Home sweet home...
As Steven wrote below, our annual treks to Alaska have become fodder for a lot of good-natured moaning and groaning mixed with the satisfaction and fulfillment of performing for a wonderfully appreciative community. We don't tour much at OBT, so being away from home to dance, especially over a holiday, is difficult. The truth, however, is that touring is just about the most bonding experience a company can have. For a week we live, eat, work, and fill every spare minute in each other's company. The result of going through a shared journey like this is that we are not only closer to each other as people and friends, but as a team. Sitting at the airport last night (I mean this morning...) waiting for our flight home to board, I realized yet again what a remarkable thing it is to have co-workers who are so much more that. We see each other at our best, our worst, and everywhere in between (most especially when taking red-eye flights-- not pretty). We watch each other struggle, try, succeed, fail, and try again. We depend upon each other to make the end goal reachable (a perfect example is Mia's rhyming description of what happened in Friday's matinee). And the most beautiful part about it is that we support each other no matter what, because we know we will need that support back.
On another note, Kevin Poe, the children's ballet master for OBT's Nutcracker production, passed along to me a wonderful letter he got from the parent of one of the children in the Anchorage production. (All the kids in the Anchorage production are from area schools. Kevin goes up in September to hold auditions and teach the choreography, and then returns just before the company arrives to do some last-minute touch ups. He oversees the children throughout the run in addition to playing the role of Drosselmeier). The letter of appreciation he got from this little girl's mother reminded me of just how formative and influential the experience of performing can be for a young child:
"Thank you for giving hundreds of children the opportunity to be cast in such an extraordinarily beautiful and well run production. For many children, thier experience as performers in the Nutcracker will long remain a cherished memory. Emma was thrilled to perform as an angel last year, and as a party boy this year. I'm grateful you saw something special in Emma."
That pretty much sums up the effect it can have on a child. Being recognized as having the ability and potential to do something special, chosen to take on the responsibility to perform, and then given the task of living up to a standard through hard work, concentration, and commitment fires up something in a child's brain and psyche that no other childhood experience can. It's very similar to what bonds the adult dancers as a company-- a common goal that we must all work independently, yet in community, to achieve.
I'm so glad that we can bring that kind of experience and exposure to those kids, because I know first-hand how major it can be. The first time I stepped on stage in a professional ballet production was as a boy polichinelle with the New York City Ballet when I was eleven years old. I am positive that it was that and subsequent experiences in children's roles with a professional company that set my mind on the path to this career.