Legends of the Fall

We all have nightmare stories about falling onstage. Mine happened when I was 16, dancing my first real soloist role in my first real tutu ballet. I was supposed to enter with a big, beautiful grand jeté. But on opening night, something went wrong. My back foot slipped as I attempted to push off for the jump, and I went down—hard. Even worse? I made this weird, involuntary "pfffffff" noise with my mouth as I fell.

Oh, the misery! I cried and cried afterward. Twelve years later, thankfully, I'm able to laugh at it all.

This morning I came across this collection of "ballet bloopers" on the Huffington Post. And yes, my first reaction to the slips, trips and spills was hilarity. I giggled for a good five minutes. (Sorry, cubicle mate.)

But then I had an epiphany: I realized that I appreciate it when dancers fall onstage. And not in a mean, schadenfreude kind of way.

I know that sounds weird. Hear me out.

First: Usually when a dancer falls, it means she's GOING FOR IT. Safe dancers don't faceplant, generally speaking, but they're also never all that exciting. Dancers who take risks might end up on their tushes—but when they do pull off whatever crazy stunt they were bold enough to try, it's an incredible rush (for them and the audience). Legendary ballerina Suzanne Farrell was famous for her dramatic wipeouts. Of course she was. She never did anything halfway, which is exactly what made her so magnetic onstage.

Second: It's easy to think of dancers as superheroes. How could mere mortals pull off the spectacular feats they accomplish onstage? But when they fall, they regain some of their humanity. And that's a good thing. Nobody wants to watch a robot perform. We want to watch people—flawed, complicated, messy people. The best artists aren't trying to convince us they're perfect; they're trying to make us feel something. And it's pretty hard for a robot to make you feel.

So when you fall—because we all do—don't be like 16-year-old me. Let the initial shock pass, and then be proud that you were dancing hard enough to end up on the floor. Maybe even take a little bow, as danseur Edward Villella apparently used to do after a flub. Above all, know that the people in the audience—though they may gasp or chuckle for a second—are rooting for you.

Do you have a story about falling onstage? Tell us in the comments!

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search