Written by Shana Simmons
I remember leaning over to my mother as a young child at the end of a dance show and asking her, “Mom, why do they bow so many times, it’s taking forever!?” Her response was this: Because that is all they have. It’s what they’ve worked so hard for. This is their moment of appreciation. I was pretty young, so she might not have said that in so many words, it’s a loosely based quote, but that was the general gist. I sat back in my chair and put my hands together...again.
This has resonated with me my entire life and even if I don’t like a show, I ALWAYS applaud. I’ve grown up with the mentality that dance is underpaid and under-appreciated, and I should attempt to make the performers feel just the opposite at all times. In my mid-career body, this has manifested into something mentally unhealthy. I find myself seeking recognition and at the same time wondering why it is so necessary in the arts. I’ve been thinking about this over the course of a year and I keep going back to why we bow and why we receive applause. The act of bowing one’s body and the act of hearing and receiving appreciation.
The romantic mentality of the arts is to do so because you must (I say that with dramatic flair). It is what comes out of you and what you give back to the world. The arts exist to better our environment, make us as a society reflect, think and, God forbid, feel. The arts make us laugh, cry, scared, excited, exhilarated. Blahblahblah. I absolutely believe all of that, in fact, feel passionately about it. But WHY is it so hard for our American society to appreciate it through payment? And, since it’s such a battle to make a living in the arts anyways, professional recognition is all the more important. Success is undefinable, but the idea of receiving recognition from an outside “source” (awards, local newspapers, national ratings), has been plaguing me for the past few months. What does an artist do when they feel under-appreciated and on top of that, they’re getting nowhere in their field?
I keep coming back to the question of Why do I do this? For me, it doesn’t feel right not to. I think it’s what I’m good at and what I have a calling for. Is that an indication that I’m good at it? Do I need some source to tell me I’m good at it? It boils down to the question how does my work make me feel? It makes me feel good to do, it seems audiences are highly impacted by it, and at the end of our one show run a year, I receive that applause. Maybe I need to let it sink in more and bow one more time to get this chip off my shoulder. And maybe we as a society could recognize our artists more, because the “waiting for the award” which may never come is slowly retiring them.
Working for Applause #2: The Act of Applauding...even when you don’t like it.
offerings from shana & company members
Something to read while laying in bed, on the subway or tube, or during your morning constitutional.