Long live art (and a Becky update)

If you are reading this, you likely know me pretty well, and if you know me pretty well you know that I am a planner, a lover of control, a woman who walks the fine line between Type A and OCD.  It’s just in my nature to crave control, stability, and a clear path forward.  And, as a result, change has often been a scary concept for me.  Change inherently brings with it a level of unknown, and I don’t like the unknown.

Now over the years I have developed an impressive array of coping strategies to address my aversion to change.  In college when I was receiving rejection upon rejection from ballet companies and had no idea where I would physically live or how I would pay the bills in a month’s time, I assuaged my anxiety by not only creating a Plan A and B, but plans all the way up to the letter M.  So long as I could manage to follow one of those 12 plans I would be in control.

Later in life when I was asked by my doctor to create a “Birth Plan” I chose for my plan to be that I had no plan.  I had heard enough stories to understand that labor rarely goes according to plan so I decided that rather than have the stress of straying from my plan I would just not have one at all.  That way no matter what happened, things would be going according to my plan.

I also fell in love with a man who loves change- be it trying every IPA known to man or every instrument he can get his hands on, my soul mate has zero aversion to change.  While I have built my skillset by staying in jobs for 4 years and 11 years, he has built his skillset by changing jobs frequently to stay relevant and cutting edge.  Granted he works in the fast paced world of technology and I work in the old world of ballet, but nevertheless I have been privy to the benefits of welcoming change into one’s life from watching him.  And over the years he has worn my distaste for change down.  If it weren’t for Brad, I would probably eat the same meal every night, live in the same house for decades, and wear the same clothes I wore in high school (ok this I actually still currently do :).  And I would be happy, but I would be stagnant.  And I don’t want to be stagnant.

So when faced last September with a potential opportunity to make a major life change I didn’t run the other way immediately.  I stuck one foot in to gather more info.  A school that I was acquainted with through a regional dance organization was conducting a nationwide search for a new Artistic Director (their long-time director was retiring).  A new job for Becky?  Huge change!  A new job in Vancouver, WA?  Colossal change! Sell a house, buy a house, uproot two kids and a husband, start a new job!  Well when I looked at it that way I was terrified, but I also knew that I would regret not pursuing it further.  So I somewhat reluctantly applied.

After an initial remote interview, they invited me up last January for a 4 day interview process.  On the flight up I remember saying to Brad “I just want to leave knowing 100% what I want.”  After all, I liked working at Marin Ballet and I liked living in Petaluma, so I didn’t need this change.  I didn’t want to feel wishy washy on which path forward was the one I wanted.  Well, after 4 days of observing, teaching, meeting and presenting, I got my wish.  I knew 100% that I wanted to be the new Artistic Director of Columbia Dance in Vancouver, WA.  The Columbia Dance community- students, parents, staff, and board members completely drew me in.  I felt welcomed, appreciated, and needed.  I can honestly say that I felt compelled to join an incredible organization.  Compelled is a strong word, but that is exactly how I felt.  I just knew that my particular skillset and passion were the right fit for Columbia Dance.  As a good friend and mentor once said about me landing at Marin Ballet, it was kismet.

I am now a month into my full-time new venture (after months of working part-time remotely) and my feelings remain the same.  I am so thankful that I didn’t let my aversion to change prevent me from pursuing this path.  I am already rather in love with this organization and here is where I ask you to help support my love for this organization.  Columbia Dance has embarked on a Capital Campaign that will allow us to purchase the incredible building that we are in and allow us to have a permanent home.  This purchase is truly imperative to the school thriving and if you are in a place where you are able to donate to a non-profit organization, I can attest that this is a very worthy cause.

I know that there are so many organizations worthy of our donations.  And I know that it’s hard to choose to donate to the arts when your heart is tugged in all directions.  Brad and I currently give recurring (in absurdly small amounts as befits our current finances) donations to Brady Center for Gun Violence, Metavivor Metastatic Breast Cancer Research, Planned Parenthood, and Gigi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers.  We could easily tell ourselves that we are doing enough, but we will absolutely be donating to Columbia Dance’s Capital Campaign because arts are as important as everything else.  AND . . . and this I feel ridiculously passionate about . . . arts education is essential, crucial, and imperative to the future of this country.  I can speak first hand to say that taking ballet doesn’t just help you be a good dancer.  It helps you be a good person.  At Columbia Dance (and all the other schools I have taught at) we are in the business of creating good people.  Ballet training gives kids a strong work ethic, a sense of self-esteem, and a place to relieve the stress that is causing widespread anxiety among today’s youth.  When they enter the studio they leave their stress (and cell phones) at the door.  The endorphins feed them, the music feeds them, their classmates feed them.  We can’t be the best people we can be unless we are thriving ourselves.  Art feeds us and I truly feel that in this day and age when we have access to all information and all news on our cell phones, we need to be fed more than ever.  It has gotten so hard to “turn off” or “unplug” and as a result I feel like we often walk around feeling completely depleted.  Depleted people cannot give their best to society.  Art revives us and inspires us.  Giving children the gift of art in their lives gives them a leg up on loving who they are and giving that love back to the world.

If you made it this far, I thank you for listening.  If you are inclined to donate I thank you for not just supporting my new endeavor, but for championing art.  Checks payable to Columbia Dance can be mailed to Columbia Dance, 1700 Broadway Street, Vancouver, WA 98663 or you can pay via credit card by clicking this link http://columbiadance.org/capital-campaign/