I fall on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, meaning that I often have trouble with coordination (translation: I drop things a lot and sometimes lose my balance for no apparent reason). And yet, I’m trained in classical ballet to an intermediate level (I gave up pointe because of ankle injuries), and Lyrical, Modern, and Jazz to nearly intermediate. I’ve studied the French vocabulary and the Russian technique, the styles of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey and George Balanchine. I’ve taught classes in ballet, lyrical, contemporary, and interpretive dance.
There are certain areas in the art that I never mastered, though, and most likely never will. Tap and hip-hop and I are not friends — my body just doesn’t get those rhythms. And I never ventured into ballroom dancing, because, well, there is just so much partnering — and I just don’t like to be touched sometimes.
But that in no way discredits my almost-two-decades in this field. I started formal classes “late” (after age 10), so before that I taught myself the basic positions using dance books from the library. I excelled from complete beginner to starting on pointe in less than a year (it usually takes 4-5 years). I’ve successfully performed, choreographed, been the instructor and the director backstage, and of course been to wonderful performances by well-known companies like the British Royal Ballet.
It’s been my dream for years to open my own studio. After seeing what competitive dance is doing to the art form, my passion for this goal has been freshly renewed. I don’t approve of competition, for many reasons. High among them is the fact that competition is so expensive that it’s severely limiting the sort of social/economic groups who are able to participate in dance classes.
Dance is first and foremost an art form. To deny the public an art form is just wrong, I feel. I want to open a studio where all students, of any ethnic background, any financial means, any level of experience, female and male, are welcome to attend. Where students will receive the same level of instruction whether they shows signs of autism or not. Where their achievements will be judged on how much they’ve grown in technique and understanding of terminology, not how many plastic medals are in their cubby.
This is a dream I’m not going to let fade away. The future dancers of the world deserve it.