Help…me?

4 Feb

When American Ballet Theatre announced that they would perform Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream as a part of their 2012 MET season, I made up my mind then and there—I would go. Ashton is my hero, The Dream debuted on April 2nd, 1964 and my birthday is April 2nd so while I don’t like to throw around the word ‘destiny’ it is pretty nifty if you’re as geeky as I am. Plus, I’ve never been to New York and have obviously never seen ABT and both are necessary experiences in a dancer’s life. In anticipation, I’ve been crossing my fingers like crazy that Marcelo Gomes would dance Oberon for one of the four performances, but ABT hasn’t posted casting yet (though upon hearing the recent news that Gomes would be partnering Alina Cojocaru in London next week for a performance of The Dream with The Royal Ballet, I’d like to believe that the outlook is good!). My initial solution to this conundrum was to see all four casts—after all, my most eminent teacher and fellow Ashton devotee Karen Eliot (who saw Anthony Dowell perform The Dream in London mind you!) attended the performance with Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg cast as Titania and Oberon and said it was perfection. A Gomes Oberon or not, I really figured I couldn’t go wrong if I saw every cast. And maybe I will…or maybe I need to “Dream” (har har) bigger.

I suppose I’m a struggling dance writer, scraping by at minimum wage and writing when I can. For the past few months I was excruciatingly busy with work and the frequency of my writing suffered as a result. Fortunately, the days of two jobs are over for now and I’m slowly regaining focus on the things that truly matter. However, luxury is something I can’t afford and a few days in one of the most expensive cities in the world is the best I can do—though I’m lucky and grateful that I can treat myself to that much! Still, June is chock full of great ballets I want to see and it’s painful to have to choose. I’ve even entertained the idea of forsaking The Dream and going in the first weekend of June to see The Bright Stream, a great mixed rep from New York City Ballet, and Onegin because variety is the spice of life and being a patron of the arts requires that you expose yourself to the unfamiliar. In a weird way there’s a parallel built into the semantics—do I follow my “Dream,” or do I do what’s practical and see as much ballet in the same period of time? Too often in life we’re asked to make decisions that follow the heart’s desire versus what’s logical and it’s the worst!

But what if I didn’t choose? What if, I spent the entire month of June in New York? When that thought occurred to me, the wheels immediately started turning. What if I made this a project and raised the funds to allow me to live in New York for a month, see lots of ballet, write like crazy, and live like that critically endangered species we know as the paid, professional dance writer? I’ve seen Kickstarter be so successful for so many artistic ventures I thought—why not me? Maybe, as an independent dance writer, I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands and create the opportunity for myself. I even did a little preliminary math, and if all of my followers on Twitter donated just a few dollars, I’m pretty sure I’d be set! However, this raises a LOT of questions, including the big one of whether my writing is even worth it. Is my perspective on ballet of interest enough to warrant special treatment? On the one hand, it feels selfish and greedy to ask people for money to send me to shows, but on the other, is it unreasonable to believe that if I were to write an entire magazine, for example, that people would pay for it? It’s a new landscape with social media and maybe this is my chance to use it to my advantage and promote myself.

But what exactly, would the funds go towards? Practical necessities like housing and transportation aside, these are some general ideas I have for blog posts:

  • Show reviews – ABT is performing almost every day in June (though I wouldn’t attend every show!) and NYCB has a few programs as well. I believe The Australian Ballet is also touring, but I’d want to see more than major ballet companies.
  • Classes – At the heart of it all, I’m still a student and I want to document the experience of taking classes in New York, with a few different teachers just for variety’s sake but I’d also want to settle down to have some consistency (it’s difficult to see improvement otherwise).
  • New York Public Library – I would DEVOUR the materials there and write some articles about my findings. I’d arm myself with only two books: Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet and Mary Clarke/Clement Crisp’s The Ballet Goer’s Guide so the Performing Arts Library will be my home base for research—right after several viewings of Violette Verdy in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.
  • Interviews – This would be the time to take advantage of social media and some of the connections I have to talk to people involved in the ballet world. I’d love to interview readers as well!
  • ??? – Who knows. I go (sometimes very foolishly) where the wind takes me. Even the above is more than enough fodder for writing a quality post every day, and probably even more than that if there was enough time!

Basically, this would be my summer intensive of dancing and dance writing. It would be a heck of a lot of work but I’m apprehensive too. I’m scared to put my life in Seattle on hold for a month, not to mention it’s always difficult to get to know new surroundings and New York is a beast! There are also a lot of dance writers already established in New York, so it’s not like I’m doing anything new and I’m afraid to death of “failure,” which in this case would be finding out that there is no future for YouDanceFunny beyond what I already do. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE blogging and will continue to write no matter what, but despite the benefits of this proposed project, I could walk away knowing that writing will always be a labor of love. It’s a far cry from leaving empty handed though and maybe it would be healthy—necessary even—to have that clarity, but it’s a frightening prospect to consider because I want to believe that I can affect change and that what I’m doing can be worth even more to the community.

So, the real question here isn’t whether this idea is crazy (because it is!) but if it’s actually crazy enough to work! I beseech you readers near and far, before asking for your support, to discuss with me your thoughts on this. If there ever was a time to comment or de-lurk, now is the time! Defining moments! Seize them!

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14 Responses to “Help…me?”

  1. robin (mahrobi) February 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    go for it. i’m in.

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Well I know you are! But this isn’t going to be a “Robin + Steve” party!

  2. Catchip February 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Yes, do it!! I pledge one ABT ticket or equivalent. Very sadly I am being kicked out of my handy-for-Lincoln-Center apartment in May, but if I’m in the position to offer a sofa in June I will. Would love to read your blogs about NY. Good luck!

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Thank you! (and thanks for offering the couch too!) I would really love to meet you!

  3. Dave February 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Go for it! As they say ‘every little helps’ – I wouldn’t be able to donate much but I’d certainly help :) Your writing is some of the best I’ve read on ballet and I would love to read all about your month in NYC.

    Plus, I’m hopefully going to be visiting to NYC for a few days in June and would totally be down for taking a class, seeing a performance and a geeky trip NYPL (I’ve been told on good authority that I *need* to see Gelsey Kirkland’s Giselle…).

    Dave

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Dave, if this craziness works out, we should collaborate on some blog posts! Maybe dueling reviews?

  4. Jackie February 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    If you can think it, you can do it and do it you surely should! I’m 70 now, danced as a child and teen, and after a busy lifetime, came back to dance at 60 on Long Island , NYC at the Eglevsky School. It is worth everything to follow your best self. Go where your dancin’ mind and body lead you. It can never be a wrong thing!

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Wise words, Jackie…thank you for sharing. You’re right…I might just have to go with my gut on this.

  5. Diana February 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Steve! I’m a reader here and I also hang out at GGMB, and I think you should totally do it. I’ll definitely contribute, although I’m afraid, as an unemployed grad student, it would be rather small.

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

      Hey, good to see you!

      No contribution is too small…even just having you read is great motivation to make this work, without any money involved.

  6. Imogen Dent February 6, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    I’m a great believer in “carpe diem” as a philosophy, so I can give only one piece of advice; go it! After years of seeing my dreams slip away while I played it sensible and took no risks, I discovered that if one stops thinking like one’s Depression-era grandmother and takes a gamble or two, life gets more interesting and more fulfilling (albeit also a tad more scarey). So I say sort-out as much as you can, plan as best you can, and then go for it. Not sure how I can contribute materially as I’m in London in a not-very-well-paid job, and using £ sterling as well… but if a way occurs to you, let me know. Good luck!

    • youdancefunny February 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      Thanks Imogen! I like the carpe diem approach to life, but chicken out more often than I’d like to, which means I’m going to have to stand up for myself. Eventually. Now? ;)

  7. britt February 8, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Fantastic idea. I’d pledge. I’d encourage you to think how you document the experience with video and photos. With Kickstarter, you have to “give back” something to your donors. Maybe a video blog becomes part of that? Or a self-produced zine?

    You probably know of Airbnb–a great resource for inexpensive places to stay. I bet your network of friends will also lead to unexpected surprises that help you with your journey.

    Huzzah!

    • youdancefunny February 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

      Yes! I’ve been brainstorming a bit for the rewards, and have some simple ones in mind like exclusive video blogs, personalized postcards from New York, and also mailing the playbills/programs from the shows I attend with a signed copy of the review I write for that show. Not that my autograph is worth anything, but I thought it would be kinda neat.

      What do you mean by a self produced zine though? Are you suggesting the printing of hard copies? Hadn’t thought of that…though it might drive up the cost of the project more than I’d want it to, since I would probably have to hire a photographer. Video blogs I could probably do myself (though hiring a videographer would be nice!).

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