The Coolest People on Earth

By Katie Florez

Jesus. Eminem. Tony Hawk. What do these three sexy men have in common? They all appear in a Google search of “Top Ten World’s Coolest People.” Well, you listen here The Bible, Eight Mile, and skateboards can’t beat the super-hero coolness that is the modern day dancer. It is sadly true that I have not been a savior, visited rehab or done an Ollie, but, my summer travels have left me feeling cocky and qualified enough to tell you that dancers are the cool ones, numbers one through ten.

There are reasons your mom puts you into ballet class when you’re three: discipline, exercise, socialization, and tutus. Survive the next 18 years and you’ll come out on the other end with a love for three, maybe four of them, since tutus have become a bizarre fashion trend. When she signed you up to be a prima ballerina, mom did not expect you to become anything but that.

Alas, hair sprayed buns, pink tights, and pointe shoes eluded me and many of my dance idols. This summer, I stood in front of a mirror for the first time after a year of training without one and realized (with a certain pride) that I was the happy hobo I always aspired to be in a holey oversized t-shirt and baggy black sweatpants, messy bun askew. Success! For the masses of dancers who don’t pleasure in squeezing into Lulu Lemon pre-shrunk tanks or revered Moi leotards, we flock to the Target mens’ tees and Urban’s haphazard sales piles. But don’t worry mom, this is about being the coolest people on Earth. I promise those Russian Pointes weren’t for nothing!

In the contemporary dance worlds I briefly visited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Rome, one thing mattered: how you danced. At the end of the day, stripped down to sweaty spandex shorts and an oversized cut off tank, I could honestly give two shits about what I’m wearing. No distractions or decorations necessary to prove skill. A dancer’s ability to access their pure essence is the secret ingredient to being one of the coolest people on earth.

Let me explain.

Take your classic hipster: someone who projects coolness by thriving in artsy counter-culture irony. While I won’t get into the minutia of hipster subculture, they are an easily identifiable type (Williamsburg, Wicker Park, the Mission, whatever.) By contrast, dancers have reached the ultimate self-actualization of being instead of trying, living instead of projecting. Clothes, hair, tats, and jewelry are all irrelevant. Or at least that’s the goal.  The most glorious feeling you can experience is being glorious with no extra shit hanging off of you. At your most fully realized potential, you as a dancer are neither attached nor defined by anything, you are only you.  And with the wild wind whipping through your hair, you ride the high of being, supported by the intangible energetic harmony of your fellow dancers.

In addition to discovering the unlimited potential of simply being, you’ve been granted a super power as a dancer. Your loving mother didn’t know that you would also become a totally badass energy reader. Like in True Blood when Sookie reads peoples’ thoughts, you’ve been trained to read energies, predict movements, and find play in manipulating and being surprised by it all.

When I was at a workshop in Rome with a contemporary ballet company, we were challenged by insanely complex partnering and MASSIVE language barriers. After a rough run-through when two duets ended up mildly injuring their respective partners and a three-person lift ended in a pile on the marley, the director took us aside and reminded us of our energy reading super powers.

It is amazing how terrible dancers’ short-term memory is. Fascinating how many times I forget that my arms are indeed arms and not flailing jagged batons during ballet petite allegro. Once reminded of our super powers, we re-opened the energy channels and it was as if someone had retuned the entire studio. The hyper focus that stunted our movement transformed into fluid communication. We were absorbing the energies around us and interacting through choreography at the same time, unbelievably synchronized mentally and physically with every dancer in the room. A.k.a. total ecstasy.

After experiencing the crescendo and decline of the stress of working with new groups of people in different cities, I found my ‘sweet spot.’ From polite agreement to exasperated re-dos to happy harmony, I look into a room, as a key player or on the sidelines and think, “Wow, this has got to be the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.” That’s my high: watching and experiencing movement flowing like liquid silver from body to body. It’s captivating in the truest sense of the word.  I believe that the hard work I put in every day feeds my ability to reach that moment. The moment when I get so lost in an improv duet I forget what time it is. Or I step out of the studio half an hour late because I wanted to watch the other cast run my favorite section. I have to keep searching for that sacred and powerful high.

After watching and training with over 100 dancers and five different companies this summer, I felt I had to put words to this high I’m trying to describe. I sorted through scribbled notes in my journal from the past three months and realized that the high, that ecstatic moment, is a product of the people who are experiencing it, a sort of circular energetic path. It takes a mysterious combination of dancers to rearrange the atoms in a space and make them sing. The correct application of our naked essence in movement unlocks an indescribable and timeless potential. Over and over again. In a thousand different studios. Through a million different dancers.

Nothing is cooler than that.

Katie Florez

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