Last year, the Las Vegas revue spectacular ‘Jubilee!’ went dark after running for 35 incredible years. The show’s closing created an unprecedented flurry of Facebook activity between dancers from around the world who had at one point in time, shared that stage.
In Sydney, a group of us met for lunch to tap-dance down memory lane and celebrate the amazing experience. We remembered the exhilarating panic of our opening nights.
When I arrived in Vegas to begin a six-month contract, I’d left the conservative womb of the ballet studio – tights, leotard, pointe shoes, and bun. There hadn’t been an opportunity to trial my costumes during rehearsal so I was unprepared for the personal transformation that took place 30 minutes before my first show.
There I stood, poised in position behind the curtain with a dozen seasoned performers, wearing eyelashes the size of caterpillars, silver dance heels, fishnet stockings, a costume of diamantes that weighed more than I did, and a zillion feathers that were sure to shift my centre of gravity once I moved.
Although slightly terrified, I was in the process of falling deeply in love with my new career in the big city of lights.
We shared backstage stories and talked about how we missed the camaraderie of the thousand-light-bulb dressing room, where we became each other’s best friends and counsellors six nights a week.
Often our goal was to make each other laugh, preferably on stage. Innocent mishaps were inevitable - headpieces falling off in the middle of a production number leaving the dancer with a stocking cap and pinhead exposed. There were times we laughed so hard we cried, floating eyelashes to cheekbones.
We remembered the thrill of driving to work just as the sun went down and the neon lights came up. It was such a buzz to be a part of that exciting city. Many of us were caught star-struck at the backstage door, where we walked left to the Ziegfeld Showroom, and the famous turned right to their Celebrity Stage.
Amy Harris, a senior artist at the Australian Ballet, talk about touring with a toddler on I Don't Know How She Does It (post continues after audio).
In retrospect we all agreed that our time in Vegas had shaped us in ways we hadn’t taken the time to appreciate. That the ending of this one professional instant was simply just the beginning of another.
We acknowledged that over the years we’d been able to leverage many transferable strengths bred from working in that distinctive environment.
Move in sync with your fellow dancers and stick to the original choreography. (There are moments in life for expressing individuality and times to adhere to game rules to ensure predictable outcomes.)
Don’t be precious about criticism from your dance captain - it’s fatal. (Openness to constructive feedback ensures growth toward full potential.)
Expect to fill in for another dancer. To avoid collision or injury be mentally flexible and prepared for the eventuality. (Change is a constant, so anticipate it and be ready.)
There are two options on opening nights; run and hide, or breath deep, dive in, and trust. (Some life situations require us to ‘push through the pain’ and do things anyway.)
Be hyper aware of your fellow dancers on stage or end up in the orchestra pit. (Working well in concert with others creates a whole more powerful than the parts.)
If you want the option to sign a contract extension, get to dance class daily and stay away from tubs of ice cream. (Achievement requires adherence to regulation and self-control.)
We agreed that in life, all is not lost when a good thing ends, we have the endless capacity to reinvent ourselves… and we have.
Muffy Churches is an executive coach, leadership specialist, keynote speaker, and Director of Beyond Focal Point. She is the author of ‘Coach Yourself’. Find out more at www.muffychurches.com