Sunday, June 27, 2010

The end of an era.

I had a rare opportunity yesterday, and I attended the farewell performance of Darci Kistler from the New York City Ballet. For anyone who doesn't know, she was the last dancer that the late director/founder of the company, George Balanchine personally hired. She had been dancing for over thirty years.

The performance was beautifully tailored to showcase the ballerina. She looked wonderful. I felt moved many times to think what an honor it must be to be on stage with her. There was a beauty that I cannot describe on that stage. It was a reverence that seemed to come from every dancer toward her and she gave it right back to each of them. There was such a gentleness, and it was clear that there was no question that each dancer knew they were a part of history as they performed alongside this great presence.

It was amazing to see how Darci commanded the stage. She closed with the fourth act of the ballet "Swan Lake," which was beautifully fitting. She projected her movement to every corner of the house. It gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

Her curtain call was a sight to behold. Each dancer brought her flowers and so did her family members until she could no longer hold them. The entire company was on stage with her as confetti rained from above and flowers were thrown onto the stage from the audience. This was a retirement like those I have only ever seen in books and movies. It lasted over fifteen minutes, and she deserved every bit of applause and more.

I have nothing more to say really except that I feel so lucky to have been there today. I bought tickets over a month ago for this, and I am so happy I did. I wish her the best for whatever is to come next.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An interview.

I was recently interviewed for a dancer website called, and here is the link to what I had to say!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ok, I'm hooked.

I went to see the NY City Ballet for the third time in two weeks tonight. I'm finding that at least for now, I'm really enjoying watching the ballet. I'm simply floored at the technical level of these artists. Holy smokes! Of course, their artistry is great too, but I'm completely bowled over at how many great technicians there are!

Tonight, there was yet another piece on the program called "The Concert" by Jerome Robbins. It was another favorite piece of mine that I was privileged to dance twice in my time with KC Ballet. The past three shows have each had an important piece on them that I have danced. It made me think how many great ballets I've been fortunate to perform.

It also put another thing into perspective. These pieces that I usually only did a couple of times, these dancers will have danced hundreds of by the time they retire. On one hand, I'm extremely jealous. However, on the other hand, I can remember each experience in fairly good detail because they aren't drowned out by a million other performances.

Tonight, I left with yet another reminder of how fulfilled I feel from my career. I hope I keep enjoying observing as much as I am now.

P.S. It's been exactly four weeks since we moved into our apartment. My do things go fast up here!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Well there it is.

It hit me tonight, just as I predicted it would. At a random time, doing a normal activity-walking my dog actually. I didn't have a meltdown or even cry, but I realized that I'm not a professional dancer anymore. Heck, at the moment I'm not a professional anything. Now, before anyone even starts to have that sentiment of "Oh, yes you are! You're this, this and this...." let me explain. I am still happy. I like not having anything to do at the moment but pretend like I'm on a small vacation. Let's be clear on that.

It was simply strange to think for the moment how structured my life has been up until this point for the better part of two decades. No matter what I may move onto next, I can pretty safely say that I will never have that kind of stressful structure again. Even if I was to become a professional body builder beginning tomorrow (feel free to snicker,) it wouldn't be the same as what it took me to be a professional ballet dancer. In my moment tonight, I became largely aware of how my colleagues will be going back to work in a couple of months-business as usual. There will be new dancers who have no idea who I was/am. I am now one of the mythical figures as a former dancer as the enigmatic people I used to hear tales of who had left the company before I joined.

Well, now I'm having a shift in thought process. I'm actually excited to imagine what the stories of me will be like! Hmmm.... I bet they'll be colorful! I can almost guarantee that!

I'm still massively enjoying New York City. Tonight, I stood with two friends in Times Square and looked around me at the bright lights and thought-no said out loud, "I've finally made it." You see, to me, the once young North Carolina boy who had a dream-this is making it. The first step of my dream was to live here. I've almost done it for a month now. It's quite amazing. I won't rest until I've found work. That's "dream" part two.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Inspired again.

Tonight, I attended another performance of the NY City Ballet that also held special meaning for me. The first piece on the program was the first Balanchine Ballet, "Donizetti Variations," that I had danced a principal role in with KC Ballet. Once again, I didn't find myself grief stricken by how much it made me miss dance. Quite the contrary. I felt like saying "Wow! I did that piece once upon a time!" The dancers were beautiful once again.

As a dancer, I often spoke, and I've talked about it in my entries about how I have always worked to take the audience out of their own heads and away from their problems for a couple of hours. Tonight, it was my turn to be taken away from my issues, and I felt truly happy.

Naturally, it's time for a "Donnell Disclaimer." I reserve the right to miss ballet at anytime! I'll write about it if/when I do. Just because I'm feeling good now doesn't mean the reality has sunk in yet. I'm not sure if it ever will....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


This city constantly astounds me. From having a plethora of excellent dance class options to multiple performances to be able to attend to all the wonderful things that happen just because one is "in the right place at the right time," I am soaking it all up like a sponge.

One of my favorite aspects always has been and I'm sure always will be the chance occurrences of running into someone I know on the street. It happens almost daily! It is a reminder of how small the world really is.

Back to the before mentioned class part. I am loving taking ballet now that it isn't my job anymore. It is also a welcome release for me after struggling to keep up in tap. I am definitely humbled when I take tap! I'm trying to be patient with myself though. I actually was annoyed that I have an audition tomorrow because it meant I would miss tap! How silly! When I take ballet class, it reminds me that I am good at dance still even though I feel terrible in tap! I can redeem myself!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Maybe I'm simply too tired to freak out, but in an hour and a half my audition slot will be open. Today, I'm branching out and doing my first non-dancer call. I'm really pretty excited about it. The worst that can happen is that I could bomb, and I don't know of any famous actors I've heard of who don't have a "worst audition" story! Thereby, I'm simply excited to perform! I have to get my performance kicks in my auditions to satisfy me until I get on stage again. Hopefully, it won't be too long.

So, here goes. Let the rat-race begin.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Last night I had a real treat. I attended my first ballet performance as an audience member since I "retired." What a show to see! New York City Ballet has for years been one of my favorite companies, and I've known a pretty good handful of people who dance there. Several of them are my generation, and I feel that this time after several years of not seeing them, I was given a gift. I got to see how much these artists have grown. It's a bit like seeing a child after years of not seeing them and being surprised by how tall they are! It's not that you don't expect them to not have grown, but yet, you've kept the past memory of them etched in your mind.

The first couple of pieces were more contemporary in nature and extremely physically challenging. Someone I knew in the audience from Kansas City asked me after these pieces if it made me miss it. Shockingly perhaps, I was able to answer "No." It was true. It made me proud to know what amazing efforts these dancers were making, but I didn't envy them. This may have changed a little after the last piece which was George Balanchine's "Who Cares?" which was the ballet I just retired with. Even so, I grinned from ear to ear the whole time and found it inspiring. It's such a theatrical and jazzy piece that it made me excited to be pushing for exactly what I'm doing with musical theatre. I've just got to get back on stage!

I loved being in the audience tonight. What an exhilarating experience, and I cannot wait to have more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A man with a mission.

I've got to get a job.

This whole retirement thing is great and all-collecting unemployment benefits and otherwise living a life of "luxury," but I've got to get back on stage. It's at the point now where I'm looking at the audition calls, and I feel like, to heck with getting nervous! If there's a call that I'm remotely right for, I'm going in! Hopefully, that won't bite me in the rear, but at this point, what do I have to lose?

As I've said before, one of the great things about being in NYC is the opportunities to audition for many different companies. I'd be stupid not to take advantage of those auditions.

It is a bit difficult balancing my schedule (even though I don't do much) with my personal life and my classes and my weight training. It's an adventure indeed. I'm going to make it happen though. I have an interview with an agent in a little over a month, and I'm excited to see how that goes. In the meantime, I just keep pushing, pushing, pushing. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Tomorrow I will get to do an audition at last! My first since moving up here for good. Now, it's a tap audition, and for those who know me or have been reading my blog, that small three letter word scares me! It's getting less and less scary, but it is still intimidating to me. So much so that I almost decided not to go to the audition because I didn't want to mar my image upon just having arrived. However, my friend who is currently in the show said to do it anyway. So, I'll give it a shot!

It's all a part of the adventure! At least this way I will feel that I'm being at least a little productive!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's just not my turn.

It's so strange how things happen in the time frame in which they're meant to. For example. I had two auditions to attend this week, and the first one I learned at the last second was a call for Latino men-thank goodness I figured that one out! The next one seemed perfect for me and promised to be a fun audition was cancelled. Thereby, there is only one audition for me to do next week, and it's a strong tap call, and I'm not the strongest tapper. That's ok. I'm going to try it anyhow! It will be fun.

In many ways, I feel that I should be more nervous than I am for these things, but really, I'm so bored right now, and I just want to feel as if I'm doing what I was trained to do. As I've said before, an audition is a time to perform. I already miss it even though I feel burned out at the moment. Well, I'll have plenty of chances to audition come the late summer/early fall, so I'll need to remember this time when I was complaining (but not really complaining) about having nothing to do.

I'm having a good time getting to know my roommates. They're great guys. I won't lie though. It is an adjustment for me as I have spent the last ten years living alone for the most part. It is nice however, to have people to hang out with already built into my life, and we are fortunate to have such a large apartment. Often, it feels as though I am living alone. Still, at the end of the day, all is well with the world, and I am honored to be living in such an amazing apartment in an amazing neighborhood with amazing people.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Out of my comfort zone.

For some reason, I have been putting off getting back into dance class. I'm not sure why, but I think I really just feel burned out. Tonight, however, I made myself go. I went to a jazz class. So, not only was it my first full class back in three weeks since retiring, it was two hours long, and it was a style that I am far from an expert in. I had a great time. It was nice to do something different and move in a way that is a bit more foreign to me. I have felt for years that I am no good at that kind of movement because people laugh to see me do something different. In this class, I knew no one, so I was able to just give it my best. Yes, I still look like a ballet dancer, and I need to shake that out, but that's what class is for. You can't learn something without working on it. It was fun to branch out. I'm going to be sore tomorrow.