It’s terrifying for many dancers to imagine the end of their performance career, but I can’t help but celebrate. This career has filled my life with the most incredible people, unforgettable moments, and taught me how to gain confidence through vulnerability. It’s helped me find pride in pursuing my dream and gratitude for everyone who supported it. It’s through dance that I’ve discovered who I hope to become. 

        A career in the arts is possibly one of the most personal vocations anyone could have, and with that notion, everyone’s path is truly their own. Mine started with the Louisville Ballet under the direction of Bruce Simpson, who helped me understand that being a professional doesn’t mean suppressing your character. A professional cares for their work and everyone in the room, and strives to support the progression of the work through their individual strengths. Bruce invited Bay Area-based Amy Seiwert to choreograph on the company. Through Amy I learned the value of taking risks and failing forward. I then moved to San Francisco, inspired by the work Amy had introduced me to, and found a home in Smuin. With Celia Fushille’s leadership, Smuin helped me discover that more than anything else dance is a celebration, and the truest joy of dance is sharing it with the people around us. 

        The choice to transition away from full-time performance has not been easy and I have no doubt that I will continue to struggle with this decision. I’ve dedicated my life to this craft and it’s hard to imagine my day-to-day without it. The truth is that a performance career is as demanding as it is rewarding, and eventually every performer is faced with this moment. But here’s the silver lining – while I might no longer be performing all the time, I will always be a professional who knows how to take risks and celebrate the journey. Thanks to dance I know that I will continue to cherish the people who have made my life so fulfilling and unique. I can sit here today and reflect with pride, knowing that the dream I once had turned out so much more beautiful than I imagined. 

       My mother always said, “Tomorrow is never promised, and today is a gift.” That is how I have felt every day of the past 12 years. I’m so grateful for each and every one of you who have shared in part of my performance career. It’s thanks to your friendship, guidance, support, encouragement, trust, acceptance, and joy that I have found so much love for this art. I’m so excited to celebrate my final performance season with you all, and can’t wait to see where this new chapter will lead.

** Written by Ben Needham-Wood

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Don’t miss your last chance to see dancer Ben Needham-Wood perform in Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet this coming November 22-December 29! For more information, and tickets, click here.