When San Anselmo ballet dancer Samantha Parr started seeing dance intensities and competitions across the country a few years ago, it was a culture shock.
Beyond her supportive environment as a student at Stapleton School of the Performing Arts in San Anselmo, she began to peel away the layers of glitz and glamor from the dance world she loves and notice the difficulties. that some dancers face, from body image to sanity. perfectionism.
After COVID-19 gave High School Archie Williams a chance to slow down and reflect on her experiences in the dance community, she decided to create Dancer for Dancer, an online platform for young adults in the dance world. to speak openly via Zoom calls on a variety of topics.
Since its debut last summer, more than 300 dancers from 52 countries have tackled mental health, body image, perfectionism, burnout, racial discrimination, LGBTQ representation and d other topics, and some have participated in her Friends program, which is another way for dancers to connect. and get advice from each other. Although Parr, 17, hadn’t struggled with some of these issues, she knew they weren’t being talked about enough.
Q What made you dance?
A My mom grew up a dancer, so she got me into dancing when I was young. A lot of girls my age quit at a young age, but I continued to do so. I loved the feeling of dancing and expressing myself, and playing is my favorite thing to do.
Q And did ballet appeal to you?
A The music, the costumes and its history. It is a very beautiful form of art. I’m also a very detail-oriented person so the fact that it’s so polished and detailed is what makes it so interesting to me. And the idea of being able to show up every day, work on your technique and see improvements in a tangible way is really rewarding for me. I also like all types of dancing. I used to do jazz and smack.
Q Which Zoom calls have stayed with you?
A Body images are the ones that most connect with people and open up the most. This is the subject that most dancers can probably relate to. Just hearing the stories of the girls and boys who have come to our calls, so much is similar between the stories. I often leave meetings feeling a little overwhelmed by the information I have heard, but also comforted by the idea that we are not alone in what we struggle with, that we are all in the same boat as as ballerinas and dancers. It has been a life changing experience for me, seeing everyone connecting, laughing and sharing their experiences in such a comfortable environment, and realizing these issues in the dance world.
Q Are there any topics you look forward to discussing in the future?
A There are always new things, new challenges facing the dance industry. There is a dancer, Kathryn Morgan, who recently spoke about her experience with a professional company she has been to and her body image experience there. There are gains but often what we do is react to when and what the dancers are feeling at certain times.
Q What stigma in the dance industry do you want to change?
A In general, there is a huge stigma surrounding mental health, especially in dancing. I think it’s not only therapeutic for people to come, but it’s also therapeutic for me because I’m participating in these conversations as well. It’s nice to be able to know that you are not alone in your struggles and to hear it from other people too, it’s grounding. Although our mission is quite simple, it is to talk about these problems. There hasn’t really been an opportunity or a platform to do it. Throughout COVID, there has been a revolution of dancers, of people talking and raising awareness about mental health and racism in dancing. There has been a lot of new information, and being a pioneer in this dance revolution has been cool and watching it evolve.