Julia Adam

Julia Adam began her ballet training in her hometown of Ottowa, Ontario, then attended Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto at age 13. Post-graduation, in 1983, Adam joined The National Ballet of Canada. Five years later she was performing with the San Francisco Ballet, where she worked her way up to principal dancer.

In 1993, Adam’s first stab at choreography, The Medium is the Message, received a nomination for the Isadora Duncan Award—and proved that this esteemed dancer also had some serious compositional chops.

Since the creation of that first piece, Adam has crafted works that have been commissioned by prestigious ballet companies (SFB, ABT Studio Company and Cincinnati Ballet, to name a few) and performed nationally and in Canada. Thirteen Lullabies, which premiered at San Francisco’s Cowell Theater in 1996, earned Adam an Izzy Award.

In 2002, she retired as a dancer from the San Francisco Ballet in order to delve deeper into the realms of choreography and motherhood. —Monica Levy

Dear Julia,

I came upon a book of affirmations, and I wanted to share one of these so-called truths.

“Failure and success are the yin and yang of achievement, the two forces in the Universe over which we have absolutely no control. Have you forgotten that all you can control is your response to failure and success?”

You may think the color of your leotard, the height of your pony tail, the width of your hips, the number of pirouettes you do or the length of your legs will determine whether or not you get jobs in the ballet world. You believe that, if you control those things, you’ll be guaranteed what you want. Turns out, this is completely off.

After life as a ballerina, you’ll spend your time as a choreographer and a mother of two beautiful children. As a mother, you’ll see that every one embodies a bit of magic, some gifts no one can take away. We are all unique. As a choreographer, you’ll realize you’re looking for something specific and, sometimes, unexplainable. The belief that you can control a choreographer’s choice by wearing a certain leotard or adding another pirouette is unrealistic.

As a choreographer, I look for authenticity and am drawn to people who are themselves. When I meet someone or watch a dancer, I want her to be who she is. I’m not interested in someone who’s cloaked in what they imagine I might like.  Spending all that energy on trying to be what you think others want you to be is a distraction from walking your own path.

There will be two occasions when you will throw your arms up and let go of trying to control everything. The first time you’ll be promoted to soloist and the second time to principal dancer. Listen to SFB Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson when he says, “ You’ve found your voice. I’ve been waiting for this to happen.” Don’t try to control your success in ways that inhibit it.

Believe in yourself. You can control your dedication to the work, your attempt to better your technique and your way of expressing yourself through the language of ballet. Find out who you are, and stop directing your energy toward being anything other than you. You are an extraordinary person.




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