As a young teenager growing up in Texas, I dreamt of one day attending Parson’s School of Design in New York to become an interior designer. Very few people around me had a connection to the design world, so in a sense I was on my own. Being that this was long before the Internet, I learned of the school by reading interviews of my favorite designers in magazines like House & Garden. When the moment came to apply to Parsons, an entirely different possibility cropped up. I had recently started taking ballet class and had, I was told, some natural talent. In spite of starting far later than most dancers, my teachers encouraged me to dream big and pursue a professional career.
Suddenly, I had to choose between dance and design. I chose ballet, thinking that if I didn’t give it a shot, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So at the grand old age of 17, I headed to New York where I had been accepted into the summer program at The School of American Ballet.
For a Texas boy who had never been to the big city, let alone seen a fully professional ballet performance my arrival into this new world was one of astonishment and, yes, intimidation. To be accepted and take classes at SAB—America’s most exclusive ballet school—was terrifying enough, but when George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirtstein would casually walk in to observe class, well, even a greenhorn from the hinterlands knew it was a big deal.
I went on to dance professionally for five years with the Los Angeles Ballet. (The photo above is of me in the LA Ballet production of the Nutcracker). During those years, I met life-long friends and traveled the world. When I was almost twenty-five, I was faced with another decision, should I continue dancing or move toward a career that could last my lifetime? I chose, with some difficulty, to go back to my first love—design.
Those days of dancing have never left me. They color my imagination today as powerfully as when I sat in the New York State Theatre for the first time and watched the curtain open to reveal Balanchine’s sparkling Symphony in C.
Dance is theatre, and by most people’s description, a performance art. But to me it is also very much a visual art. Line, proportion, space, lighting, color, shape—all of these are essential elements to dance. Curiously enough, they also serve as the foundations for design.
Design is theatre too. Putting together a room that fulfills a desire for beauty, or even drama, while functioning flawlessly for its various purposes is what it’s all about. Balanchine’s quote about creating a ballet can also be said of creating the perfect room, “First comes the sweat, then comes the beauty… if you are very lucky and have said your prayers.”
To support a young dancer’s dream, and bring some beauty into our world, please visitSAB.org and donate today.