Abigail Rasminsky | Longreads | January 2018 | 20 minutes (4,983 words)
We converged on New York City from every corner of the globe: from college dance departments in Ohio and Michigan and Minnesota, and conservatories in Florida and California and North Carolina; from Athens and Stockholm and Tel Aviv, and tiny towns in Brazil and Ecuador and Italy, all of us sweeping into Manhattan, that sliver of an island, from the outer boroughs for morning class. In our bags: cut-off sweatpants and bottles of water, tape to bandage split and bleeding toes, matches to soften the tape, apples and bags of tamari almonds from the Park Slope Food Coop, sports bras and tubes of mascara, gum, cigarettes, wallets full of cash from late nights working in bars and restaurants, paperbacks and copies of New York Magazine, and iPods for long subway rides. The bags weighed 10, 15 pounds.
Our lives were organized around class. We needed jobs that wouldn’t interfere with our real reason for being here. We heard rumors of people who had gotten Real Jobs — as temps, as school teachers, jobs with insurance and benefits and holidays off — who swore they’d keep dancing. There are plenty of classes after work! they’d say. This was technically true, but we knew that they’d get talked into going out for that one post-work drink, or be lulled by the security and predictability of it all, the paycheck and the summer Fridays, the day-in, day-out schedule; a full-time modern dancer’s life too eccentric, too chancy, too ridiculous. We knew that once that happened, it was hard to let go and dive back in. This was the time: you had to do it early; this career couldn’t wait until 28 or 30, couldn’t wait for you to get properly settled in the city, to hook up your safety net. There would always be a stronger, younger dancer on your heels. The time was now, only now.