After everything we and the world have been through this past year and change, there is certainly time to sit and reflect on what we are grateful for this Thanksgiving season. Perhaps it’s that we can again dance in a studio with other people (even if it has its limitations) or that we can find ways to safely gather with some family members to celebrate.
We asked a couple dancers what they were thankful for this holiday season, how they’re planning to spend Thanksgiving Day and how perhaps COVID has changed their outlook on what to be grateful for.
What are you grateful for this year and Thanksgiving season?
Daniel Ulbricht, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, artistic advisor at Manhattan Youth Ballet and Só Dança ambassador
“I am so grateful to have gotten married to my incredible wife, have been blessed with a wonderful family, have my health, and have two incredible artistic outlets at New York City Ballet and at Manhattan Youth Ballet. It is wonderful to be back in person both on stage and in the studio. Time really flies but trying to enjoy and savor each moment I have every day.”
Isabella McCool, So Dancer and student at St. Lucie Ballet
“I am so very grateful for my mom and dad for finding a way to continue to host my pas de deux partner and best friend, Daniel Ayala, through these crazy times. As an only child, it has been amazing having him around as a friend and dance partner. Having someone who shares my goals and having that extra person around to keep me motivated has given me the ability to remain focused and improve in ballet. I am also so grateful for my ballet coaches, Lydia and Rogelio Corrales from St. Lucie Ballet, for staying so dedicated and resourceful to provide continued classes, training, coaching and inspiration during this entire pandemic. Lastly, I am so thankful to so many people who continue to support my dream: Casey from Só Dança, Diego from Empire Tiaras, Paige from Pointe People and Janis from Ballewear, just to name a few. It is so nice having so many people on my team.”
What are your plans for Thanksgiving? How do you plan to celebrate this year, and will it be different than how you celebrated last year?
“This year, I will be with my wife’s family, outside of Manhattan, similar to a year ago. It’s always so nice to get some fresh air and space from Manhattan. In addition to the meal and family time, we also manage to get on the tennis court to have some fun, too!”
“This year for Thanksgiving, my family is spending the week in Edisto Island, South Carolina. We are using the time to disconnect and spend quality time with each other. We will get to explore the island, sightsee, have Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant and really get some rest. This is very different from our normal routine of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family and spending the weekend shopping and decorating the house for Christmas.”
Now that the performing arts are coming back — in-person classes, live auditions, live performances — why are you grateful for dance and for being a dancer? Has this feeling changed since everything you’ve been through during COVID? Anything you’re even more grateful for now?
“I’m so happy to be getting back to a stage and to do The Nutcracker (This year, Daniel and I were cast as Sugarplum and Cavalier!), to compete without a mask, dance in galas and attend award ceremonies. I love being a dancer so I can get the opportunities to dance with my emotions and bring joy to the audience. I have missed having live audiences. It has been amazing getting to see other dancers perform live as well. It is so important to get inspiration from dancers whom I admire. So happy to dance mask-free!”
“I am so grateful to be a dancer. I feel so blessed to have a such a God-given gift that has enhanced my life, allowed me to travel the world and enabled me to give back. While screens and the digital scene are here to stay, I do feel that artists have to remember the live component of performing.
COVID also made me more aware of the timeline of a dancer’s career. I think every dancer has to remember that a career is fleeting but absolutely incredible. It is a ton of work but so fulfilling. I can say confidently, I have never worked a day in my life!”
Are you grateful for any specific dancewear that you can’t live without?
“The Só Dança SD16 ballet shoe has been a staple in my dance bag since I was five years old. I use them every single day. I would not make it through a class without them. They showcase my lines and enhance the shape of my feet. They are so comfortable as well. I love Só Dança’s tights as well. They fit so comfortably and are so durable. And recently, I have been experimenting with the new Só Dança Elektra pointe shoes during my daily pointe class. They last a longer amount of time, and I love that I can use different shank strengths.”
“One of the best changes I made in my career came when I switched my shoes to Só Dança. They fit perfectly. I only wish that I had started wearing them earlier in my career!”
Has COVID changed your outlook on what to be grateful for?
“COVID-19 has given me a new perspective on the importance of staying connected with family and friends, having a grateful attitude in all the little things such as going to the studio every day, being able to see my friends, and for all the cheerleaders in my life. Daniel and I are also so grateful to get to share our experiences through our YouTube channel, Balletfor2, with a special video called “Dancers Unite”. Making the video was so inspiring to us, and we were so grateful for how many dancers from all over contributed.”
“COVID allowed me to look back with such gratitude and humility. I was also grateful to have time with my then fiancée and to explore some other ventures, too. I could take courses, take up filming dance and expand my horizons. I was so grateful to continue to teach and be on the giving side of my craft. Seeing students grapple, work and pull out of this time in our lives was incredible to witness. I couldn’t be prouder of the work so many put in to see students succeed!”
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.