This is a tough time for dancers — mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, creatively, socially, and that list goes on. They can’t move through space with fellow dancers, to create dance art and then perform it for an audience in the same ways they once did. They’re therefore disconnected from the essence of not only their career but often their very life — when their performing careers often feel far too short. Yet, out of adversity can come opportunity; there’s time to reflect, learn, and work on themselves as artists and as people. Some dancers have found a way to find rest in a life of relentless “hustle” — rehearsing, performing, cross-training, travel and touring, independent creative products, and more.
While she doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties at hand, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Principal Devon Teuscher demonstrates a remarkable positive spirit, introspection and creative wisdom through this difficult time. She’s using it to grow as an artist and person, enjoy the majestic outdoors where she’s staying in Lake George, and cherish time with her boyfriend, ABT Principal Cory Stearns. The way that she accepts inevitable things about this time, while doing what she can within them to be the best that she can be, is something that we can all learn from and be inspired by.
Dance Informa speaks with Teuscher as part of a series in which we’re talking to accomplished dancers to learn how they’re doing through this time — how they’re staying in shape and creatively inspired, what they’re working on, what they’re learning, and more. We’ll let Teuscher, in all of her wisdom, take it from here.
How are you staying in shape and creatively inspired?
“I have had to work a lot on accepting that I am not going to stay in tip top shape during this time. There is no way to be in that kind of shape without dancing all day and performing, which right now is not available to me and is out of my control. What I have been doing is trying to maintain a basic level of fitness. I have been working with two of my physical therapists to properly recover from a hip injury that happened right before everything shut down. Also, the company offers daily technique classes taught by our artistic staff, which I enjoy doing every day. I find it is really nice to have that sense of normalcy in class, and getting to see all my friends and ABT family every day is so inspiring. I have also been doing Zoom Gyrotonic, yoga and fitness classes.”
How are you deepening your artistry?
“I personally believe that the more well-rounded an individual is, the deeper the artistic well. I have been trying to take this time to really grow and learn in different ways than I normally would. I have been reading, writing and trying new activities. What’s amazing about this time is the access to online content that we might not normally get to experience. I am trying to take advantage of all of it.”
What have you been up to that’s exciting and new?
“This last year, Riley (my dog) and I became a certified therapy dog team. We go into hospitals and various places to provide visits to people in need of a little pup therapy. It is such a joy to see the ways in which dogs can uplift people. I am in the process of working on a virtual option for those visits. Hopefully there will be a little dancing involved as well!”
How are you making the best of this time?
“I think I am trying to embrace this moment in time to continue to grow, learn and better myself. I don’t want to look back on this time and think of it as lost time. I want to look back and be able to say I learned so much and had fun doing it.”
What does the schedule of your day generally look like?
“The schedule of my day varies depending on where I am and my mood. I like to allow myself to stay in the moment and react to how I am feeling rather than force a rigid schedule every day. For the last three weeks, I have been staying in the gorgeous Lake George, New York. A lot of my daily schedule lately has revolved around the Lake and taking advantage of the outdoors. Lately, my day begins with a nice long walk and training with my pup, Riley. I love this morning time with him because I think it’s so important to keep his mind working, and it is a nice bonding time for us. I then sit down and drink some coffee and catch up on homework/emails.
Next, I start getting active for the day by warming up for class. About three to four times a week, I will have a Zoom PT or Gyrotonic session before class. Following the ABT Zoom company class, I like to either go on a hike or jump in the lake for a swim. If it is nice out, I will most likely spend the rest of the afternoon outside either in the water or doing some other outdoor activity. Before dinner, I will most often spend an hour or two reading a book or doing more homework. After dinner, Cory, my boyfriend, and I will either turn on a movie or read to relax for the evening. It has been so nice to spend the last few weeks enjoying the outdoors and embracing the time off right now.”
You’ve recently just come back to class from injury. What’s it been like recovering at home?
“There is never a good time for an injury, but as weird as it sounds, this was the perfect time for an injury! I definitely never thought the injury would take nearly as long as it has to recover, and I don’t know if that is because I have had the extra time or if it actually needed this amount of time. Regardless, I am grateful to have had all of this forced time off. The lack of pressure to return to a show in the near future has really allowed me the luxury of properly caring for this injury in hopes that it will not be a chronic issue. My physical therapists and I have also had to become very resourceful. We have all had to learn how to navigate Zoom PT sessions and learn to use whatever I have in my home to make exercises work. It was definitely a learning curve for all of us!”
What’s it like living with another dancer? Do you take turns taking class or take class together? Do you do anything else dance-related together?
“I think Cory and I have learned a lot from each other and about each other during this time. We definitely have different ways of coping with the lack of working and dancing. He has focused most of his energy into other activities like golf, whereas I have stayed pretty involved in dance-related activities. Although, about once or twice a week, he will take company class with me. Occasionally, we will do some pas de deux work after class just for fun. Most of the time, that ends in us just laughing because it’s so hard!
In general, I am so grateful to have him by my side during this strange time. As a fellow principal dancer, he wholeheartedly understands the loss and difficult feelings dancers are going through. We are able to have a deeper understanding of each other’s feelings and needs because we are both dancers going through the same thing.”
You can follow Devon Teuscher on Instagram: @devon.teusch.
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.