At the ballet, Saturday is code for looooong rehearsals. For me, right now Saturdays mean lots of sitting at the front of the studio, aka prime study time! So today I read and read (and read) all about interpersonal communication for my human communications class and what I learned was, well, that I had already experienced so much of what the text was explaining…in that very ballet studio.
This sounds like the beginning of a really cheesy blog post about how much ballet has taught me and why dancing makes you smarter, but I promise it’s not. This is about culture.
When people find out I dance with a professional ballet company, more often than not this question comes up within the first few minutes of conversation: So are all the guys, er, ballerinos, like, totally gay? To which I reply, Well some are gay, some are foreign, some a little of both. While there may be no complete black and white answer there, it’s all true. In my daily life, many of my coworkers are gay (fitting the American stereotype of male ballet dancers all too well) and/or citizens of a country other than the US. Just this morning in class, as I listened closely to today’s teacher giving the fondue combination at barre, I realized that not one of our artistic staff members is American- something that has always been true, but has taken me far too long to notice (I blame it on my blonde hair).
Chapter 2 of my textbook analyzes the challenges of communicating across differing cultures, due to variations in social behaviors, values, and idioms. Of course, being a straight American female, communicating with a gay Japanese man (as I do every single day) could be classified as having high risk of misinterpretation. To me, it’s just a Tuesday afternoon rehearsal. Being counted off with “5, 6, 7, H…” from my Lithuanian ballet mistress is just the norm.
Up until this point, I have taken these cultural contrasts for granted, not understanding just how greatly being exposed to them has enriched my life and my world view. I love the fact that communicating with a wide range of people so drastically outside of my own subculture has become second nature to me. Who woulda thunk when I auditioned for my very first Nutcracker all those years ago, ballet would have affected my life so drastically? Ah, the true definition of life lessons reveals itself…