Imagine something for me: First, you have your dream job and you love it dearly. Second, every year for three months out of the year, you are laid off of your job and if you do not continue to keep up with those skills needed for that job you will lose them. Sound familiar?
No? Good. It’s something that most dancers in the United States have to deal with every year, and that layoff can be both a freeing time, and one that dancers dread every time it rolls around.
The most important, and the hardest part about being laid off is staying in shape.
(Visions of jelly donut fairies)
Staying in shape is something that is required of us dancers; it would not be ok if we were to come into class on our first day back without having kept up our conditioning, and unfortunately, you the audience member would notice. Luckily, there is almost always class sometime somewhere at OBT (even for adults! Check out the adult class website here), and company dancers can generally take whatever class is being offered at OBT for free.
But oh how I wish that were true of other studios in the area. Occasionally, there will be a break of schedule where there is no opportunity to stay in shape at OBT, and we are forced to look elsewhere for classes. There are many different studios in Portland with several great teachers whose class we can take, but not without paying a class fee, and for a dancer who is currently on unemployment, that can be a burden on the shrinking bank account. It is a cycle that we live in, every year dancing and trying to save up money for the summer, and then watching our checking and savings accounts slowly dissolve until we start dancing again.
Most of us dancers are content to pay the class fee each time; we don’t bother to make a fuss. After all, they are running a business, and is it really a problem to support our local dance institutions? The truth is it’s not a big deal. There are lots of other ways of staying in shape, including yoga, weight training, running, and even generally the option of giving ourself class at OBT (although it can be a lot harder than it sounds). Yet it strikes me as a funny idiosyncrasy of our job; how many people pay to keep up the skills to do their job well?
Actually, in asking this, I wonder: How about you? Do you do anything on your own time and your own dime to stay “in shape” for your job?
We dancers are an unusual lot in that not only do we feel like we have to stay in shape for our job, we have to stay in shape for ourselves. It can be a frustrating feeling coming back to class after taking two weeks off to find your body and your mind struggling with each other, neither in sync with the other. And the only way to sync back up and continue improving is to keep on taking ballet classes. No other physical activity is quite like ballet.