Happy Mother’s Day!
Today, I’d like to send all of you “Ballet Moms” out there my utmost good will and support.
Throughout recent history and in stories and cinema, mothers of ballet dancers have attained legendary status, and have sometimes gotten a bad rap. While most of this is myth, I can tell you that during my 28 years at Scarsdale Ballet Studio, I have met well over a thousand moms and helped many of them navigate the occasionally bewildering world of their child’s dance education. Several of these women have become my life-long friends.
As I reflect on this, I want to pay tribute to my own ballet mom. She was not the notorious kind. However, she did bring me to see a four-act Russian production of the Sleeping Beauty when I was four years old in downtown Chicago. I was enraptured, so right away, she found the nearest dance studio for my first ballet lessons. She often played ballet music on our hi-fi at home so I could dance around the house. She never pushed me. She saved money every year and brought me to see all the great visiting ballet companies, even though we sat high in the balcony.
My entire childhood became defined by my love of ballet, and when our local dance studio closed, at my insistence, my mom began the tedious, four day a week, 45 minutes each way, after school trek to the Evanston School of Ballet (still in existence, with my teacher, Kerry Hubata) so I could continue to progress. My dream was to become a member of Balanchine’s New York City Ballet.
When I was fourteen, I convinced my mom to bring me to an audition for the Lyric Opera of Chicago Ballet, which was directed by the legendary Balanchine ballerina, Maria Tallchief. I was accepted, and my parents arranged early dismissals from my high school so I could take the train each day to Chicago, where I took class, rehearsed, and performed with the opera. My mom worked part-time and also took care of my younger brother at home, so it was out of the question for her to accompany me. However, we were very close in our late-night talks about books, movies, theater, and politics.
After two years with the Opera, my big dream became real. Balanchine had come to Chicago to work with our company. After he left, I wrote him a letter, and he invited me to study at the School of American Ballet. My mother still remembers answering the phone call from his secretary and being stunned. She then made the incredible sacrifice of allowing me to leave home at age sixteen to live in New York City and pursue my calling. It was not until many years later that I understood how devastating and frightening this was for her. One year after I left home, I joined the New York City Ballet. Ballet has been and still is my life.
For this, I thank my mother. She not only gave me life, she gave me “my life.”
Dear SBS Moms, (Don’t worry, Dads, Father’s Day is coming!) I am here for you. As a mom myself, I am aware of the challenges you are facing. I salute you for all you do for your children and thank you for trusting us with your child’s dance education. Please don’t hesitate to reach out via e-mail any time you would like to talk to me or one of our faculty.