Carson Stein relocated to San Francisco from Hockessin, Delaware in 2009 and studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance for two years. She currently dances with SFCD company-in-residence Sharp & Fine and Liss Fain Dance. She has also performed with burnsWORK, Project Thrust, and Raw Dance.
Yes, I am a dancer, and that’s currently what I say when people ask, “What do you do?” But I am also a lot of other things.
Do I wish that at twenty-three I was still blissful and naïve? Yes, sometimes. But I can also acknowledge that I am only twenty-three, and hopefully I have an entire lifetime ahead of me to figure out what else I want. Without these five years I’ve spent in San Francisco, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It isn’t that three years of freelancing has turned me into a bitter and jaded dancer; it actually has led me to find out a lot more about myself. I’m less afraid for the moment that I stop dancing and more confident in sharing my other interests that I once left buried deep inside; I am more comfortable with who I am.
There was a time five or six years ago, when all that consumed my mind was getting my first professional dance job. Looking back I realize that was a waste of valuable brain space. It ate away at me day after day, until the day actually came and I was offered real paid dance work. A giant weight was lifted from my shoulders, and then it occurred to me that it wouldn’t last forever. I soon would be in the place of hoping to find another job, then another, and another, that repetition of waiting and hoping is endless. Sure, along the way I have found consistent work; but deep down I know it’s not going to last forever because I don’t want it to. For a long time I did want it to last forever; I was inspired and hungry for more experience and understanding.
I’m fortunate to participate in creating work that allows me to be myself, but it only lasts for a few moments. And those moments can be some of the best moments you will ever have, but the initial wonderment fades away and things become mundane, like brushing your teeth and locking the front door when you leave. I have gone through this set of feelings years ago: it seems to come in cycles. There’s the beginning excitement, intrigue, and desire next comes hard work, sweat and occasionally tears, which lead into resentment, disappointment and frustration. This cycle happened to me as a high school student (dance and academically related), more than once during the two years I was a student in the year round program at SFCD, and now its sweeping it’s way through me again as a professional contemporary dancer. It isn’t easy, nor has it ever been. Summer once told me, “Carson, it would be easier for you to become a doctor.” At the time I laughed it off and didn’t believe her. A few years later, I realize how right she was. I could be finished my undergraduate degree and on my way to graduate school now, but I am not. I am here.
It’s taken me quite some time to figure out that I can identify myself as something more than a dancer if I want to. It’s completely in my control what I want to share about myself. The bulk of my life has been defined by my dancing, and I was always nervous for that moment to disappear. I’m not scared for the time when I am not dancing anymore; it’s become a little exhilarating to think about the future. But for now, letting the next few months unfold is all I am looking forward to.