That’s when I know I’ve made it

By Stephanie Salts

Steph Salts making itAs a child I was never sure how big I could go. I knew I had hopes of being on TV and becoming famous.

I had a lot of people feeding my dreams and filling my head with big ideas. It wasn’t until I was 15 that someone shot me in the face with reality.

Not everyone is on your side.

I was at a certain summer program and it was the year that I was going to see just how real I could get with this thing. Could I get into a year round program that would launch me into my career? Not at that school.

My mom and I had a meeting with a ‘certain’ Madame and her ‘certain’ translator.  They flat out told me that I should consider my dancing as more of a hobby than a career. It was probably the most iconic devastation ballerina moment. You get told to leave your dreams in the dust. You just WON’T be good enough to make it. And then you thank the person who just ripped your heart in two, (dancers frequently are too polite for their own good) and immediately run down the hall, past the other summer students AND their parents, and hide in the bathroom struggling to suck in air. My poor mother had to search for me.

In retrospect, everything happened the way it should have. The Madame acted as the chess piece that forced me into playing this game a bit more strategically. There are things you have to dodge, people you have to avoid, and issues you just have to face, if you want to “make it” that is.

After that traumatic summer I ended up in Philly at the Rock School. So there I was, I “made it” into a school where I could train my heart out.  To sum up my experience there, I will say that I got an excellent education and I ended up with three different contracts to choose from when I graduated. It was not easy though. The first year was rough, but in that year I managed to figure out that I wasn’t at the school to be a favorite.

I was there to work.

I was there to get fierce.

So that I could get into a company

And continue to feed this hunger

To soothe this suffering.

The biblical definition of the word passion is to suffer.

I think the day I learned that I was passionate about dance was the day that I truly “made it”.  The day I surrendered to this life, the day that I decided that I was willing to sacrifice nearly everything else important to me,

for the sake of dance,

was the day I “made it”.

I’ve had lots of exciting opportunities in my career to date, and plenty of frustrations to accompany those moments, but I was recently at brunch with a group of people and someone asked me what I “do.” I told them that I dance for a ballet company in New Jersey. They politely asked me if there was a different company that I would prefer to dance with. I told them that my dream is to dance and be seen so that I can share my passion with others. My job at Lustig Dance Theatre allows me to do exactly that.

This contentment is not complacency, it’s “making it.” It’s living life as someone who gets to dance every day. It’s taking opportunities. It’s being open to new things and learning to invest until it’s time to move on. It’s practicing endurance when the going gets tough. And then the joy of all joys. Performance. Showing your years of study to audiences, big and small.  It’s the surgeon performing a bypass surgery on a human heart. It’s the moment the curtain closes, and you don’t know who it was, but you know, you’ve just stopped and started someone’s heart… and they are more alive because of what you shared. That’s when I know. I’ve made it.

Stephanie Salts began her professional career at age 18 with Utah Regional Ballet. Since then she has worked with Robert Dekker’s Post:Ballet, performed principle roles for Oakland Ballet, and this fall will begin her third season dancing for Lustig Dance Theatre.

2 Responses to “That’s when I know I’ve made it”

  1. Tracey Bishop

    A rich, insightful, and inspiring article. So well written!!

Comments are closed.