In watching last week's episode of A Chance to Dance, I found a lot of myself in those young dancers. I remember what it felt like to think that this one thing was my *only* opportunity to succeed in a dance career.
When I was 20, I took a 48-hour trip to New York to audition for Marymount Manhattan College. My college dance program was closing and I needed to find a new program fairly quickly. I was completely start struck with New York and, in my 20-year-old mind it was the *only* place to be a working waitress – I mean, dancer. The night before I left for New York, I was in a head-on collision that sprained my neck and gave me a serious seatbelt bruise across my shoulder. I didn't tell my mom (who was travelling with me) what had happened until we were on the plane, for fear she wouldn't let me go.
You see, this audition was *everything* to me. I *had* to succeed. This was MY one big chance to dance.
And then I got cut.
I got cut after the first floor exercise, actually. The whole audition lasted about 45 minutes. With nothing left to do in New York, Mom and I took our suitcases to a little cafe near Central Park, ate some waffles, and went home.
I ended up finding my collegiate dance home at Columbia College Chicago. I did well in the program and landed an apprenticeship with a reputable local dance company while I was still in school. My career was pretty much tied up with a bow and I had *made it*.
And then I got injured.
So both of my "Chances to Dance" had pretty much ended in abysmal failures. And you know what? It all turned out ok.
I so appreciate the spirit and tenacity of the dancers I'm seeing on A Chance to Dance. Why would directors pick people who didn't think that this one opportunity was it for them and there'd never be another chance? But with enough talent and drive, dancers will get chance after chance after chance to dance, and dancers who are on chance number five are no less important, or worthy, or talented. Sometimes it comes down to your height, your hair color, a gut feeling of the director that you're not the right dancer for the job, or just plain fate.
Had I gotten either of those opportunities, I wouldn't have gone to grad school, I wouldn't have joined the rich and wonderful community of dance writers, and I certainly wouldn't get to eat waffles whenever I want. I guess my point is that failure is part of our journeys as artists, and looking back on those experiences now I see them not as failures, but stepping stones to the place I am today.
We as artists have to continually invent and reinterpret what success means to us. If I'm not a dancer in a big company, does that mean that I don't "fit" in the dance community?
To me, anyway.
Because of this, I have a hard time watching dancers work through knee injuries and heart conditions just because this one gala performance, on this one television show, is their *only* chance to dance. The show is A Chance to Dance, not THE Chance to Dance, and I can only hope that if the directors are facing a dancer with a serious injury of condition they give them the boot now to insure they have LOTS MORE Chances to Dance.
You can follow A Chance to Dance on Ovation TV, Friday nights at 10pm EST.