Musical Theatre and Modern Dance
William Reilly’s Academy of Ballet is where I was a scholarship dance student. I was a boy, with no dance training – other than a few shows I had performed in. And because of my gender (a shortage of boys!), I was given a scholarship. It meant I got to take as many ballet classes I wanted, and in return I swept and mopped the floors, washed the mirrors, organized closets, took out the trash – anything they needed done. It was an honor to work with the great William Reilly and his staff. Reilly did part of his training in Russia and we were taught some Russian ballet techniques. But I especially remember the teacher who taught for a semester who was from Russia. She spoke only a little English, had long blonde hair and a commanding, booming voice. She jumped higher and longer than any boy in the studio, even though she had retired from dance a few years before. But it was the discipline, concentration, and focus that I would come to love and deeply appreciate.
When I was about 30 years old, I decided I would return to ballet class along with a friend of mine. Oh, lets skip to Ballet 2, we said – not having danced in 7 or 8 years. We went to class and after about 15 minutes at the barre my friend whispered to me – “Look at the mirror.” All around me, the mirror was fogged up because I was perspiring so much. When I turned (I could still turn) sweat flew all over the room – I was NOT prepared for this class! But I hung in there and finished the semester. It was a few months of lots of hot baths and ibuprofen.
But I knew that I needed to start with ballet. Then came jazz and tap. The one kind of dance that I never studied and, quite frankly, never came to appreciate till later in life was modern dance.
I love this quote from the founder of modern dance – Martha Graham – for many reasons. I read this over and over and tried to find the right angle for this blog. But, then, I just took a step back and read it slowly and finally landed at “It’s not your business to determine how good it is…” What a life lesson.
I thank my colleague and friend Ellie Potts (we did GREASE together a long time ago) for sharing this with me. Again, my eyes were opened to a new part of modern dance that I might have forgotten about.