Nikisha Fogo and Julian MacKay rehearsing Helgi Tomasson's new work at San Francisco Ballet

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet

What These Dancers Learned From 2020

For dance—and the world at large—2020 has been one of the most challenging years in recent memory. Yet its stops, starts and slowdowns brought reflection, introspection and growth. Pointe asked three dancers what this year taught them about themselves.

​​Nikisha Fogo, San Francisco Ballet​​

Nikisha Fogo stands in a studio with her right arm extended, wearing a leotard and long skirt

Nikisha Fogo and Julian MacKay rehearsing Helgi Tomasson's new work at San Francisco Ballet

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

I've really had to get to know who I am outside of the stage and ballet studio. Who am I when I'm not dancing? Until now, I've been so focused on my craft and being the best dancer I can be. Discovering who I am and could be as a human being was both daunting and exciting.

So many things this year have been uncertain and out of our control. I normally have my whole year planned ahead of time. I would know which ballets I would dance, where I would travel, etc., but this year we have been forced to live in the now and take each day as it comes, which I believe isn't such a bad thing. We all probably needed to do more of it.

I really learned that I should focus and put more energy on the things that I actually can control, like where I direct and spend my energy, how I speak to and treat myself and others, my mental health, well-being and taking time to reach out to loved ones, just to name a few.

Things can happen differently from how you'd planned them, but I don't want this year to have gone to waste! You can learn from every situation that life throws at you, and I am grateful to have been able to start a new life in San Francisco despite these uncertain times. Giving myself something to focus on, whether it be how I best use my time outside of work, or get the best out of the work we do, has been very important.

I think that we can dive deeper into learning more about ourselves without our regular work, which in turn can influence the variety of emotions that we can bring to the stage. I'm excited to see how the art form evolves after this huge life experience that has affected us all. I'm looking forward to it.

Karina González, Houston Ballet

Karina Gonz\u00e1lez jumps across a stage, wearing a pink tutu and a crown

Houston Ballet principal Karina González as the Sugar Plum Fairy with artists of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch's The Nutcracker

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

This year was a roller coaster of emotions and a learning experience. One of the most important things that I learned this year was to enjoy the present. I have followed a daily routine since my early years as a professional dancer, where everything was calculated by days, weeks and the schedule of the season. Even when I became a mom, I tried to keep the same routine as much as possible. So when we went into lockdown and the performances were canceled, I entered into a panicked mode. Thankfully, my incredible husband was there to touch my shoulder and say, 'This time is the best gift for you, our little daughter and our family.'

This year and the time spent with my family is everything that I needed. I learned that it is okay not to follow a routine, and sometimes the unusual brings magical moments too. I also learned that, right now, the best and most important gift of life is to be healthy and to be next to the people that you love the most.

Katlyn Addison, Ballet West

Katlyn Addison poses onstage in arabesque en pointe, with two children holding flowers

Ballet West soloist Katlyn Addison in Cinderella

Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

The year 2020 has unexpectedly become an exploratory period of achieving goals that I never thought I'd be brave enough to pursue in such a short period of time.

At the beginning of the year, I completed my exchange dancing with Scottish Ballet in the title role of The Snow Queen. By March, when everything shut down, my body needed the break; I was mentally and physically exhausted. I did not expect this deadly virus, which has cost so many heartbreaking and devastating deaths, to continue longer than a few months.

During the time away from dancing, I had many emotional roller coasters about whether this was the right industry and career path. I took a few months away from Utah, where Ballet West is located, to visit my family in Canada. I will never forget my dad encouraging me while on our evening golf course walks, saying, 'Kat, this is your time right now. The world is your oyster. Go after what you want; why not now? Go create!' Those simple, kind words changed my perspective and desires. I realized that I needed to take care of myself, surround myself with positivity, develop healthier relationships, support the people who are important to me, trust and keep believing in my dreams.

Once I found my groundedness, I jumped into some of my goals. I became an ABT Certified Teacher for Pre-Primary through Level 7, painted two Black Lives Matter murals, became a board member and coordinator of the nonprofit Utah Black Artists Collective, created a piece for the Black Lives Matter protest "Dance Dance for Evolution," taught for the University of Utah dance department and choreographed a 15-minute ballet on its dancers. I also participated in panel discussions on dismantling systemic racism in the ballet world with Ballet West, Houston Ballet, University of Utah, Salt Lake Magazine, Biscuit Ballerina, Helen Pickett and A Ballet Education.

All of these opportunities had an impact on me, and changed my perspective and belief in my abilities. I allowed myself to share my story, become vulnerable in many situations and explore different creative outlets. I never thought I'd enjoy my dance world as much as I have.

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