Today we’d like to introduce you to Bethany Green.
Bethany, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my journey as a toddler, I’d say. My mother and my aunt consorted to take me to a production of The Nutcracker in Indianapolis when I was about three, and though my mother had doubts that I’d be able to sit through a full-length ballet, I was absolutely entranced the entire time. And the rest is history. I was enrolled in ballet classes at a local activities center and later at Southold Dance Theater in South Bend, IN, where I trained until I graduated high school. So, so many life lessons learned there. So many reasons to love art, so many reasons to relish community, so many reasons to rely on sisterhood. And all before I had even reached adulthood. I forged these bonds through creating art that I definitely took for granted at that age because it was the only thing I had ever known, but retrospectively, it is clear to me that Southold was laying the groundwork for every artistic, communal venture I’d ever take part in. It inculcated in me early on that the value of what you create lies in those creating it, and those touched by it. My world hadn’t yet expanded beyond that. But even with the scope of my personal experience these days, I can’t help but hold sacred those lives that reach and are reached.
So, when I embarked on my freshman year at Indiana University as a student of the Jacobs School of Music to pursue my degree in a ballet performance, I had an expectation that everything I did would have cultural importance, weight, and relevance. Well. Let’s all reflect on college, shall we? Not everything we did was all that sacred, I’m sure. And so, I was compelled to broaden the lens of my inspiration to literally every experience I had. Which helped me discover that perhaps I wanted to actually create those steps that I had been committing my whole life to do justice to. Maybe I could gently flex those leadership muscles that had laid dormant for forever. Maybe I had a voice that people would want to hear.
After a season (my first professional contract) at Oklahoma City Ballet, I moved to San Diego to dance with City Ballet of San Diego to dance some of the works closest to my heart, notably those by George Balanchine. And my heart was full. But still, when the season came to a close I felt a sense of dissatisfaction that I now know was born out of a need to choreograph. Wouldn’t you know it, a good friend of mine named Carly Topazio (I struggle not to add the descriptor “My Queen”) embarked immediately on a project that would give me that exact opportunity? It is called The Rosin Box Project, and it allowed me not only to give myself the space and the grace to explore my imagination but also to forge some of the closest friendships I think I will ever have. The project was a hit in the community and gave me the fuel to trust my own creative instincts whether I’m dancing or at the front of the room. As a result, I had a really awesome season this year because I finally trusted myself as an artist to channel all my perspective and experiences into everything that I create.
Has it been a smooth road?
It most certainly has not been a smooth road, but I don’t think I would have wanted it to be. It is endlessly rewarding to recognize the way you’ve grown through being overwhelmed, being sad, insecure, or frustrated. There are certain psychological obstacles that come with putting all your energy into art, especially when you feel as though there is much that is beyond your control. I would say that’s been the hardest. Working as hard as I possibly could and not being cast in production or even taken out of a role I’ve already been given. But the thing I always turn to is my personal relationships in and outside the ballet. Having a strong community of women who affirm and challenge one another is vital to me. Words of affirmation, righteous indignation when needed, or even a simple shoulder squeeze in passing is invigorating on many levels. And if you are able to put some of your energy into giving that same affirmation back to your woman community, you feel that much better. And LAUGHTER. I like to say that I take what I do incredibly seriously, but I don’t take myself all that seriously. That allows you to give grace to yourself when you fall short.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
At present, I am mostly invested in creating art as a dancer with the City Ballet of San Diego. This requires a daily warmup class in the morning followed by several hours of rehearsing the repertoire that we are preparing for the stage. We do four productions every season, starting in September and ending in May. The range of what we create is vast, varying from large-scale classics that are well-known to our audiences already (ie Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle) to brand new contemporary works to neoclassical staples out of New York. Throughout my time as a dancer, I have gotten the opportunity to work with some of the most inspiring coaches and choreographers the world has seen, which has not only fueled my passion for ballet but has also given a sense of urgency in bringing that passion to wider and wider audiences. I’m so proud of City Ballet’s commitment to artistry, musicality, and tradition. I think as artists we are all reverent to the past while desiring to ride a wave into the future with vigor and courage. That quality manifests itself especially in the works that we dance by George Balanchine, often regarded as the father of American Ballet. These works reflect the way that I love to feel like a woman– they are playful and challenging and athletic, and each time I am blessed with the opportunity to dance in one, I see the world just a little bit differently.
I am also involved, once the full season closes, in an endeavor started by my colleague and good friend Carly Topazio called The Rosin Box Project. This is an entirely dancer-run production, starting with the choreography, costuming, and lighting, all the way to fundraising, coordinating and producing a full weekend of dance for and by the dancers. This past summer was the inaugural year, and I had the privilege of both dancing and choreographing. While I was insecure and unsure of my choreographic vision at the beginning (my experience with being in the front of the room was limited), I leaned on my dancers and allowed them to make the bare bones of what I gave them into their own narrative, spoken in their own language. I could not have been more proud. We sold out all three shows and celebrated with all our mothers, the queens of our little woman squad! I am invigorated to challenge and stretch my creativity once more this summer.
Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
I feel very, very strongly that women are at an advantage in some ways to succeed in whatever venture they choose if that venture includes other women. The way we can open our hearts to each other and be vulnerable with our feelings can unlock potential in every individual that then creates something more profound as a result. An example that I’ve recently found is the staff at the restaurant where I serve (Wheat & Water in Bird Rock). Mostly women, we show up to a type of work that can be slightly unfulfilling sometimes with gusto and joy. We are just always so happy to see each other, work with each other, and go out of our way to help one another at all times. This has transformed the restaurant and pulls people in over and over because the sense of love and family is palpable.
On a more specific note, I think women also make excellent artists. We want to explore, dive deeper, and communicate. The constant pursuit of emotional connection is a huge asset.
- Instagram: @begreenie
Carly Topazio Photography, Kate Luber Photography