I was four years old when I went to see my first ballet. We took a luxurious ride to the show since limousine prices were discounted that day. It was being performed by the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Center. My Grandmother thought that by age four I could sit quietly. In her wisdom, she knew once the orchestra was introduced it wouldn’t take long, and I would drop all interest in telling the person next to me all about my new toy first truck.
I was mesmerized by the Nutcracker and barely blinked as the stage came to life with color and story. I can even remember the smells – odd for a child, but all my senses were put on high alert as I took it all in. I consciously realize the thread of grace that was so intricately woven throughout the production, and as I relived those moments as a first-timer it was within every one of my recollections.
After the performance my Grandmother had a treat lined up for herself. She took me to the backstage door exit where the artists left the building after the lights went low and the general audience departed. As a lover of the arts, Grandmother always enjoyed thanking the artists as they left the magic of the theater for their everyday lives.
As a child, I was wide eyed to discover that the dancers and musicians didn’t get the royal treatment they gave their audience. Of course, some were appreciated more overtly than others, but none hopped into a limousine and sped off into the land of charms and sweets. Rather, some straddled bikes with their instruments on their backs, while others headed toward the subway entrance and a few hailed cabs.
It was a very young age to realize that the performers were ordinary people. Certainly not ordinary in their talent, but they were human beings with regular lives, rents and mortgages, families to care for and insurance payments to make. Not quite all of that sunk into my four year old mind, but I did see them as artists who must have loved what they did. The love of performing didn’t always come with fame and fortune.
The rewards had to have been a job well done, and leaving each performance with a sense of personal satisfaction. While on stage, or in the orchestra pit playing the oboe, or dancing to the rhythm of it must take the artist outside the realms of the personal and enter into the vast world of the Arts.
Artist are often more left brain than right. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say, but it does leave some more vulnerable. An artist wants nothing more than to perfect and deliver perfection to an appreciative audience.
Although there are the exceptions who are very savvy in business, the majority find it a learned necessity. Their skill is in the interpretation of music through their natural gifts. A singer wants – and needs to sing. The same is true for a dancer and a musician. Their calling serves a more fluid mindset, but they also realize that their gifts are their business.
The American Guild of Musical Artists acts on behalf of the men and women who give their lives over to their love of the Arts. We are their advocates and their protectors when it comes to business and bookings. They realize there is no better way to get peace of mind than to have their backs covered by those who understand from the inside out, the needs of the performing artists.
Do you remember your first ballet? How old were you? Who did you go with? What was the name of the theater? How did it inspire you?