Transcript, Episode 91: The Dance Things We’re Thankful For

Margaret Fuhrer:
Hi, dance friends, and welcome to this special Thanksgiving week episode of The Dance Edit Podcast. I’m Margaret Fuhrer.

Courtney Escoyne:
I’m Courtney Escoyne.

Lydia Murray:
I am Lydia Murray.

Amy Brandt:
And I’m Amy Brandt.

Margaret Fuhrer:
We are editors at Dance Media, and all four of us are here a day early this week to discuss, not recent dance headlines, but instead the things we are grateful for this year. Actually, the first thing I’m grateful for is to have the four of us together on the pod for the first time in a while. It’s really nice to be with you all!

We’ll keep this relatively short so you can get back to your cooking and traveling and family time. But we thought it was important to recognize that however weird 2021 has been—and honestly, I don’t know if at the beginning of this year any of us understood just how weird it would continue to be, even now—but dance has helped us get through all of it. So we’re going to go down our grateful lists one at a time. Courtney, you want to go first?

Courtney Escoyne:
Sure. I’m being slightly less sappy than I was last year. So one of the things I was really grateful to see this year, both as a dance journalist and a dancer and a person who lives in the world, is the continuing conversations and also new and renewed conversations happening about the full spectrum of queerness as it exists and functions within the dance landscape—getting beyond just looking at the gay cis male experience of being a queer person in dance, really expanding beyond that. Which is a conversation that is ongoing in society in general and also dance in general, but then particularly in ballet. I particularly loved Siobhan Burke’s incredible, beautiful, thoughtfully reported article in the New York Times this summer talking about lesbians in ballet and that particular experience. And seeing the conversations around on social media was just really heartening, and I want to see more in this vein. I want to see more of those stories on stage, and I can’t wait to see how much more there is to come.

Margaret Fuhrer:
Retweet.

Courtney Escoyne:
[laughter] I love that the retweet is still a thing at this point.

Lydia Murray:
We haven’t said it in a while!

Courtney Escoyne:
I stopped saying it so much. So I feel a little attacked.

Margaret Fuhrer:
I’m not going to let it go. [laughter]

Courtney Escoyne:
And then my second thing is, I am grateful for vaccines, and also vaccine requirements and mask requirements in theatrical spaces. Because I was the person and I’m still the person who is updating Dance Magazine‘s ongoing list of performance cancellations due to the pandemic. And the amount of times that I have to add to that has slowed so significantly since vaccines came into the picture. And since there are all these safety precautions that in place to allow audiences and artists to safely return to life performance this year, I’m just so happy to be adding to that list less. And also just happy like, Hey, live performance! It’s a thing. We have it again. We all get to go cry in theaters again.

Margaret Fuhrer:
It’s awesome. So much crying in theaters. It’s the best.

Lydia Murray:
Yeah. I remember when that list—when you and I, Courtney, or maybe it was just me, I don’t know—nicknamed the Listicle of Sads or something like that.

Courtney Escoyne:
The Listicle of Sads. We did call it that.

Lydia Murray:
No longer quite so sad. So, that’s good.

Margaret Fuhrer:
Lydia, I feel like that segues right into your grateful list.

Lydia Murray:
Yeah, I am also of course thankful for the COVID vaccine and for the opportunity to be with other people in person this year. Last year, we saw the dance world’s resilience amid so much hardship. And now even though the challenges continue, the ability to have live shows and be in community with other audience members has just been so meaningful and such a reminder of the value of live performance.

And speaking of shows, I’m thankful for the recent—meaning that it just happened last night, at the time of this recording—Battle of Boston performance at the American Music Awards. If you didn’t see it, two iconic boy bands of yesteryear, New Edition and New Kids on the Block, who were both from Boston, shared the stage for the first time ever. And the New Kids gave credit to New Edition for being an inspiration and for the magnitude of their legacy, which was great to see.

And BTS was in the audience dancing along to New Edition’s choreography, which was not only fun to watch, but it was such a full circle moment that really illustrated the power of music and dance. I mean, here was this group, this Black American band that became huge before BTS members were even born, and they heavily influenced boy bands like New Kids and so many others that followed, and BTS is continuing in that tradition in their own way—and you know, from all the way in South Korea. So, that concludes my thank yous.

Courtney Escoyne:
I haven’t been on social media yet today, so I had no idea that any of this happened! Lydia, please send me a link. I’m just—everything you just said is so delightful.

Lydia Murray:
Yeah. I just saw it and I was like, for one, this is so great in a typical sort of fan way, but also just the historical significance of this moment is just, wow, it’s huge. But anyway…

Margaret Fuhrer:
New Kids giving credit to New Edition, that is so major! That is itself is major.

Lydia Murray:
Right?!

Margaret Fuhrer:
Listeners, we’ll link that up in the show notes for sure. Everybody should enjoy that goodness.

All right. My thankful list is sort of small and selfish. I’m thankful for two very specific things. One is JoJo Siwa on this season of “Dancing with the Stars,” which I know surprises none of you. And I know Courtney and I already got into this in a previous episode. I just can’t stop thinking about it. Oh, and also we’re recording this on Monday. So by the time you’re listening to it, she may or may not be a mirrorball champion, we’ll see.

But, as someone who kind of loved Jo Jo even from her earliest days on “Dance Moms,” it’s been especially wonderful to see her celebrated and embraced by much broader audience as her most authentic self. And I know that isn’t only happening because of “Dancing with the Stars.” Like the TikTok crowd came around to her well before she was on the show. But when we first heard that Jo Jo and Jenna Johnson would be the first same-sex partnership on the show, I think a lot of us had all these hopes about what that might look like—and literally every single one of them has been fulfilled. Like, overtly romantic routines? Check. Allowing her to explore her more androgynous side? Check. Leaning way into her willingness to go like full out to the edge of insanity? Check! I’m still having the best kind of nightmares about her as Pennywise the Clown. We got her as Prince Charming. It’s just all around so delightful. So thank you, universe, for that.

Courtney Escoyne:
That’s what we call range. [laughter]

Margaret Fuhrer:
Right? The girl’s got range.

The other thing is, like Courtney and Lydia both said, it’s just about the return of live performance and how grateful I am for all of that. But I wanted to give a specific example to illustrate that. Every single dancer I’ve been able to see live has been a source of joy, but Cassie Trenary from ABT—oh my god. I know she went through a really difficult personal journey during the shutdown, and she came back with this level of intensity and maturity and commitment that on multiple occasions has made me cry at completely inappropriate moments. Like, you all know I was not the biggest fan of Jessica Lang’s Tony Bennett premiere at the ABT gala. But seeing Cassie out there killing it as the most gleeful bobby soxer—tears. Completely inappropriate tears.

And then there was her Giselle, which Amy, which I know you saw this performance, too. First of all, we got Giselle as an actual flesh and blood girl in act one, like someone who is maybe lusting after Albrecht as well as in love with him—which her Albrecht was Calvin Royal, who was also incredible, so like, of course, yes, that would be her reaction. And I can’t wait to see more of that partnership, because they’re so good together and he’s so incredible. But then her mad scene was so devastating that when she reappeared as a wili, I found myself thinking: Yes! You’re free. You’re free of the toxic men in your life. You can just go and dance with your girlfriends and not worry about your stupid heart anymore. Use dance superpowers! Which, I feel like that’s a feeling I’ve been having more and more often at the start of act two. But just—what a gift, what a privilege to be able to see that kind of artistry on stage again. And I’m going to cry, darnit! Amy, take it away before I embarrass myself.

Amy Brandt:
I have one thing I’m really grateful for is the dance industry’s—the way that they’ve been focusing more on dancers and mental health, and on helping them with their mental health. I know that this conversation started a few years ago and it’s been slowly building and everything. But I feel like one thing that came out of the pandemic, since it was such a dramatic experience for so many dancers, especially, was that it really brought that mental health aspect to being a dancer to the forefront in a very like real way.

And I see companies and institutions taking more action to help dancers through that, whether it’s through partnerships with their company or providing resources or what not. I also just hear people talking about it all the time. And I think that’s a really great improvement from the way things used to be.

Especially like, I think about my own career. I think about my friends. I think about times where I really could have benefited from some mental health help here and there and it wasn’t, just wasn’t kind of available. So that’s one thing I’m grateful for to see that people more are more comfortable talking about it.

Margaret Fuhrer:
More hard retweeting.

Amy Brandt:
And the second is just being able to go to a live, honest to goodness, in-person dance class again. Full disclosure: I had zero interest in Zoom ballet class during the pandemic. I didn’t do any. I know a lot of dancers out there had to in order to like continue their careers. But I, you know, I mean after a year and a half of Zoom Pilates, Zoom yoga, about a month ago I found a studio near my home. I moved recently out of the city, and I found a studio that had adult recreational classes and took my ballet shoes and signed up and have been taking classes every week.

And it’s been awesome. Some are just like a, it’s like a ballet barre class it’s so it’s not like a traditional ballet class, but I’ve also taken an adult ballet class as well. It just feels so great to be moving in space, dancing along with others, in a community to music. And even just the like hanging out and chatting after class aspect of it is something I’ve really, really missed. And I will gladly put on a mask, even if it gets soggy and sweaty and gives me pimples. I am just so grateful to be able to have that option again. That is what I am very grateful for this year.

Margaret Fuhrer:
Dancing together and seeing dance together. That’s really it. That’s really it.

All right. Thanks everyone for joining us, and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We’ll be back next week in our regular Thursday slot for another discussion of the news that’s moving the dance world. Keep learning, keep advocating, and keep dancing.

Courtney Escoyne:
Mind how you go friends.

Lydia Murray:
Bye everyone.

Amy Brandt:
See you later, everybody.