by Nikita Gill
Remember what you must do
when they undervalue you,
when they think your softness is your weakness,
when they treat your kindness
like it is to their advantage.
that sleeps inside you
and you remind them what hell looks like
when it wears the skin
of a gentle human.
It is easy to understand why Nikita Gill’s poetry has reached and inspired millions. Her words are dripping with empathy, life lessons, and universal feelings that all of us face but few like to talk about. As such, it is only fitting that the artists of Ballet Co. Laboratory found their seed of inspiration etched into her poem, Fire.
In August of last year, I was focused, prepared, and excited to start a new season. The company had many things planned and it was set to be a great season. Like many other artists, I experienced the floor being ripped out from underneath me and the anxious feeling of uncertainty settled in. Unlike many other artists, this was the second time in my career that I had experienced a company falling apart. The first time was in December of 2017 and it was the reason that I found myself in Minnesota and dancing with the wonderful artists I get to dance with today. To experience it a second time, the fear of it all completely falling apart; the art getting lost, the dancers dispersing, and not having a studio home (again) was petrifying.
As someone who has traveled, danced in many places, and worked in a professional environment, I like to think that I have an idea of how to interact with human beings. However, it was made blatantly clear to me in August of 2018 that I still had much to learn about human dynamics and interaction. The first time I experienced a company falling apart I saw a very nasty side of humanity. There was an abundance of gossiping and ill-feeling among the community as the competitive nature of our industry took over. I learned very quickly to rely on myself and when the company finally folded, the dancers dispersed. I worried I would experience the same thing again. I was so very, very wrong. Instead of the community disbanding, the community of dancers knit closer together. I was called on a daily basis, checked-on, and kept in the loop about the plan moving forward. Four weeks later, Ballet Co. Laboratory was formed.
This is what sets the Ballet Co. Laboratory company, school, and community apart from many others. The tumultuous time was truly a test of humanity, and I think Ballet Co. Laboratory aced it. Not only does it involve hardworking and passionate dancers, but the organization is run by fiscally responsible and moral people. Of course, being the bold artists that we are, we chose to take it one step forward and speak out about this experience in the best way we know how; through the language of dance.
Creatively speaking, Ballet Co. Laboratory dancers and Nikita Gill are indirect collaborative artists. While each of us speaks in our own language, we are trying to communicate the same message to our audience. We try to step away from adversity, speak about it, and face it with power and validation. It is important to speak out and step out of our comfort zone. As artists, we challenge ourselves to do it every day, and in this show, we challenge the audience to do so as well.
We invite you to the company’s interpretation of these events through our production, Gentle Human, on April 6th and 7th at the Cowles Center. A new, chilling, contemporary piece of art that makes you think, reflect about your life, and how you treat yourself and others.