A New Beginning (it’s redundant, I know)

Many moons ago, I authored a blog as a way of writing about dance in a way that I felt was both casual and humorous. At the time I had just graduated from The Ohio State University with a passion for dance that was barely even a year old (and a degree in East Asian languages). I was an outsider to the world of ballet and it was my hope that contributing to the conversation about this art form would be a great way for me to develop my personal interests and stay connected with something I honestly didn’t know what to do with. Naturally, I set out to enjoy what I could, voraciously watching films, attending performances, reading books, and writing every whimsical thought that came to mind. It was a fabulous time that produced some good content and some awful writing, but it was a project created out of love and great curiosity.

Some of you may know the blog of my previous life You Dance Funny and I’m both thrilled and embarrassed by this (as I said, there’s some terrible writing in there, lurking in the archives like awkward year book photos). So I’d like to take a moment to briefly summarize what happened to You Dance Funny (YDF) in the end. My last major project for YDF was to go on a transnational road trip from Seattle to New York, and along the way I took ballet classes and attended performances by companies all across the United States (I believe the final count was seventeen companies and over thirty performances). My goal was to document the experience and turn it into a book, which never happened for several reasons:

  • I was a decent writer, but I didn’t have the skills to write a book, which was a different beast.
  • I didn’t think my story was important enough. Sad face.
  • I was burnt out. Driving all over America was actually rather exhausting (Is anyone surprised by this revelation?).
  • I couldn’t force the book to fruition alone. It was too monumental a task to simply churn out a manuscript and query it to publishers with nothing in my pocket but crossed fingers.
  • Also, nothing in my pocket. I had no money!

I don’t regret that trip at all–I had so many opportunities to observe incredible dancing and take class with a variety of amazing teachers. At a certain point I realized that the experience became less about broadcasting it to the world and more about what I needed and thus I shelved the project, perhaps selfishly. My frustrations with never being paid as a dance writer reached its acme anyway and I simply couldn’t invest myself into something that never gave back–at least, not immediately. Deep down, a part of me felt my talent, knowledge, and work were valuable but the results never seemed to reflect that. By the end of my travels, I still felt like an outsider to ballet too.

In an attempt to validate my personal journey in dance, I applied for graduate school at the University of Roehampton, which has a one year Masters program in ballet studies. Against my better judgment, I romanticized the idea of studying in London, home of Sir Frederick Ashton and the Royal Ballet, with a professor at the school who specialized in Ashton’s work. However, my only chance to attend Roehampton depended on receiving an adequate scholarship–which I didn’t.

It was during the application process, that one of my former teachers and mentors, the esteemed Professor Karen Eliot, said to me that after I finished the masters I could come back to Ohio State University and apply for the PhD program. It was quite possibly the most preposterous suggestion anyone has ever made to me, but when the Graduate Studies chair makes a recommendation to you, there’s a certain imperative to listen with an open mind to the possibilities.

A couple of years later and here I am, halfway through my first semester as a graduate student with OSU’s Department of Dance, where I intend to focus on ballet pedagogy and the work of Sir Frederick Ashton. Here I am, definitely older, possibly wiser, and feeling like a “ballet person.” Here I am, starting a new blog to discuss dance, in hopefully more professional ways–though I heartily accept my former comedic identity as something that has made all of this possible and thus, can’t see myself capable of erasing my sense of humor completely. So my intentions are to share my various observations on dance as usual and some insights into subjects I may be researching over the course of the next few years (please don’t ask me about a dissertation topic–I don’t even know what’s due next week).

I must conclude with a heartfelt thanks to all readers of YDF and now The Fred Step, because it’s not a conversation if it’s one sided. I hope and encourage active participation and look forward to reading comments and engaging in productive dialogues with you, because I maintain that all perspectives, whether academic or not have something valuable to say. After all, that is where I began.

Best regards,

Steve Ha

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Steve,

    Great to hear what you’ve been up to and congratulations on getting onto the PhD program. Looking forward to reading more here. I’ve become rather a lurker lately but still catch up with the ballet scene on Twitter. Best wishes and lots of luck with the research.

    Catherine aka @catchip

    Like

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