Editorial Note: Each August for the past five 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 KRISTIN DAMROW
There has always been a competitive streak in me since I was a kid. Whether it was showing horses at the county fair, or trying to be the first Damrow sister to land an axel-jump in figure skating, I have always strived to be on top.
When I first started out as a choreographer, I had that same competitive drive. I was always checking who got into what festivals, which shows brought in more people, and who got which grants. It gave me a sense of hustle to climb one more rung up the ladder of success.
As I get older and closer to discovering my first grays, I’m starting to question my competitive nature and where its energy is focused. Increasingly, low audience turnout and grant rejection letters can all be cured by a strong cup of coffee and a couple of chocolate chip cookies. I’m finding that my inner competitor has changed; I am my competition. Every new work and every new idea must move me forward in my satisfaction with my own craft.
If I take a step back and look at all that I have accomplished in my seven years creating work in the Bay Area, I know I haven’t “made it.” But, at this point, I have no idea what “making it” would be. I could say that presenting at the Joyce Theater in New York City to sold out shows and rave reviews could satisfy my sense of “making it.” Setting work on the Netherlands Dance Theater with a $1,000,000 budget or having my name next to Martha Graham in the history books would definitely be “making it.” But then what?
Every season with Kristin Damrow & Company, I strive to create a work that challenges my own limits as a choreographer and artistic director. Thinking back to all those times when I fell on my ass trying to land that axel-jump, my best competitor was always my own limits. Challenging myself is why I am a choreographer, because we all know it’s not for the money.
If I ever think that I’ve finally “made it,” that might be the end of the road for me as a choreographer. If I have nothing to strive toward or challenge myself with, what’s the point of continuing? All in all, I haven’t “made it,” and I’m not sure I ever want to feel like I have. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but for the time being, I am enjoying the push and challenge that creating work offers me, that feeling when I climb one more rung.
Kristin Damrow grew up on a rural farm in Wisconsin before moving to Chicago to earn her BA in Dance from Columbia College. In 2010, she moved to San Francisco, where she founded Kristin Damrow & Company. Kristin has choreographed and produced over 15 new dance works for venues throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area. In 2017, she was selected to be part of ODC’s Pilot Program, which highlights emerging artists making an impact in the San Francisco/Bay Area dance community. Her choreography has been commissioned by the SAFE House Arts Summer Performance Festival and Dance Mission Theater’s D.I.R.T Festival. Kristin serves on the faculty at ODC Dance Commons and Dance Mission Theater, and has taught master classes at Columbia College Chicago, University of San Francisco, Sonoma State University and City College of San Francisco. She is also a guest instructor at Shawl Anderson Dance Center and LINES Ballet.