Dear Ballerinas and Danseurs,
We, your fans adore you, but sometimes the extent of our appreciation is left unexpressed for fears that you will think we’re any combination of deranged, creepy, or stalkerish. Some balletomanes aren’t hindered by such apprehension, and will happily approach you and speak as they will, but there’s a pattern of shyness for a good number of us. In particular, for the students of ballet, whether young or old, aspiring professional or recreational, perhaps the way class itself encourages the art of subtlety and a reserved demeanor ingrains a sense of modesty into us that tells us losing our marbles in your presence would be in poor taste. Or maybe we’re embarrassed because there may be a slight crush mixed in with genuine admiration of your talent (emphasis on the “slight”). Common sense tells us that while we venerate you like demi-gods, we have to remind ourselves that you’re normal people too, and normal people generally don’t engage in inconvenient conversations with strangers—especially when we already know your names and you don’t know ours. Awkward!
I myself am guilty of walking past my favorite PNB dancers on several occasions, wanting to tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their performances, but I always hold back. Now, too much time has passed and I’m screwed if I say something because what if they recognize my face from passing through the halls of PNB’s studios? Then I’ll look and feel stupid for not having said anything before, and once you speak to a dancer, what do you say when you see them around in the future? Have you established a rapport in which you’re casual acquaintances that can say hello to each other, or is gushing praise a one-time deal? Personal turmoil aside, I do think the Internet has made us braver, and the virtual distance has alleviated a bit of the anxiety in coming forward. I find myself able to pass along a comment to some of you dancers now, though most, if not all the ones I’ve chatted with are dancers I’ve never seen perform live. Still, I recall Bennet Gartside, soloist with the Royal Ballet saying that leaving from a performance and seeing nobody at the stage door is disappointing. Ironic, isn’t it? You may want to meet us, we may want to meet you, and encounters only happen a fraction of the times they can.
It seems our cowardice has led us to develop several disorders—I mean, “techniques”—in avoiding the issue of in-person dancer/fan interaction, allowing us to comfortably believe our behavior is concurrent with sanity. While I find our tactics deliciously clever, if you’re disheartened when we’re no-shows, then our actions are detrimental to the greater good. Even if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the superstar treatment after every performance, we skittish creatures are contributing to a misconception where you may think you have less fans than you actually do. For your information, I’ve decided to categorize the disorders into certain types, though it is likely you will find that the fans who furtively skulk in the shadows will be described by more than one (furthermore, this is not to be taken as an exhaustive list):
- Guerilla Gifter – Sends gifts/flowers backstage to your dressing room, but will never seek you out in person
- Eternally Ensconced – Too busy hiding from you at all costs to even think about saying something
- Terribly Timid – Does not actively hide, but is simply too shy to come near and is afraid of coming across as crazy
- Flustered Fluctuator– Makes several efforts to approach you, but chickens out each time, and indecisiveness leads to many missed opportunities
- Ridiculously Reticent – Succeeds in the approach, but is completely dumbstruck and rendered speechless
- Superfluous Spiller – Also succeeds in the approach and is able to speak, but babbles uncontrollably and never communicates what they intended to
- Oblivious Observer – Pretends not to notice when you’re nearby, but is actually dying on the inside
- Distant Devotee – Maintains composure and settles for a self-induced restraining order, close enough to see but never within range* to speak
*Actual distance may vary by individual. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.
To take myself as an example, I used to be an E, changed to a T, then developed into a mix of O/D, and when I met Alexei Ratmansky, showed symptoms of an R. While I cannot offer any solutions for treatment (because I don’t know any), it’s not all doom and gloom because sometimes we overcome, like the story of my friend Lorry, who recently met her idol (and not so secret love) in Tokyo, the one and only Manuel Legris.
My name is Lorry and I am a fan of Manuel Legris, well, a devoted fan, maybe a follower…really, very much an admirer. It’s possible that I am sort of obsessed, wait…that sounds creepy…I’m not really a stalker—in the legal sense. Don’t you have to be caught to actually earn that title? I flew from Los Angeles, California, USA to Tokyo, Japan just to see him dance but that’s not crazy or anything. Being in a tin can for over 12 hours, going through customs, trying to figure out yen, and driving on the wrong side of the road in order to see a ballet dancer sort of inspires an amount of courage. After all that, NOT standing at the stage door seems to be crazier than standing there with pen and program in hand.
Other people are doing it too so how crazy can I look?! I just wanted to see him dance, and then I just wanted to see him up closer, and then I just wanted to have an autograph, and it was worth it. I have post-ballet glow that is brighter than the lights of Tokyo and let me tell you, these people like flashy lights a lot! I’m not going to be lurking around every stage door from now on but given the opportunity to stand restraining order proximity to someone who makes me die inside (and there actually aren’t that many people who fall into that category) I might actually go there again!
-Lorry, a former TOE
So you see dancers, there are success stories to give the rest of us meeker ones motivation, and hopefully you will see more and more adoring fans reminding you how amazing you are. With that in mind, it would also be most helpful if you can remember that some of us are easily spooked. Perhaps you can use your keen powers of observation to take note of the wide-eyed, quivering fan in the distance, paralyzed with fear and work your way through the crowd towards them (though sudden movements are discouraged, as it may cause us to flee).
For balletomanes that may be reading this, solemnly nodding your head in agreement, you may find it therapeutic to post a comment with an acronym of your self-diagnosis. Remember, realization of the problem is the first step towards a cure. Who knows, maybe your favorite dancers will read this and come to understand you better and we can all just learn to cope together.
Steve, a DOTER
P.S. Please be sure to check out Lorry’s blog at bead109.wordpress.com to see photos from her adventure in Japan and to read more about her rendezvous with Manuel Legris!