When I made the move back home to NY I couldn’t help but feel super intimidated by the dance industry here. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in, or if I could even fit in. I knew that I would be a small fish in a huge, vast ocean. However, my experience thus far has been nothing but positive. In this week alone, the classes I have taken have inspired, motivated, and lifted me up. They’ve propelled me forward and have proved to me that I am not as deep as I thought I was.
After taking a few days to get over my jet lag, where I hung out with my family whom I haven’t seen in 9 months, I took my first ballet class. I haven’t taken ballet for that long, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I walked into the studio I found people stretching way beyond my limits, but instead of feeling inadequate I found myself content with where I was technically at that moment. I decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone else. Regardless, I was still nervous because I had no idea what to expect as I knew that dance in NYC was at a whole other level. But, when the teacher walked in she had a smile on her face. Throughout the class she noticed me and gave me corrections. I instantly felt at ease because I originally assumed I would be ignored. At the end she asked my name and told me I should come back to her next class, which I did a couple of days later.
I wasn’t planning on going to any auditions or workshops, but I decided to look at some audition postings to get an a general idea on what dance companies are looking for. That’s when I came across a posting for the Kaleidoscope Dance Theater/Sean McLeod Dance Experience. They were holding an audition for their dance company and offering pre-audition workshops. I decided that it would be a good first experience, especially the workshops, as it would only help me improve.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the experience I did have was the last thing I had in mind. Sean McLeod and his team are some of the most inspiring and uplifting people I have ever met in the dance world. The workshops consisted of hugs, camaraderie, and positive words. Not only were the workshops so informational, they were freeing and fun. They reminded me of the joy and passion I have for dance. When Mr. McLeod presented the rules, specifically rule number 3, “Do not do or say anything that would hurt another person’s feelings” , it gave me permission to be myself. It opened the doors for me to actually DANCE for the pure joy of dancing. That is something I haven’t been able to do in the dance industry because the environment is very tense, but the environment at the KDT workshops, and even the audition, took the tense feeling away so dancers could just be themselves.
I believe the most profound occurrence during my first week dancing in NYC was when Sean McLeod looked me in the eye and told me something I will never lose hold of, something I never in a million years expected I hear from an owner of a dance company. “You have the potential to go to places you’ve never imagined in dance and you have no idea the things you possess. You have everything.” When those words were spoken to me I was in shock. The crazy thing was that the amazing feedback I received didn’t end there. Members of the company, fellow dancers who were auditioning for the same dance company, and members of the staff were all saying kind things, life changing things, not only to me, but to all of the dancers. I found myself doing the same, encouraging fellow dancers and lifting them up. Who would’ve thought that in one week I would have such an experience.
I am so grateful that my first experience dancing in NYC was so positive. Instead of chewing me up and pushing me down, I was treated with respect and seen through a lens of positivity where my strengths were celebrated instead of my weaknesses. Mr. McLeod was correct when he said I had no idea of the places I could go in dance. I didn’t even think I would stand a chance in NYC. I thought it would eat me up, leaving me doubting and ready to give up. Instead, I am beginning my journey here confident in who I am as a dancer, seeing potential in myself, and actually believing that maybe I will actually achieve the dream of dancing professionally one day.