need to look any further than across the room. There is no one who understands this struggle more than those fighting alongside me, and there is no one better to help find my answers than the people asking the same questions.


One such experience came from watching Rachel Ellis (now Dickinson), one of Nashville Ballet’s former lead dancers, in class. The intention behind her movement was so clear. She took exactly one step at a time, letting whatever happened before her pass and what was ahead of her wait. Her focus on the present created a calmness and clarity to her movement that I have sought ever since.


I love being able to revisit roles, especially ones that were choreographed on me. It’s not so much that I want to do the work differently. Rather, it’s an opportunity to communicate more clearly. Once after watching a rehearsal, my director, Paul Vasterling, commented on the ephemeral nature of ballet. The same piece with the same dancers can say something completely different, given enough time. It made me realize that dance is just as living and breathing as the people who do it.


I cherish these opportunities to revisit my craft and engage in the familiar internal dialogue of why I dance. My reasons for dancing are as ever-changing as my work, and this constant assessment has been essential to my process. If I ever felt like I completely understood why I was doing what I’m doing, it might be easy to stop.


As a younger dancer, I was focused on getting to a place that I wanted to be professionally, but there is a weight that accompanies a singular goal. Now that I am pursuing higher education and thinking ahead about my transition, I’ve been able to alleviate some of that pressure. I’m no longer saying that I can’t be anything else. I’m saying I choose to be nothing else at this time. Taking steps toward eventually moving on has given me the freedom to enjoy the dancing more now.


My favorite scene in the classic movie The Red Shoes is when the artistic director asks his soon-to-be muse, Victoria Page, why she wants to dance. She rhetorically counters, “Why do you want to live?” He thinks for a moment and then replies that he doesn’t know exactly why, but he knows he must. Her response: “That’s my answer too.” After all this time, I’m still not completely sure why I feel compelled to dance, but I’m certain that that’s my answer, too.