“So, what do you do?” she asked.
“I am a professional ballet dancer,” I replied.
“Oh, is there a need for that?”
I’m used to a range of interesting reactions when the topic of my profession comes up but this was a new one. Slightly taken aback, I paused. “Yes, there is a need for it” I stammered and rambled into a short, disjointed defense of my position while silently kicking myself for not being more prepared to answer.
The pandemic has turned all of our worlds upside down; no one has been unaffected by its repercussions. We’ve been forced to reevaluate what is important, define what is “essential,” and rearrange life as we knew it. In a word — it’s been disorienting.
For a lot of dancers it’s caused us to do some introspection. Personally, dance has been a safe place for me to process this world’s brokenness. More specifically, the studio, whether it be abroad or locally, has felt like home. When my family experienced a year of tragedy in middle school, I remember counting down the minutes to when I could go to ballet class and escape it all. Through high school and college, the studio was a welcome respite from school stress. The dance world definitely has it’s ugliness and isn’t all tutus and fairytales but there’s something about the familiarness of the “ballet bubble” that is comforting.
When everything got closed down, I (like most dancers) found myself somewhat floundering, in that the studio was off limits for the first time in my life. Dancers across the world began to make do by ordering marley and portable barres and creating makeshift home studios. We came together via zoom class and IG live in an effort to preserve some sense of normalcy. You can take the dancer out of the studio but you can’t take the dance out of the dancer.
As we’re slowly reorienting ourselves, there’s been a lot of talk around the hashtag #savethearts. Our industry was the first to go and will probably be the last to bounce back (and it will be more like a crawl than a bounce).
Yet artists are resilient. We are finding new ways to engage with and share art. Across the board, organizations are becoming more intentional and consequently creating more meaningful art. This makes me hopeful.
Dare I say it?
I don’t think the arts don’t need saving.
Yep, the arts don’t need saving.
Since the beginning of civilization, art has existed. (Now, where the funding for art should come from — that’s a different discussion for a different day.)
But think about it. Humans are intrinsically creative. This is one of the ways we reflect our Maker, the most insanely creative being that has ever and will ever exist. You can’t squelch the innate human desire for expression. Art is just another form of communication. This situation has simply forced us to hone our messaging + evaluate what conversations we need to be having.
Our resource pool may dwindle and dry up. Our events might get cancelled and our venues may collect dust being unoccupied. We may have to get creative in the ways we monetize our skills and gifts (but hey, aren’t we used to that already?). It will be tempting to clench our fists, hold on to “the way things were.” Yet, remember the creative process is always an adventure of bringing order to to the unknown chaos and we were never really in control in the first place.
When we find ourselves times like this or in conversations like the one above, it’s easy to doubt our calling. It feels like a personal attack and we can be tempted to want to prove our worth or justify our life choices. But the outward products of our art, do not define us; making art is what we do, it’s not who we are. Remember that.
Is there a need for the arts you ask.
The answer is a resounding YES!
Art is more than a career. It’s a call to reflect the ultimate Creator. These gifts we are given are meant to be held with open hands and shared. The wonder. The joy. Friends, we hold a unique position to share hope and beauty amidst the brokenness. Let us not lose heart but steward these opportunities well.
PS– We all carry God’s creativity through being made in His image and we all create art in some way or another. For those of you who may not feel called to create vocationally, know that your words of encouragement and patronage can go a long way. We’re all part of the mosaic in this redemption story. -RKD