Episode 18 marks the first episode of Season 2 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast. Who knew? Thanks for sticking with me. Or is you’re new, subscribe and catch up on Season 1. My guest today is Sara Bibik.
Sara Bibik was a founding member of River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) and danced with the company for 10 years.She was named Workshop Director and Artistic Administrator at RNDC, working in that capacity for another 16 years, transitioning seamlessly after retiring from the stage.
Sara is the Dance 360 Program Director at DanceWorks Chicago, producing holistic workshops for aspiring professional dancers. Working to normalize diversity in ballet, she created Skin Tones, a project that provides educational fine art prints and posters featuring dancers of all skin tones performing classical ballet positions. Sara is also the Producer and Owner of JOY: Ballet Coloring Pages celebrating all humanity for young dancers, which is featured on SaraBibikDance.com, the platform to distribute educational and joy-filled activities for dancers and their support teams.
a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved
(in writing) all texts have an end, a point at which the author stopped writing, a sense of an ending
This has been, at least what feels like to me, a long time coming. I wrote a post about “Unpacking” in August of 2020, and while I did unpack that suitcase full of emotions, I still haven’t put things away. That will happen in the new year. Feel free to come help. That said, I do feel like I’ve finally found some closure and wanted to write about it. That’s what I do now. That’s what I am now. That’s what I’ve always been…a writer.
Frankly, I was shocked by how long it took me to “get over” being let go from the Joffrey. A year-and-a-fucking half! WTF? While I went back to freelance writing almost immediately (huge thanks to Lauren Warnecke) and started a podcast (you should subscribe if you haven’t yet), I felt unmoored. And frankly, I thought as soon as they got back on their feet (literally and financially) and back in the theater, they surely would hire me back. Right? That didn’t happen. They hired a new full-time person in the Marketing Department…not me. That was a harsh reality to accept. At 15+ months since my last day, it was a punch in the gut and to my ego. They didn’t want or need me. Full stop.
As much as I’d like to say “Fuck ’em,” I can’t. I love the Joffrey and those dancers. They hold a special place in my heart and I wish them only success. So, after reassessing my life one more time, I took the assignment to review their first show back for SeeChicagoDance. This was also the first show at their new home at the Lyric Opera. A bittersweet moment for me, since I thought I would be there in an official capacity, but I was going to be there anyway. HOME had different meanings as the title of the performance as I said in my review, but Joffrey was my home too. Having to work, take notes, and rough draft the review in my head helped keep me focused – be professional! – but at the end of the opening piece, Arpino’s Birthday Variations, I cried. First, it was beautiful. But it was the look of happiness, relief, and amazement on the dancers’ faces (We did it!) that did me in. They did it! I wanted to run up and give them all a huge hug. Even though I hadn’t written a review since 2013 (pre-Joffrey), it was as they say, like riding a bike. But a bike I don’t enjoy riding. I hate writing reviews! They’re really difficult and stressful. Yet it was my way to be a part of their homecoming.
True closure came when I went to see opening matinee of The Nutcracker. I interviewed Music Director Scott Speck for my podcast beforehand, but I was there as a “normal” human to just enjoy the show. Again, bittersweet, however I still love the magic of this “problematic” ballet and my holiday season always includes it. To not be at the Auditorium Theatre felt strange, more so than for the fall mixed rep. This production was built for that theatre and my only issue is that they kept the golden arches in the sets for Act 2. It didn’t feel right to me.
This past Tuesday marked two years from the night after coming home from The Nutcracker) that I fell and cracked my head open on the iron gate in front of my house. I woke up on the ground bleeding. A trip to the ER the next day confirmed a concussion and I was patched up with six staples in my head. I still have a dent in my skull, BUT I’m here. My mini tbi may have slowed me down for a bit, but I’m thankful to be healthy and ready to start new projects in the new year. I’ve got shit to do!
I know many of you lost loved ones over this last year+ and I mourn with you. I lost friends too (Liam, Sue, Christie) and it is especially difficult to process in these surreal pandemic times. At the risk of sounding cheesy, now is the time of year to reach out and tell everyone in your world that you love them. The world needs it.
Erica Lynette Edwards is an accomplished consultant and public speaker who champions change to advance social justice. With diversity, equity, and inclusion as the core foundation of her work, she transforms visions into reality. After a rewarding 15-year career as a ballerina at The Joffrey Ballet and five years as the Director of Community Engagement, she founded Cultivating Better Tomorrows. Through this consulting company, Erica reshapes the dynamics of performing arts communities to produce environments where all can thrive. Highly skilled in delivering consistent success and effective change, she is passionate about facilitating results-driven conversations and workshops focused on reflection and knowledge-building. Her visionary leadership has earned her many honors and opportunities, including speaking on national panels, giving a TEDx talk, and being selected as a member of Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40.” By developing shared understandings, Erica inspires communities to make the world a more just place.
My guest for episode 6 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast is Ethan Kirschbaum, founder of the Chicago Movement Collective. I thought it would be fun to leave this episode RAW: UNCUT, UNEDITED, UNCENSORED – so there is explicit language. You will hear our entire conversation including flubs, faux commercial breaks, sirens, commentary, and lots of laughs. Enjoy.
Ethan is originally from Oakland, CA, and began his dance career as an apprentice with the Savage Jazz Dance Company while still in high school. He studied at the Ailey School/Fordham University in NYC, graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in dance performance and a BFA degree. During his junior year, he joined Hubbard Street 2, dancing and teaching workshops around the globe while concurrently completing his degree.
He has performed with the Sante Fe Opera and danced internationally in various countries including Canada, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Luxemboug, France, and Russia. In 2011, he moved to Germany to dance with Donlon Dance Company under the direction of Marguerite Donlon. He was on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio since 2012 and was named the scholarship mentor, delegating scholarships to promising pre-professional and early-career artists until its closure in March of 2020. Ethan also performed as a company member of River North Dance Chicago for five seasons.
Ethan is certified by the Ailey School to teach all levels of the Horton Technique and is a freelance artists performing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, choreographing locally, and teaching nationally as a guest to dance studios and university programs alike.
Ethan is proud to be the founder of Chicago Movement Collective and director of the Claire Bataille Legacy Program, continuing to provide a home for talented and passional pre-professional dancers.
Click HERE to donate to the Chicago Movement Collective. If you want to take class (you may qualify for a FREE class!) or audition for the Legacy Program, email email@example.com.
On episode 4 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we welcome Joffrey Ballet Company Artists Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez. It’s also the Valentine’s episode, and this real-life couple is THE cutest!
Dylan Gutierrez joined the Joffrey in 2009. He grew up in Van Nuys, CA, and received his training at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy under the direction of his mother Andrea-Paris Gutierrez. In 2006, he was awarded a full scholarship to train the The Royal Ballet School in London and later was offered a job as an apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet. You can follow him on Instagram @dylanrgutierrez
You can read their full bios and learn more about the roles they’ve danced by visiting joffrey.org. All photos by Cheryl Mann.
Action Lines: Interim Avoidance showings will take place Feb. 1 – April 30 at 150 N. Riverside Plaza, Monday – Friday: 8:00 – 9:30 AM, and 4:30 – 8:00 PM, and Saturdays: 1:00-7:00 PM. All attendees are required to wear a face covering.
I’m so excited to finally share the first episode of the Rogue Ballerina podcast! I chatted with the ever-charming Christopher Wheeldon about two of his “reimagined” ballets, his upcoming project on Broadway, and what has kept him busy and sane during the pandemic.
You can access the first episode on Apple Podcasts (which includes Overcast, Castro, Castbox, Pocketcasts, and Podfriend apps), Spotify, and PodcastAddict. It will be available soon on other platforms. Stay tuned for updates. Or, you can listen to it right here!
Welcome to the Rogue Ballerina podcast. My first guest is Christopher Wheeldon. If you haven’t heard of him, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of decades. He studied and danced at The Royal Ballet, he was a soloist and the first resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet, he was on the cover of Dance Magazine, he founded his own company Morpheses, he choreographed the closing ceremony for the Olympics, and he has has created numerous ballets for companies and operas around the world.
His many awards include an O.B.E. designation from Queen Elizabeth II and a Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American In Paris. If I were to list all of his accolades, we would be here all day, so to learn more go to his website at christopherwheeldon.com. Aside from his many professional accomplishments, he is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I know. You can listen to our conversation here.
The Joffrey Ballet’s YouTube page offers many behind-the-scenes videos for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. You can read the program from the 2016 world premiere here, and you can view the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Making of a New American Nutcracker at wttw.com/nutcracker. The Art on the Mart exhibition mentioned in the podcast was also featured in the Chicago Tribune.
HUGE thanks to Christopher Wheeldon for being such a gracious guinea pig and my brother – Michael Crain – for writing my theme music and sound editing. You can learn more about Ross Rayburn’s yoga classes at Peleton and follow him on Instagtram @rossrayburnyoga.
Don’t forget to subscribe and rate the podcast on your favorite platform, and follow me on social @rogueballerina.
Definition of unpack: transitive verb 1a: to remove the contents of unpack a suitcase. b: UNBURDEN, REVEAL … unpack my heart with words— William Shakespeare. Yes, and…both.
The suitcase in the pic below holds the contents of seven years of my life. It has been sitting in my hallway for almost two months, ever since I cleaned out my cubicle at Joffrey. It haunts me. I am afraid of it. I know when I open and unload its contents that means my time at Joffrey is really over.
Dramatic and cliche, but it has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Extreme highs and lows: one of my best friends and mentor dressed up like a glittery princess and read my book for an LGBTQ family charity – I watched it on my way downtown to clean out my desk; I announced I’m launching a podcast – as I received my final paycheck; I had a really great, creative idea – then realized my insurance runs out on Tuesday. No way around the fact that losing your job fucking sucks. I count myself lucky to have worked with some truly amazing and compassionate people. I miss them daily.
As I dive into projects (freelance writing, blogging, launching the podcast, selling my children’s book, printing a coloring book – more to come on these things later!), I’m also navigating a mountain of paperwork (I hate adulting!) and the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My job was quite literally my life for seven years and the grief of losing it is very real. At almost eight weeks out, I find myself bobbing between depression and acceptance. Perhaps unpacking that suitcase will be the closure I need.
Hiiiiieeeeee! It’s me. Rogue. It’s been a while…almost four years since my last post and since 2013 they have been few and far between. I suddenly find myself with a LOT of time on my hands, so look out. The Bitch Is Back. (Sorry Mom, but it’s kind of my brand.)
For the last seven years, I worked in the Marketing department at The Joffrey Ballet. It was the most challenging, difficult, amazing, and rewarding experience of my professional work life. Some of those memories I hope to reflect on in this space. To have that suddenly gone is personally devastating, but hopefully soon, the grieving process will end and I will be left with only happy memories (read: unlimited viewings of The Nutcracker!).
I’ve spent most of my life in some way dedicated to dance as a dancer, teacher, administrator, writer, critic, marketer, and patron. It’s what I love. So, heads up! If you’re involved in the dance community in Chicago, the U.S. or abroad, I will be reaching out for interviews. I’m almost 52, and I have a lot of shit left to do. Let’s get to it. Go rogue.