Editorial Note: Each August for the past four years, I’ve asked dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us this month in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist and human.
BY LYDIA SAKOLSKY-BASQUILL; PHOTO BY NATE MCINTYRE
For as long as I can remember, a to-do list has ruled my life. Physically crossing lines through a series of tasks, whether they be a grocery list or life goals, has filled me with sublime satisfaction, but has also become a neurotic obsession. I blame my father for this. He made lists for everything, and was militant about completing them. Thanks to him, if a list has not been crossed off in its entirety, I feel like I’ve failed in my mission. When I was eight years old, I wrote my first to-do list for my future. It was short:
Go to Stanford.
Be a surgeon.
At age 10, I was relieved to find that I had written my first draft in pencil. Just like that, I abandoned my first to-do list, and my future disappeared into a pile of eraser shavings. It was quickly replaced by two new goals (this time in ballpoint pen):
BFA from New York University.
Professional dancer in New York City.
I would know that I had “made it” when both of these tasks had been crossed off my list. In hindsight, I should probably stick to writing lists in pencil.
At age 18, I flew 3,000 miles to try my hand at the first thing on my list. I was cut after the ballet audition and, because of that, I had to draw a line next to (not through) NYU. I shifted from a BFA at NYU to a BFA at New World School of the Arts in Miami. Although it wasn’t exactly where I had planned, I still moved 3,000 miles away from home, and hoped to cross the second item off of my list someday. A small detour, but the end goal remained the same…for a while. My time spent at New World taught me many things: the importance of strong classical technique, the proper way to audition, and what it feels like to be a small fish in a much bigger pond. However, Miami was not where I was going to “make it,” so I revised my list again.
My junior year of college, I took a giant risk and relocated to a place I knew nothing about. My dance world spun on its axis. I traded classical technique for contemporary movement. My attire went from ballet slippers to socks. Everything blurred, including the exact location of where I thought I would become professional. I was now pursuing a degree from Arizona State University, a far cry from my original “to-do.” I seemed to branch further and further away from my original idea of “making it.”
Two years later, sans BFA from anywhere, I found the true beginning of my path to “making it” in San Francisco. It was here my worlds fused together in the most beautiful way. There was no longer a separation of dance life and personal life, classical and contemporary movement, or failures and successes. Here, under the mentorship of Summer Lee Rhatigan at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, I realized that as long as I’m “making it,” I’ve “made it.”
Twenty-two years after my first draft, I am currently back home in Boise, Idaho with a longer list of to-do’s than ever before. Do I think I’ve “made it?” My 10-year-old self would say no way — not even close! However, my career in dance has taught me to appreciate the opportunities that come from an unchecked list. And that’s the beauty of it. For each line I was unable to cross off, I was able to add 12 more. My path was (and still is) windy, full of detours and scenic routes, and I’m so much better for them. My journey has been so much sweeter that way. I am not just a professional dancer. I am also an educator, mentor, choreographer, small business owner, and founder and artistic director of my own non-profit dance company. It’s a to-do list I never wish to complete. I hope to always be “making it” with constant revision and infinite exploration.
Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill is the founder and artistic director of Project Flux Dance, a non-profit organization based in Boise, ID. Since relocating from the Bay Area, her choreography has been performed by many companies in the Treasure Valley, including Ballet Idaho, Boise Dance Co-op, Idaho Dance Theatre and TEDx Boise. In 2016, Project Flux performed their most recent work, “Tattered. Testaments.,” commissioned by the traveling exhibit from the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia.