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Rising Voices

The Balancing Act: Finding a Foothold Between a Passion and Humanity

We continue looking at pop culture and role models with this post from one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

I wouldn’t call it “pop,” but it certainly is a culture. Some even push dance to a way of life: dance, eat, breathe, sleep. We dance fanatics live in our own little universe, striving to achieve goals that would just seem alien to other teenagers. Not many teenage girls prepare for their summer fun by strenuously hand-sewing ribbons and elastics on their pink satin pointe shoes. And who else would be thrilled to spend countless hours each day locked up in a vast dance studio, when they could be going to the beach or eating popsicles at summer camp? Being a dancer is comparable to signing away your soul; once you made the commitment to dance it is very unlikely that you could ever just drop it cold.

In a broader spectrum, I am a complete dance newbie. Iconic Russian ballet stars like Svetlana Zakharova started their rigorous training at age 6, while dithering dancers like me began the discipline in high school. In the eighth grade, I auditioned in dance for the performing arts high school Boston Arts Academy (BAA), a pilot school in the Boston Public Schools System.

I did get a pretty late start, but what is truly miraculous about the art of dance is that if one puts in just the right amount of elbow grease, passion, and persistence they can achieve just as much as dancers like Zakharova—just like a personal role model of mine, Belen Pereyra, a BAA graduate and dancer in the world-famous Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

The first time I saw Pereyra perform was two years ago when Ailey toured Boston. I was awestruck by her rock-solid technique, incredible performance quality, and movement. The passionate drama she executed in every liberating step was breathtaking, inspiring, something every dancer strives for. But what not every audience member may have known was that talented girl on stage had a lot more than just beauty, she also had brains.

Though I do not know her personally, I do know that Pereyra graduated BAA as valedictorian. Somehow, she was able to handle the tricky tightrope of high school while maintaining an impressively firm grip on her arts and academics—a perfect example of one of BAA’s community values of “passion with balance.” Pereyra is a leader for me, and all other dancers, because she was able to work her way through the hierarchy of dance companies by devoting herself to the dance lifestyle while at the same time keeping an iron grasp on her educational values.

Pereyra, and many other dancers, are all truly great multitaskers; they juggle their personal, professional, and educational life. I strongly believe that a successful dancer like Pereyra needs to know how to balance—both physically and mentally.

Personally, I am still looking for that state of equilibrium between dance and being a teenager. I need to know my limits when it comes to prioritizing dance over other obligations like my religion, and I constantly try to keep myself in check to see if I have crossed the line from being a “dedicated dancer” to “overzealous dancer.”

After all, I am only human, and making time for my school, family, and friends is something that revives me from the crazy dance world. As a matter of fact, it is important for any person to find balance within their lives between their passions and the things that keep them steady.

Whether it is a career goal, religion, or hobby, finding harmony between dedication and stability is something everybody can keep in mind. Models like Pereyra have proved it to be possible; therefore I am capable of achieving everything Pereyra has accomplished as a dancer and scholar—as long as I continue the balancing act between my passions and my reason.

More on: Dance, Rising Voices
Belen Pereyra
Full image

Belen Pereyra.

Photo by Andrew Eccles for Alvin Ailey.

How to cite this page

Link, Olivia. "The Balancing Act: Finding a Foothold Between a Passion and Humanity." 17 December 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 18, 2017) <>.


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