Monday, November 30, 2009

Life is quirky.

Today, after seeing a movie, I went with a few friends to a nearby restaurant to have some food and hang out a bit more. As we were sitting there, a lady nearby joined into our conversation. It came out that she happens to be here on business and is from New York. She and her fiance live in Astoria, Queens which is one of the top places my roommate and I are planning to look when we apartment hunt. She was extremely friendly and offered to remain in contact and help however she could once I got to the city. She even offered their air mattress if I needed a place to crash.

I believe that humans can find a "sign" in anything when we have something specific on our minds, but whether this was a self made sign or merely a coincidence, I'd rather be excited about it. I choose to take it as a good omen. Perhaps the universe is more aware than I thought that I am indeed making a huge move. Regardless of how this presented itself, I am tickled to think that in my own "hometown" I met someone today from my soon to be new home. I am most definitely thankful for the constant reminder that yes, this is indeed going to happen, and it's going to be great.

Drosselmeyer Part III

Since I promised to be honest about my feeling when I began this writing experiment, I cannot leave out my thoughts about my most recent rehearsal of my dear role, "Drosselmeyer." Please note that if you're new to reading this blog, I would advise you to search out the entries "Drosselmeyer Part I and II." It will help this make more sense.

Today, I experienced something new in rehearsal. I became jealous. I wasn't upset that I wasn't on the floor rehearsing as much as the other two, but I simply felt myself getting angry that I am going to have to let this part go. As I've said before, it's hard to think of being replaceable as we are as dancers (so to speak), and today, I felt that bitter truth sticking out its tongue at me.

It was hard this time to see the others get coached in front of me. I wasn't angry with them-just jealous of their experience. I don't really need the rehearsal-I'm set and confident. I simply had a moment where I wanted the part all to myself. How selfish I felt!

I took a deep breath. I allowed myself to embrace this frustration, and then I allowed myself to let it go. I allowed myself to remember that just because others are being coached differently is in no way a negative reflection on how I interpret the role. I allowed myself to remember why I have chosen to close this chapter of my career. Finally, I allowed myself to once again look at my colleagues with pride, respect and excitement for their chance to take a shot at this special character.

Almost as quickly as my insecurities sprang up, they subsided. I still have several performances with which to say goodbye to Dross and to allow myself to continue building my excitement for the future. I am thankful for the chance to have this frustrating moment and to be able to deal with it as I did. As I have moments of doubt or questioning such as this one where I wonder "Am I really doing the right thing," I get this funny visual in my mind's eye of one of those "Great Eight Ball" toys. It answers my question with "All signs point to YES."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bring it on.

After a lovely three day Thanksgiving weekend, I feel ready to go back to work and begin the holiday season. As I've said before, I love the holidays in this city, and for me that includes the tradition of "The Nutcracker." I plan to give it my all and do my best to enjoy every moment.

The clock keeps ticking onward towards the end of the season, but I am checking in right now by stating that overall, I still believe I'm doing a good job at finding the happiness in my work and life wherever and whenever I can.

By the way, I have only two days of work, and then I get two more days off! I really do get paid to play! What a great job!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I am an extremely lucky guy. I had twelve wonderful people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Everything came out perfectly-even my turkey! Trust me, the bird was low on the importance factor in the grand scheme of things.

As far as I know, and for what I'm planning, this was my last Thanksgiving in Kansas City. It was definitely the last one in my loft. Keeping myself busy by hosting, I didn't have time to dwell too much on the bitter sweetness of the event. Now that everyone is gone, of course, I have plenty of time!

Ten Thanksgivings. l am incredibly aware of how important holidays are. I have always appreciated them, but the idea of leaving my "home" made today seem all the more precious. Today was a day I will not soon forget. The people made it perfect for me. The warmth in the room was intoxicating. What is more beautiful than a dozen friends coming together to celebrate the gifts we've all been given.

Whether one considers themselves "religious" or not is of no importance to me on a day like today. What stood out to me was the undeniable fact that everyone in the room had someone and something to be thankful for. Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but by just being there, we had each other to give thanks for.

Whenever one moves and begins a new life in a new location, friends and acquaintances change and shift. That is a scary thing for me. I've never been big on change. However, whatever changes may come-whomever time and location puts into my life, I will always love and cherish the people I have laughed, cried, danced, grown and shared my life with for a decade in Kansas City.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving.

Technically, it's Thanksgiving Day although it's time for bed. For all intents and purposes, the holiday comes after this night of sleep. I spent today preparing my home for about fourteen people including myself. When I first moved into my loft six years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and now that it's my last year, I felt that it was only fitting that I host one last "Turkey Day" for my friends.

I won't use this post to go into all that I am thankful for, but I will say that I am excited to be hosting a dear friend of mine for the week. We danced together for seven years at the ballet before he retired and moved to New York. He is currently in the international tour of "West Side Story," so I couldn't have been more thrilled when his producers decided to fly the cast back for this holiday week. He is a positive reminder that there is life after ballet. I have always admired his drive and determination as he paves his way through life.

I am incredibly grateful for the little reminders that keep popping up when I need them of how things will somehow work out for the best. Life is tricky and sends us whatever curve balls it sees fit, but I believe that if I'm open to them, then hopefully I won't strike out. I choose to expect the curve balls and hope for a home run-or at least a base hit! We'll see.

Happy Thanksgiving! Let's kick off this holiday season with much merriment!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Those Kids.

Tonight I rehearsed five of my students for their roles as the Snow King and Queen and The Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier for my Nutcracker. I received such a rush coaching them and seeing them respond to what I offered. I felt completely in control of my ability to be kind yet critical at the same time. I loved feeling that I was sharing my knowledge with the next generation.

For years I have taught and choreographed. I have known that I am pretty good at communicating with people, and I am aware that I can command a room with authority. However, on some levels, I have always been aware of the fact that teaching was my job on the side. Yes, I've always poured myself into it, but still, my main focus was on my own performance. Today, it felt different. Perhaps I was simply in a good mood-I don't know. All I know is that it felt different. It was a different sense of accomplishment. It was more than being proud of my students. I felt that I was comfortable with being the coach and not the dancer.

Just as I have spoken of being ready to be a ballet audience member, I suppose I can liken this feeling to that one. It was a kind of calm that I can't recall having until tonight. Hmm. Interesting. Well, I'll take it.

Sleepless in Kansas City.

One of the many things going through my mind early this morning (3:09 am) is how honored I have been to be a teacher for the past several years. It's quite funny to think about. Actually, I inherited my teaching position from the dancer who left the company opening the Drosselmeyer spot for me all those years ago!

A few years back, I was asked to choreograph an abbreviated version of "The Nutcracker" for the school in which I teach. (Miller-Marley School of Dance and Voice.) It was quite an undertaking for me. The most challenging parts were choreographing the "Snow" scene and the "Waltz of the Flowers" scene because I created them without any dancers. I had a video camera, a notebook and myself.

Yesterday, my students performed the majority of my ballet at a benefit luncheon, and I was able to attend. I feel like a broken record because in many of my posts I keep speaking of how proud I am of those I am in contact with. I assure anyone reading that this is not due to a lack of vocabulary or creativity! It's the honest truth. This time my joy comes from watching people I have known from the time they were twelve grow and prepare to graduate high school. The thrill of seeing them take what I have taught them (along with many other teachers, naturally) and grow artistically as they mature into late teen/early adults is quite a moving experience.

I stumbled upon teaching. I never really planned to do it, but I have a hard time turning down opportunities that are challenging. As for choreographing, I've never pretended to be a George Balanchine or any other big-wig choreographer. I have always tried to be myself and make things that I would enjoy dancing, and luckily I've had people enjoy my creations.

I was humbled today to see my work being danced with conviction on two panels of dance floor laid over a carpeted ballroom floor. Even though the conditions weren't perfect, the kids looked like they were having a wonderful time.

It makes me think a bit how proud a parent must be to watch their children grow. If I receive so much joy from a student ballet performance, I cannot even imagine what a mother and father could feel.

As a performer, I have made many choices. Obviously, the biggest one is putting myself into a field in which I have had to spend the bulk of my energy and focus on myself. Many people around me are married (even some of the dancers,) and many of my friends are beginning to have or have had children. I don't envy them. That is their path, and I am doing what I love.

Today I realized something. As cheesy as it may seem, my students are my children. I believe I have played a vital role in helping them grow into themselves, whatever that may mean for each of them individually at this point in time. As children grow, so do their parents, and like a parent, these kids have seen me in good and bad moments. We've laughed with and at one another. I've talked to them as they cried. They've seen me lose my temper (yes, I threw and broke a chair once-great story.) All of the things we've gone together through have been remarkable for me. We've had a great time.

Sure, I may teach elsewhere in the future, but along with my ballet company career ending, so this chapter feels as if it is closing. I will miss terribly the kids that I am teaching and have taught. It is cliche, but I know that I am the one who has learned the most during my years of teaching.

Congratulations kiddos. I am so excited to see your upcoming performances in December. Thank you for taking such good care of my choreography. I look forward to the rest of our year together.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Drosselmeyer Part ll

Yesterday, I had another Drosselmeyer rehearsal with one of the new "Dross's" and our Artistic Director. I have to say how excited I was and am to watch this guy begin to take hold of the reins and really begin pouring himself into the role. There is nothing worse for me as an actor/dancer to watch than when people don't take opportunities to expand themselves as artists. There are many types of dancers. Some are technicians, some are tricksters, some are more theatrical, and some (but few) can do it all.

Not all dancers enjoy or feel comfortable playing the acting roles. It is nice to see the role that I love and respect being treated with care and not taken lightly. I commend my fellow dancers who are now creating their own versions of Dross for working as hard as they are.

In that rehearsal, I enjoyed watching the other guy getting coached. I have been playing this role for so long, and I have many clear and set-in-stone choices that I use because they work for me. I have never been bored by this fact because as it is live theatre, it continually breathes and changes. However, it was fun to stretch my brain a bit and take myself back to when I was creating the character by watching the other dancer work. Listening to my boss give ideas and motivational guidance gave me the chance to reevaluate some of my choices. Usually, I don't get to do this because due to the fact that I know the part like the back of my hand, I simply go to rehearsal, do my thing and leave. In this coaching session, I had the chance to step back and look at the character afresh.

More than likely, I will continue to execute the role in the way I have fashioned it over the years. I can say with confidence that I am happy with how I portray the part. That doesn't come from ego as much as it does the fact that I love this part and do everything I can to preserve it. As I said in my first Dross posting, I've been working on this part since I was a little boy.

It is exciting to be passing the torch on to the others, and of course it's still heart-wrenching, but that's all part of the game! I hope that the dancer who was working on the role so well yesterday really is enjoying it because if he's not, then he's an even better actor than I thought! It's looking great, and I'm so proud.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It is amazing how a scent can trigger our brains. Today as I was leaving a bookstore, I stepped into the parking garage, and I was immediately in the New York subway again-well, so my nose told me. Some would disagree, and perhaps I would as well if I were in the city at the moment, but I loved the smell today. It made me instantly excited. Obviously, it doesn't take much to make me excited about my home-to-be, but small surprises like this are such welcomed gifts. Hopefully, moments like these present themselves to remind me that I am indeed continuing down the right path. Of course, I could just be looking for a sign in anything these days. Either way, I loved thinking about not having to drive!

(Then, I got into my car and drove away.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God I hope I get it...

I love the surprises that life sends our way when we allow ourselves to be open to them. Today gave one of such surprises. This morning, I happened to check an email account that I don't use anymore on a whim, and there was a message from an actor friend of mine who was in town touring with a Broadway company for the month. I hadn't heard from him in years. I quickly called him, and it turned out he needed a place to do laundry! So, he did laundry at my place and we had lunch and got to catch up a bit. While we were visiting, he received a call saying he would be going on for the principal role that he understudies at tonight's performance. Thereby, I was able to get a chance to see him do a great part!

Seeing him up there and watching the cast was yet another reminder that I WANT THIS SO BADLY! It almost hurts how badly I want to be on stage doing a show eight times a week. I want the lifestyle. I'd actually love to try the touring life for a while-aw heck I'll do anything-I just want to work!

I had time during the show (which was wonderful, and my friend was superb) to think about life and get nervous yet again. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, the auditioning is what I'm most dreading! I pray that I'll get used to it and find joy in it somehow. That's a lie! I pray that I'll get lucky and not have to do much auditioning at all!!! How's that for a pipe-dream?!?

Standing by the stage door and waiting for my friend, I thought back across the years to the times such as this when I've had friends come through with tours. It is always such an exciting time for me. It's a special feeling to get to show my city off a bit. I have been so proud to live here. It is bittersweet thinking about how much I will miss the excitement of the tours coming through when I can just take for granted that I can walk out my door and see a show anytime I'd like. Hopefully the magic won't be gone, just different.

I'm glad it will be different. I love that I will have memories such as this from Kansas City. Here's to the Broadway I've seen in the Midwest. Play on.

Learn to say "I'm sorry."

As a passionate and yes, dramatic person in this field (and I'm nowhere near alone,) I tend to have a short fuse. I speak before thinking, whether trying to be funny, relay a point or defend my position on something, and that doesn't always go over well for me.

People who get close to me are sometimes put off by my directness at first, but the ones who scratch down just a bit learn that I really mean well. Where the heck am I going with this? Hold on! The strange rambling is almost past!

I am the king of apologies. That isn't something that I really feel deserves bragging rights, but it is something that I am proud to know about myself. In my time with KC Ballet, I haven't had any major disciplinary problems that I can think of. This is because when an abrasive moment happened, I would always cool my jets and go to the person in charge(whoever that was in the situation) and apologize for my behavior if I felt that was warranted. As a result, I feel that I was able to cultivate trusting relationships with my employers. Am I saying that I should be given an "Employee of the Decade" award? Gosh no!! What I am proud of is that overall, looking back on my career and my work ethics and relational behavior with my employers, I feel safe that I can leave not worrying if they liked me or not.

That is a big need and insecurity of mine-the need to be liked. I'm working on not caring about it so much, but when it comes to my business, heck yeah I need to be liked! Being fired would stink!

There is power in being able to apologize for a situation that has gotten out of hand or at least be able to discuss it. Things can get handled so much more efficiently when they're handled calmly. This is so hard for me, but the ability to remind myself that I am dealing with people-many different levels, but they're all people, helps me as I strive to learn how to be the consummate professional and human being. I could tell some extremely funny stories of semi-"fits" I have thrown now and again. There haven't been many over the years, but the words and actions that I've used during them have often left me the legendary butt of the joke! I believe if people could be filmed while in a temper tantrum, we would laugh so hard and be extremely embarrassed of how childish we look. This is one of the reasons that I always try to resolve any issues that have resulted with an out lash-whether by myself or someone higher up.

The moral of the story today: People are people. Learn to treat them as such. Learn to apologize(even if it's unclear if you are entirely in the wrong.) Finally, if after taking these steps you're unhappy with other's treatment of you, walk away. If you are satisfied, sit tight and have an awesome overall experience wherever you are as I have been fortunate to have had.

....and it ain't over yet....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Duncan Noble

I want to write about a man who was a huge part of my training. He was my teacher, Duncan Noble. I have dedicated every performance to him in my bio since he passed away some seven or so years ago.

When I was a youngster training in the preparatory division of the North Carolina School of the Arts("University" had yet to precede the title as it does now,) I wore glasses. Big glasses. I was a scrawny kid with wiry hair that unlike me hadn't decided what it wanted to be when it grew up. As a kid in the after school program, I had different teachers than those in the high school and college division. I did however know who the teachers were, and I had great respect and fear for a couple of them.

Their reputations preceded them. Melissa Hayden was known for her sharp tongue and brutal(and sometimes confusing) coaching techniques. Mr. Noble was known for a very quiet, direct, sarcastic and intimidating presence. Mind you, these are my personal recollections.

One of the earliest memories I have of Mr. Noble even noticing me came in a story my Mother told me after class in the car one day. "Did you see that Mr. Noble was watching?" she asked. "I don't know that he knew I was your Mother, but he spoke to me of you." I was excited and asked what he said. He said in his slow mellow tone, "When is that boy ever going to get contacts?" I lost it. That was it? That was all he had to say? Nothing about my dancing?!? I had such and insecurity about those glasses, and somehow with those few words I was crushed. I started bawling right there in the car. Needless to say, I had contact lenses shortly thereafter!(I actually prefer to wear glasses now-funny how perspective changes!)

Mr. Noble was my first main teacher when I went to NCSA as a full-time student in eight grade. I didn't get him at all. He taught the same class daily, he was so meticulous-frankly, I was bored. On top of all that, he picked on me relentlessly. I didn't have a naturally flexible "ballet body," and he would say things such as, "Matt, I'm going to tie a rope around each of your legs, attach them to two horses and send them in opposite directions. Then maybe you'll have some turn-out." I was an overly serious student. I couldn't take anything lightly. Everything was a personal attack in my eyes. I had yet to learn the humor in life(and I still struggle) especially when it comes to ballet. Oh the naivete of youth! His class was anything but boring. It was technical! He was laying the groundwork I needed to base my technique upon. More than that however, he was teaching me to have a sense of humor in my art.

In those days, Mr. Noble taught the first and third trimesters of the year. I left the Fall trimester happy to be finished with his class. During the next couple of months, I began to lighten up a bit. I saw him in some contexts outside of the studio, I heard the older male dancers speak with such respect of him, and more than that, I saw from their actions and work that they had learned so much from him. I wanted that.

The first class back of the Spring term, Mr. Noble responded to whatever I was or wasn't doing by asking, "Matthew, where is your head? Would you like to leave and come back in and start over?" Before, this would have ripped me apart inside, but this time I responded somewhat precociously, "Why yes sir, I would like to." And I walked out of the studio, turned back around and strutted back to my place in class. I knew that it was perhaps one of the most risky and potentially disrespectful things I could have done, and I held my breath the whole time.

From then on, we got along great. I wasn't afraid anymore. I learned that he simply wanted me to lighten up. I finally understood. I went on to learn so much from that man over the course of my studies there. Let it be noted that there was never any disrespect in my familiarity with my teacher. He was in charge, and I never crossed any lines in my speech or actions towards him.

Lately, I've been thinking about my experience with those who gave me the knowledge to do what I have been doing. Mr. Noble was such a well of information and a guide to many of the male dancers in this country that went through that school. His passing left such a hole in (U)NCSA. I suppose I'm telling this because I wanted to pay a little extra homage to him as I continue on.

The ability to laugh at myself-and others quite frankly-has helped to make this such a rewarding career. Not everyone would know this about me if they were on the outside looking in, but trust me. I would have thrown the towel in years ago if it weren't for the ability to laugh or give a smart-alecked response to break tense moments. I have indeed crossed the line at times during my professional years, but I have always tried to apologize when I'm in the wrong.

Thank you Mr. Noble for your training, your sarcasm and your relentless belief in me and all of your students. You are still missed very much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A celebration.

"This building has a wrecking ball with its name on it." This was a phrase that the executive director of the Kansas City Ballet gave annually and sometimes bi-annually for over half of my career with the company. The motivation behind it was that the building that we were in was only temporary. It sat on the grounds of what is now becoming the Kauffman Center for the the Performing Arts.

In 2007, the wrecking ball did indeed come, but not until we had moved across the street to our current temporary space. The new space is much larger than the old one was, but again-it is only temporary.

Today, I had the joy of attending the brick-laying ceremony for the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity. This will be the permanent home for the Kansas City Ballet. It was such a lovely and exciting occasion. I felt as if I was seeing history be made, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

I had the honor of writing a passage for the time capsule which will be in the new building and opened in about fifty years. That was strange for me because I wrote from the perspective that I may no longer be around! It was amazing to try to speak to an audience who would quite possibly have no idea who I was-to be a ghost-like presence to them. It was a huge experience to try to relay a message from the grave so to speak.

Today at the ceremony, my eyes welled up with tears several times. Listening to the words of the people who spoke and hearing and seeing the passion that has gone into all of this was enthralling. To see the pride in the eyes of people who have been envisioning a day like this for longer than I have been dancing-not just here with Kansas City Ballet, but for my whole life of dancing! There was always a dream in the founding directors hearts for this to be a thriving and ever growing company and school. Mr. Bolender especially had a desire to see a day like this come.

Today, one person was missing for me. That was Mr. Bolender. I didn't know him nearly as long as some of the people I work with did, but in the time I did, he taught me so much. Just as I may be watching from beyond this world when the time capsule is opened and my letter is read, I feel that Mr. Bolender was not far from us all today as we gathered to do much more than lay a few bricks and kick off a building. We gathered to pay homage to a man who changed the face of ballet in Kansas City. He was a man who humbly dared to dream. He pushed everyone to achieve greatness-not just the dancers but also the community. Today, we witnessed his legacy continuing to unfold. What a beautiful journey this is going to be for the Kansas City Ballet and city together. Way to go Mr. Bolender.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

People watching.

I would perhaps consider writing a complete series of entries about the sentimental feelings I'm having as I look around at people who have impacted me if I didn't think I would bring nausea to everyone reading! I will resist, but I will however write a small bit.

I have been noticing details not just concerning places in Kansas City that spark memories, but also odd details about the people I will miss. It's perhaps stupid stuff such as the way a friend laughs or responds to something someone has said, but I find myself overly aware of random things.

I've always been fascinated by people, and now I have the chance to look at them from a slightly removed standpoint. I will say that focusing on details(however random they may seem) is a welcome distraction from stressing out over everything going on. I'll just keep rolling with it and see what pleasant discoveries come along.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking time to think.

I have an amazing ability to get caught up in my life(as I'm sure we all do) and lose perspective on the world around me. This isn't a bad thing, but lately I have begun acknowledging my need for people. I don't want to lead anyone to believe that I've been reclusive by any means, but in my stressful moments I am having to remind myself that I am surrounded by caring and wonderful friends.

In some ways, this transition could be a lonely time. It is natural to begin to pull away from people as I begin to get closer to "good bye," but for me this is an unsafe place to be. I'm learning that it is okay to stay close to people and ask for help when I need it. Sometimes I feel guilty and selfish asking over and over for assistance, but I know that someday I will be able to offer my help to someone in a situation that is possibly like mine.

As I take time to accept the generosity of those around me and think of all the friendships I still stand to make, nurture and enrich in Kansas City, I am reminded that it is okay to take a break. I can have people over for dinner. I can meet someone for coffee. I can go to a movie. I can and will do these things without worrying that I am losing time. In the end, my personal sanity is the most important, and I accept that I find a lot of comfort by surrounding myself with amazing people.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Memory Lane.

I had some spare time today in between rehearsals, so I began looking over videos in the ballet's archives. It shook me up a little to see myself as a young man fresh out of school and full of energy. I could see myself mature as the years went on. Technology is an amazing thing! To have record of my work is such a wonderful gift for me as I move on.

Lately, I have been battling a bit with some insecurities about my dancing. This is common I believe in this field because dancers get hired at a young age, and while that is happening, those around get older. I still feel as young as them, but I can't ignore the fact that I'm not. Just like ice skating, the technical tricks get trickier and every generation can execute more fancy maneuvers than the one before it. I have to state thought that It is great to see their energy as they tackle their first years of dancing with a company.

I hope that I may be a good example to them of someone who has enjoyed his career throughout its ups and downs.

Monday, November 9, 2009


It is interesting to see the different reactions that people have when they find out that I am "retiring." I'm so used to people knowing about it by this time that I am often surprised when someone is startled by the news. It gives me a bit more validation as a person and as an artist. I know it's selfish, but it is nice to know that I may be missed if even the slightest bit.

One thing that I am thankful for and that I welcome is the advice that people are giving me. It's so generous and moving to hear people get instantly passionate about my move and give pointers with such care that you would think they were sending a loved one off. It's as if they are rooting for me and just want everything to turn out great. Responses such as these further fuel my determination to succeed. I don't see at as negative pressure, I just feel so honored to see people coming out of the woodwork to support me. I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am these days.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blinders on.

Tonight, I heard a quote that I am not going try to quote, but I am going to attempt to relay its message. I was attending a performance, and the actress was asked how she dealt with the competition aspect of the field. She had an interesting way of speaking of it. She talked about keeping blinders on as a horse does in a race. If the horse was to look to the side, the other horses would pass him.

This field is extremely competitive. All I can focus on is myself-not those around me. When it comes time for me to go to countless auditions, I need to remember that I am only on MY path. I am not in control of others' paths. There are so many factors that go into casting a role, thereby I don't want to make myself crazy wondering why someone else got the role over me. I need simply to focus on doing everything I can to prepare myself as best as I can. From there on, it's out of my hands.

This realization came as no big surprise to me, but it is nice to see how life reminds us of simple truths when we need to hear them.

I'm going to do my best to keep my blinders on.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The only emotional milestone I can really compare my current experience to is my graduation from North Carolina School of the Arts. I attended that school for just two years shy of of the length of my career in Kansas City.

I keep having pseudo flash backs to my last year in school when I was preparing to graduate. I was nervous and unsure of myself, yet I had a strange confidence that things were somehow going to be okay. That said, towards the end, I was an emotional basket case. I think that back then, I was too cool to let it show as openly as I may now, but I was a mess. I was leaving my safe zone to go out and try to make it.

Now, I'm once again leaving an even safer zone. It's more difficult this time because in a sense I am walking away from the sanctuary that I built myself. When I was in school and living at home, I knew I was safe. Simple things such as the meals I ate were provided for me. In my adult life-which began when I was still technically a teenager, I have made myself. I have forced myself to "grow up" quicker than most who go the more traditional route of college.

I am already preparing myself for two scenarios come the end of the season. Either I'll be able to play it cool as I did at graduation, or I'll be a big weepy mess(a happy weepy mess nonetheless.) I'm definitely not too cool anymore to hold my feelings inside. As I've said before, I'm not really going to plan my reactions. I'm going to let them come as they may. I am excited to have made the connection between the similarities of what I'm going through now and what I went through a little over a decade ago. I am choosing to let it help me remain calm and trust that once more, the path will somehow form in front of me.


One thing I have tried to keep in check for myself along the way during my career is the sense of entitlement that is so easy for dancers to fall into. Somehow we forget despite our talent, so many factors go into giving someone a place in the company. I don't believe we really even realize how much we take our jobs for granted at times. I believe it stems from having fragile egos and loving what we do at the same time, but it's one of the personality quirks that I don't like about dancers(including myself.)

Throughout my career, I have kept myself in check by remembering that I can be replaced. I may have spoken to this effect previously, but today it is fresh in my mind again. I know that I have brought enjoyment to audiences over the years, and I feel that I have brought much to the table during my years of work. I know that individual artistry takes time to harvest, but I also know that there will be hundreds of excited young men when they find out that there is an opening at the Kansas City Ballet. I'm excited for them.

As I am stepping away, I feel proud that I can give someone this opportunity. It will be their turn. I have no way of knowing all of the ins and outs of how my job offer came to be, and neither will my replacement, but I do hope that my job is filled by someone who is eager and not easily dragged down by a premature sense of entitlement. Yes, we as dancers have worked hard to get where we are, but we must never forget how lucky we are to get our jobs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Motivational Issues.

As I move into the "Nutcracker season," I have found myself feeling a bit down the last couple of days. I've wanted to do little more than watch movies and sleep. I am not a person who is usually lazy, but right now I'm having somewhat of a hard time motivating myself to do anything.

I think I pinpointed the issue today. Over the last month or so, I had so much momentum. I was working on the website, getting my business cards printed, making contacts for my visit to New York, doing my Fall show, etc. Now, I think I'm simply worn out. This makes me nervous because I know that I have so much more to do, but more than that I am getting more and more uneasy about this change. It is important for me to allow myself to acknowledge nerves such as this as they arise.

When making a life alteration such as this one, I imagine it is only natural to go through peaks and valleys emotionally and in the motivation department. I know I need to try not to worry about it too much and let it run its course. I know I'm not lazy. I know that I have what it takes to get myself through this. Most of all, I know that I need to breathe and try to relax into all of it. As I've said, this change coming-ready or not. I know I'll be ready, but as someone who is a control freak, it's difficult for me when I feel I'm at a pause. Time to find that second wind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kansas City Holidays.

There really is something special about the first place you call "home." Kansas City has been where I feel I have done much of my true "growing up" because it was the first place where I was on my own.

There are many things I like about this city, but my favorite time of the year is about to be here. There is something special about Christmas in Kansas City. I can't put my finger on it. I simply love it, and I will most definitely miss this time of the year the most when I leave. Mind you, I realize that I am going to be living in one of the most festive cities in the world, but Kansas City has a unique blend of urban energy with a close to home mid-western flare.

I must confess that I have finally let go of some of my inner "Grinch" when it comes to the holidays. I used to almost get angry at the thought of anything to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving. Bah Humbug!! I still find it strange that this year the two holiday radio stations began airing "Jingle Bells" the day after Halloween, but I'm okay with it this time. Like I've said before, I want to soak up everything I have loved about this place for as long as I can. Thereby, if I choose to listen to carols for two months straight, so be it! This is my season!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, November 2, 2009

College Degree.

My parents had an interesting way of looking at "higher education." They seemed to believe in the journey more than the end result. When it came to whether or not to go to college, they were never hell-bent on it being a "must do." They supported me pursuing any means it took to get me to my individual end. They always said that one needed to find his or her own path to get wherever they needed to go. If college is what it takes, go to college. If trade school, go to trade school. For me, performing arts high school did the trick.(so far.)

A weird thing began to happen about three and four years into my career with the ballet. My childhood friends began graduating from college. It was a difficult thing for me to grasp at that time because in a way I felt left out, but it was much easier to shrug it off since I felt on top of the world having already completed four seasons supporting myself and living alone practically unaided by my parents.

That was several years ago. Now, as I embark on this next phase, I have been having some slight(and I do mean slight) anxiety issues surrounding my lack of higher education. While I do have a few college credits to under my belt, I decided early on that if I were ever to do school, I would want to do it all at once. I have no interest in the twenty year plan. It works for some dancers, but for someone with a short attention span who isn't the biggest fan of school, I would need to completely immerse myself in it in order to succeed. Sometimes now that my ballet company career is winding down, I feel nervous about the future from an educational stand point. I've often joked that one needs a degree these days in order to get a job bagging groceries! A resume that states that I danced the role of "Blue Bird" in "Sleeping Beauty" isn't much help compared to "4.0 from Chapel Hill" when it comes to booking a job in the "real world."

I spent much of my life saying "I'm never going to college," but now that I'm looking ahead I need to state how much respect(and a small bit of jealousy) I have for those who have degrees.

The flip side of this whole issue is that I need to point out that I work with and have met some of the most intelligent people in this field and many of us have the "no college degree" thing in common. In a world that looks down on people for such a thing as this, I am honored to be able to buck the system! In a way, not going to school is another way that dancers sacrifice "normality" in order to pursue our passion. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and I work with a couple of people who have college degrees. Sometimes I'm REALLY jealous of them!

I guess the point of this rambling entry is to point out that we all have different ways of taking our journeys, and I need to be confident in the path I've chosen. I applaud my parents for allowing me to pick my own route, and I encourage other parents to do the same for their kids. For now I'll keep trusting that I've picked the correct path for myself.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


When I was about twelve, I was in my first production of "The Nutcracker." I was a child in the "Party Scene" of the first act. I had my first small taste of the limelight, for I was interviewed by my small community's news paper. This is one of the earliest memories I have of wanting to do more than steps-wanting to tell a story. When asked to describe my role, instead of stating it as most would-a child in the party scene, I said, "I'm not actually the boy who breaks the Nutcracker, Fritz is, but I play Fritz's best friend." That was me making something out of a chorus role at an early age.

In that production, I fell in love with a role. That was the role of Herr Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer is the mysterious, somewhat kooky inventor/magician who gives his goddaughter, Clara the Nutcracker. When I was a young boy, I would get so excited to watch how one particular actor turned dancer would portray the role. He had such a fun and whimsical way of playing him, and I swore that one day I would try to play this part.

About eight years ago, one of the best Drosselmeyers I have ever seen in a professional company stepped down at the beginning of the season. I was about twenty-one or so, but I did something that I've only done once in my career. I asked for a part. I expressed to our ballet master that I would be interested in learning Drosselmeyer. I said that it was the part I had wanted to play since I was a child, and even if they thought I was too young looking, the chance to learn it for the future would be welcomed. Lucky for me, they put me on. Ever since, I have had this part in Nutcracker to look forward to every year.

I was given a gift. My leaders took a chance by giving me this part. I was also one of the last Drosselmeyers at the Kansas City Ballet to be coached by one of the foremost experts in balletic theatrical storytelling, Todd Bolender. He picked the role to pieces and opened Dross(as we call him) up to a world of possibilities for me. He said things such as, "Dear! When you're doing this part, think of being a great bird! Use your cape to fly across the stage!" As with many actor/coach scenarios, I had already set Dross in a certain way in my mind, and Todd came in, and together we stripped the character down and built him back up.

To this day, I do the role similarly to when he coached me because it simply works. I find new ways to keep it fresh, and with live theatre one has to naturally adapt to unexpected things on stage. When "surprises" arise on stage, I welcome them as gifts. I love having to make spur of the moment decisions(as long as it isn't something that I feel gets in the way of my storytelling!) Admittedly, I have had my share of angry moments for things not going right! That's showbiz folks!

Yesterday we had our first Drosselmeyer rehearsal. We have two new dancers going on this year. I felt a sense of pride to be the veteran and watch them begin to discover the character as we worked. I look forward to sharing what I know with them. It is one way for me to keep the memory of Mr. Bolender alive.

I don't expect everyone to have the same obsession as I have had with this role. We all have different parts of our lives and careers that are exciting and serious to us. Nevertheless, I know that by passing the torch,I will be able to live vicariously through the portrayals of Drosselmeyers yet to come as I say farewell to a character who has gone from being a childhood dream of mine to a dear friend.