Dancer to Dancer

Bradley Shelver's Future as a Solo Artist

My first solo tour in Italy (in November) was very exhausting, yet incredibly rewarding. I spent a total of three weeks there. Before the tour, I went to Amsterdam, where I had the opportunity to watch Jirí Kylián reconstruct one of his only evening-length works, called One of a Kind. In 2002, he had planned to teach me Blackbird, one of his solos, though at the time, neither of us had room in our schedules to get into the studio together. Instead, I learned it by watching a video. I was asked to perform this solo at a gala held in Teatro Comunale Francesco Cilea in Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy, though I couldn’t, because this time, I didn’t have time to rehearse it.

Instead, I chose to dance an 11-minute solo by Elisa Monte and David Brown, titled Run to the Rock, set to music by Nina Simone. The gala featured classical soloists like Giuseppe Picone of Italy, Joel Carreño and Viengsay Valdés of Cuba, Anna Tsygankova of the Bolshoi Ballet, Alicia Amatriain and Jason Reilly of the Stuttgart Ballet and Ivan Putrov of the Royal Ballet in London. I was the only representative of contemporary dance. The program consisted of works by Itzik Galili, William Forsythe, Marius Petipa and Agrippina Vaganova, so it was certainly a mixed bill. Our first press conference was just as eclectic, with reporters from across Europe. The performance was a tremendous success, and I appreciated the praise I received for being the only contemporary dancer.

Though many of the other performers had danced together before, this gala was my first time onstage with any of them. After years of being in the biz, it still amazes me that dancers, no matter where they are from or what language they speak, can connect and form a bond that feels like family even if it only lasts for the performance.

The next day, I traveled to Rome for my day off before flying to Naples to teach master classes at the Labart Conservatory and the Patty Schisa School. My classes were filled, sometimes with almost 70 dancers. Even though I had taught at the Labart Conservatory before, so students knew what to expect, I was still surprised at how many of them had heard of me. I must admit it was flattering when they surrounded me and asked for pictures and autographs. I have never before experienced such an overwhelming response. I’ve decided to start planning another tour for the summer of 2006.

Looking Ahead

The life of a dancer is truly an adventure. The solo artist’s world is filled with excitement and glamour, yet also requires dedication, sacrifice and overcoming stress and other obstacles, such as endless touring, muscle pains, physiological effects of injuries, trying to run your life from the road and balancing relationships with your friends and family whom you don’t get to see very often. I think the strength we have is our love for the adventure, the joy of bringing the language of dance to so many people, regardless of color, creed or political convictions. I would not trade my life in dance for anything. I feel that my happiness comes from the joy and fulfillment of my audiences—that is why I breathe; that is why I dance.

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