I always thought I was equal to a man - until I started to earn money - in the dance world.
As I begin these blogs during Women’s History Month it is no wonder to me that I am in the middle of (or rather on hold to finish) Penelope’s Odyssey. It is a good time to tell my story as I wait for vaccines to roll out so we can begin working on the project again. I have reached a creative point where I can go no further. The dancer cast to play Odysseus is in London and finishing up a third lockdown. Like Penelope, I have to wait patiently, carving out time and finances while we all wait for more relief funding, venues to open, travel to resume. It feels very much like the time warp Penelope must have gone through. It is the not knowing that is the hardest. I will try not to confuse the two lives – mine and hers, so bear with me as I unravel my own history as a woman in the world of dance.
Today I will begin at the beginning, my childhood in a nutshell. Most likely I will circle back frequently. How we are raised is often how we come to operate in the world, carrying our values, hopes and dreams along with us as we become adults.
I grew up in rural Vermont. My parents are first generation college graduates. They moved from Massachusetts to start a new life which included love of the out-of-doors, sustainability, and adventure. We lived in an old farmhouse in need of serious repair at the time. There was no heat on the second floor where we slept (and there still isn't!). The winters lasted for six months. We would often be snowed in for days. We were a mile from town, on a dead end with no one else in sight. I am the eldest of three girls. They used to think I was bossy, a good leadership skill. I have learned to listen more.
I think the most important things about my childhood are: 1) I grew up in a family that valued education and hard work. 2) I grew up believing I could become and do anything I put my mind to, 3) My parents believed in me. 4) I knew how to play on my own. 5) I was (and still am) connected to the natural world.
We grew our own food. I witnessed the snow change colors as the sky went from daylight to dusk. I learned to play the piano and sang in the church choir. Our elementary school had gymnastics and square dancing (you can see where this is going.) I learned to sew and make my own clothes (costume design!). We had a few sheep, so I learned how to dye wool and witnessed lambs being born. Massive spider webs hung in the corners of the garage. Blue sky, clean air and pure spring water nourished us. We didn’t have money – but what we did have taught us resourcefulness, resilience and gave us limitless opportunities to explore and create. We had three television channels, one of which included PBS. I read loads and loads of books, which is how I discovered the world.
Washington Elementary School end of year gymnastics show.
I never doubted myself nor thought I was of less value than a man – until I started to earn money, which for me, is in the world of dance.
Marketing photo for Tripping Over the Edge with Orion Duckstein.
Photo credit Thomas Giroir