It’s hard to believe that this is the end of my eleventh season at SFB. In some respects, it feels like I have been here in San Francisco all my life. Warming up at the heaters backstage at the Opera house, stretching in Christensen studio, reading the rehearsal schedule for the hundredth time in the company lounge–I can’t describe how familiar, even comforting, these routines are to me.
I’ve been thinking back through all of the ballets, all of the rehearsals in which I’ve taken part…you know you’ve been somewhere a long time when you can’t remember which ballet was in what season! I wish I could tell my younger self some of the little tricks I’ve learned over the years: that Coban is the all-purpose duct tape of the ballet world (ring coverer, toe tape, ribbon saver, you name it); coconut water is an infinitely tastier electrolyte replacement than Pedialyte; acupuncture works wonders for pesky bursitis; and riding hard on the bike for fifteen minutes really helps you prep for a ballet with lots of jumping.
In other ways, though, it all seems like the most ephemeral moment in time–a vapor. The moments onstage in particular have that quality. This season, I realized how truly fleeting live performance is. The only thing that you can take with you as a dancer is the way that one performance made you feel. What I feel is what I will remember.
Sure, I will never forget when my dressed nearly ripped off in The Little Mermaid or the show of Nutcracker that the company performed during a city-wide power outage. But overwhelmingly, when I recall a particularly wonderful opening night or personal premiere, I can’t remember whether that tricky pirouette went well, or if I bobbled or slipped here or there. No… I remember the fresh air in Paris, swirling to smooth Dave Brubeck tunes with my soon-to-be husband; I remember feeling my blood pumping and the raw power of dancing with the entire corps de ballet in perfect unison at the end of Artifact Suite; I relive the sheer fun of singing “America” in West Side Story, running off breathless and nearly laughing at how much fun it was; I recollect being moved to tears while dancing Serenade, the movement fit the music so perfectly; I remember how amazed I was the first time we did a curtain call for Onegin and saw the audience rise to their feet en masse. What a feeling. And those are just a few moments–I could go on about every ballet. I just remember that ineffable high of moving to gorgeous live music, feeling really connected and in tune with the people I’m dancing with, and relishing the ability to feel so alive and in the moment.
This week will be my final week with San Francisco Ballet. It has been such a rewarding and fulfilling dream of a career, and I could not have asked for more. I’m so grateful for how much I’ve danced (as many as 55 out of 60 performances some seasons!), for where I’ve danced (it’s hard to compete with our Opera House, Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, and places like Tivoli and Odeon Herodes Atticus), and what I’ve danced–I’ve gotten to perform timeless classics, work one-on-one with living legends like Mark Morris and Paul Taylor, and collaborate on new works with some of the most influential, gifted choreographers of our time.
More than anything, though, I also feel incredibly blessed to have worked alongside such ridiculously talented artists–you are all an inspiration, both onstage and off. If I could say just one parting thing to my fellow dancers, it would be this: enjoy every moment. Every second onstage is a gift, and though that moment in time will pass, you can choose to remember the incredible way it made you feel, and no one can ever take that away.
Courtney’s last performance will be in Cinderella on May 12.