ballerina feet on pointe on a theatre stage

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, theatres all around the world have stopped production and left in a confusing, difficult situation. Although this has caused negative impacts, now more than ever is the time to celebrate all of the reasons that make theatre so important and why it should be celebrated. Upon reflection for World Theatre Day during this unsettling time, I’ve now realized that theatre is about so much more than performing, it is about everything you learn along the way, and being able to connect with your audience and community. Being involved in theatre, whether that be in the production itself or the audience, can greatly benefit your life, and here are a few reasons why. 

Creating Close Bonds

The most valuable way theatre can impact you, is that it gives you another family. Leading up to a performance can feel overwhelming, but your cast and crew are there every step of the way and are the only ones who can truly relate to how you feel. I’ve been fortunate to create many close connections with performers through rehearsal processes. One memory that will always stand out in my mind is from my rehearsals leading up to a school performance of “Kingdom of The Shades”, an excerpt from La Bayadere. The stress from the preparation, which was a grueling nine-month rehearsal period due to how challenging the choreography was, pushed us in new ways and brought all of us dancers closer together. That is not to say that performers are bonded by stress alone. Every rehearsal-to-stage process is unique in its own way and I have gained lifelong friendships with dancers due to a wide variety of circumstances and experiences. The time you spend together creating art to share with your community is a fulfilling experience that builds a special connection.

There are so many pockets within the performance process that provide opportunities for learning

Fulfillment and Appreciation Through Teamwork

You feel a great sense of Fulfillment with everyone involved throughout the creation of a live theatre production, as performers are only a small part of what makes the performance possible. As audience members, we are focused on the people performing on stage, not realizing that it takes a village to build a production. Being involved in the creation process, you realize how great of a team is required to bring a show to life, which I initially learned through the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School while working on a performance called “Concert Hour”, a touring show catered to school audiences. During this entire production, every department traveled together and worked under the same roof, which included: performers, choreographers, costuming crew, tech crew, rehearsal directors, and transportation. Having each department work in such close quarters allowed us to learn and appreciate every role involved and how rewarding it felt to work together as a team; an essential skill for any aspect in our lives. I now have a new appreciation and understanding for the value of teamwork, both in and outside of live theatre.

Community Connection

Let’s not forget another element of why theatre remains relevant that acts as a significant part of the team needed to make live theatre possible: the audience members. To create live theatre, you need an audience to cater towards, and with this process of finding an audience, you get to be involved in your community. This was a key focus for a start-up company called the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Summer Dance Collective (RWBSDC). Their main strategy to reach out to new audiences was to perform at unique venues and reach out to collaborators. Through this, they got to meet talented artists around the city, but also connected with the Winnipeg community that craved live theatre. This was a great opportunity to expand the company’s network of collaborators while getting to know more about the city, another skill that is beneficial in any project or workplace.

Inspiration

The very reason live theatre is constantly evolving and growing is inspiration.  Inspiration can come from anywhere; maybe it is from a certain aspect of the performance like the music or choreography. Or it could be learning something from someone on your team that gets you interested in a different field, such as lighting or costume design. There are so many pockets within the performance process that provide opportunities for learning, especially from the people you work with. Everyone has their own background and path that led them to the current production they are working on, which can give refreshing new ideas and perspectives you never thought of before. I have always felt very inspired by all of the artists I’ve gotten to work with, as there is something you can learn from everyone you meet. One source of inspiration in particular, was a choreographer from New Zealand, who danced with the most fearless power and fluidity I had ever seen. On top of his dancing, he shared a part of his culture by showing everyone a HAKA at the end of the program we were working on, a traditional dance of the Maori people of New Zealand, that sparked our interest in traveling to this country.    

Witnessing a performance as an audience member can spark inspiration, as there is something uniquely special about seeing live theatre. Performing on stage takes a certain amount of vulnerability, since it is difficult to open yourself up to portray emotions or ideas to anyone, let alone in front of a live audience. But these emotions are what connects humans to one another, and the reason why live theatre is memorable. I felt this way recently while viewing a show called “Hinky Punk”, which was choreographed and performed by Ralph Escamillan dancing live on a small square raised platform. What immediately grabbed the audience’s attention was the full body sequin suit, creative lighting, and music; However, Ralph’s complete openness and connection with the audience was what made the show memorable. You could tell everyone in the audience was left in awe of this quirky but moving performance, as they stayed well after it had ended to share their thoughts. Performances like this are what keep people coming back to enjoy live theatre, and proves that the theatre is a space for endless creativity.

Being involved in the creation process, you realize how great of a team is required to bring a show to life

Self Discipline and Motivation

As a dancer, I’ve always been fortunate to have experienced colleagues and instructors who gave me their invaluable advice, but performing on stage takes self preparation outside of scheduled rehearsals. This self discipline will pay off not only for the actual performance you have been preparing for, but will also put you into a mindset to work hard in any situation in your life. Being involved in a professional ballet school from a young age allowed me to constantly practice self-discipline in preparation for our live performances. I didn’t realize how valuable this was until I graduated and applied to professional job opportunities on my own, like auditioning for Disneyland Paris. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, but because I already established the habit of self-discipline, the audition was a success. Even for non-theatre employment opportunities, employers have said they prefer to hire people who have been involved in theatre because they are known to be self motivated and take direction well, proving again that being involved in live theatre will pay off both in and outside of the arts. 

So with that, for this World Theatre Day, let’s celebrate everything live theatre has to offer. It’s clearly apparent why theatre still thrives in our digital world. It creates a special atmosphere that no one can quite explain, and will continue to be a timeless form of entertainment. I now reflect proudly on my time involved in this theatre bubble knowing it has taught me so many valuable skills, but above all, has given me life-long memories. 

About the author

Kelsey began her professional training at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School when she was 14, where she would continue until she graduated in 2016. She then attended the RWB aspirant program where she had several performing opportunities with the company.  During her time in the program she was fortunate to attend various summer intensives such as: Atlanta Ballet, Arts Umbrella, and Ballet Jorgen where she was offered a short term contract. Following this contract Kelsey moved to France for a year to perform for Disneyland Paris while teaching ballet to the cast members. (And trying all the croissants!) This past summer Kelsey spent working with the RWB Summer Dance Collective, a contemporary based start up company, and is keeping her options open for her next opportunity.