Possibilities Amidst a Pandemic

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic I have been conspicuously missing from social media. As I hunker down in my personal cave, with much more free time on my hands than usual, for some reason I am not feeling motivated to reach out. As many in my world seem to be posting their dance classes, posting their recipes, posting their craft projects; introspection seems, for me, to be somehow more relevant and appropriate.

I recently read an article by Robin Conrad Sturm, a ballet teacher, writer and blogger for whom I have the utmost respect. The jumping off point of this article was the quote “Life is all about how you handle ‘Plan B’”. This article explored the different ways in which artists cope with the disappointment inherent in their “fall back plan”; their “Plan B”. (Find her on Facebook, read her articles, they are wonderful.) I usually find that I identify quite deeply with Ms. Sturm’s writing. However my path, as my regular readers know, has been so strange, that I found little with which to identify. The article did, however, provide me with much to ponder.

As I grew up, my “Plan A” just sort of fell into place. My world, my family and the culture in which I was immersed laid out my “Plan A” for me and it never occurred to me to even raise a question. I would work very hard in school. I would get excellent grades. I would go to a prestigious college, graduate school and post graduate program. What would then follow, of course, would be an extremely lucrative career and HAPPINESS. As I started on this path, I thought I was happy. I was a successful student and I was accepted into the graduate programs and post graduate programs of my choice. I was “living the dream” of many aspiring professionals. Well, just like the hopeful ballerina who never could secure a company contract, my “Plan A” didn’t exactly work out; but for a whole different set of reasons.

Real “success” in any career is impossible if one doesn’t love what one is doing; and I was miserable. But being a person who is terrified of change, I was resistant and so I stayed in that career for 30 years. Eventually I would have to make a change; I wasn’t happy, my finances were suffering and I ultimately had to face my crippling fear of change and DO something. And so I set out to cultivate a career as a dance teacher; at 49 years old. Coming from where I was coming, this is perhaps the strangest of all possible choices. But the “conventional” certainly did not work for me, so why not try the “strange”? And as you know, it has worked out better than I ever could have ever expected.

Now we are in the midst of a pandemic. We are staying home, social distancing, living a totally different existence. Ballet classes, as we all know them, are not part of this existence. But each of the schools for which I teach has, one by one, transitioned to teaching over the internet.

AND I AM TERRIFIED OF CHANGE.

I am not a fan of technology. I was the last person I knew to buy a computer. I was the last person I knew to join social media. And now I have to learn how to teach through something called Zoom! Now I will be uploading videos to Something called Cyanna! Now I will be setting up an account on something called Dropbox! Now once again, I am terrified. Now, once again, I am resistant. But I am always someone who has done what needed to be done. So I set out to learn to use these programs (and that would have been impossible without the help that I received from the BRILLIANT Tiffany Patrick at the Joffrey Ballet School). And as I learned to use these programs, I reflected back on that terrifying transition that I made into my seemingly preposterous “Plan B”. That transition provided me with a life that I still find surprising. Every day seems to present yet another adventure (I was teaching in Dublin, Ireland, just before this pandemic started). So how can I tell where this transition to virtual teaching may lead?

Facing our fears is a part of life. My history has taught me that weathering the storm of fear that comes with change, can open the door to a whole new life. So perhaps learning to teach online can give me some insight into a whole new way to teach. Only time will tell. But the one thing I DO know, is that I still have POSSIBILITIES because of the miracle that is my “Plan B”. And I can’t imagine a life without those possibilities.

4 thoughts on “Possibilities Amidst a Pandemic

  1. Bill,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts, and the realities of life. I have the ultimate respect for you, my friend…i admire your wisdom and your tenacity to make that CHANGE in your life!

    i talk with my students (especially those ready to graduate HS) about becoming a dancer/performer but if they are talented and driven i suggest they follow their passion.

    my parents escaped the Holocaust and lost everything. they wanted a better life for me once they came to America and were very worried about me wanting to become a dancer; they wanted me to have a Plan B.

    Dance is my passion and luckily everything fell into place- performing, teaching, having a school and directing a program at a theatre, (bergenPAC), but (not making a ton of money), but generally i am happy Witt my path.

    after losing my aunt (2nd mom), 1st cousin, mother, close family friend, dance colleague and favorite dance teacher, (consecutively) all i wanted was CHANGE and to reevaluate my life. i could NOT make change happen and now with thIS pandemic, perhaps i am/we are all forced into change. perhaps it’s a time to re-evaluate our lives, our meaning in life and our passion/s.

    out of such hardships , sickness and chaos can come personal growth, change, development, CHANGE and a silver lining.

    sending love 💜 health and safety to all,
    roberta mathes

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    • Your words are so moving. Thank you for sharing them, and thank you for being part of my journey as I rediscovered my love of dance. With the utmost respect.

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  2. Thanks for sharing Bill – remember when I suggested our Master class be by Zoom or Skype?…it just may happen! I’ve been teaching this way for three weeks now and it’s a fabulous way to teach and connect with your students! I do believe, once you get your “sea legs” and are comfortable, that you’re going to love it!
    Good luck and reach out when you’re ready! It’s a new frontier out there right now…don’t be afraid to embrace it – you’ve got this! 😊

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