Loyalty is a big deal to me. Almost to my detriment some times. I am loyal to my family, to friends, even if we only shared a short time together, and to my employers. That last one got me in some deep trouble several years ago. I couldn’t see past my loyalty to do something better for myself. And I repeated that same mistake the next year at a second work place!
Organizations like loyalty for a variety of reasons, not just money. That’s why you can get t shirts, mugs, decals, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. with logos and trade marks on. I hope I am not telling you anything new.
So when I feel loyal to a group, I am one of those people who proudly wears the T shirt and puts the bumper sticker….somewhere. Probably on my bike basket. I proudly wear the latest Richards Family Reunion T shirt (they are cool not lame, so its fine), I wear a jacket with “Ballet West” in small sophisticated lettering on the right breast and a T shirt with a huge “BW” on the front. I have a cute tank top and sweater shrug from my current teaching job with their logo prominently displayed. I wear these things consciously and with pride, even though the rest of my outfit is usually the grungy dancer/hobo look.
On the flip side, if I stop working somewhere or having a falling out with a group, I get rid of the item associated with it. When I stopped working at a particular dance studio, I sent the rather nice jacket to the thrift store. I probably would have kept it and worn it, because I still go to this studio to take adult classes, but my leaving wasn’t under the best of circumstances. After putting my needs behind the studio’s for a few years, realigning my priorities was kind of painful all around. Wearing that jacket would have been a reminder.
On the other hand, when I’ve had the chance to participate in this studio’s shows, I usually happily wear the cast T shirt. But i don’t want to remember some aspects of being an employee. No more Staff Jacket.
I also worked at a public elementary school for a few years. When circumstances there started to negatively effect my quality of life, I moved on. I got rid of the school notebook, pen collection, and T shirt I’d been using.
Another example is a really nice zip up hoodie I bought from a community company that I have performed with several times. The first year I danced with them I was so happy to be performing again after nearly 6 years that I got the jacket and proudly wore “2012 Cast Member” on my back for the next four years. Then, I started performing with them less regularly. In a few cases because I didn’t like how I was cast. This waning of pride in my association meant this pretty, comfy hoodie also went to the thrift store. I still enjoy dancing with them from time to time, but being cast in lesser parts and not doing their Nutcracker every year led to a decline in loyalty.
So about the picture of my new Municipal Ballet Co. T shirt.
First of all, it is very comfy. Soft and flattering, perfect for a class warm up or lounging at home, or even looking respectable in public, something I often fail at. You should go to their next show and buy one for yourself. And all your friends.
I was volunteering at a Municipal show and I’d forgot my nice outfit at work, so the director gave this shirt to me and told me I could take it home afterward.
I didn’t wear it for a couple of weeks.
I’ve wanted to be part of Municipal Ballet as a performer for a while, and I was privileged to be in one show about a year ago. Its a unique company with a style and philosophy I haven’t quite come to understand yet (that is a whole other post) and since I am not one of the “regulars” (for all that means within the, to me still, somewhat elusive philosophy) I hadn’t wanted to purchase and wear “The T Shirt.” That is a huge sign of association and commitment for me! And I didn’t feel like I was truly part of this group. Even though i teach in the (our?) Co-op classes regularly.
Here is what changed and why I can not only wear that shirt but post a picture of it on my socials.
I had a wonderful chat with the director after the gift of the shirt, and while I am still working on some of the things we talked about, she helped me feel like I am truly part of the community of dancers that make up Municipal Ballet, and the ballet world in Slat Lake. That may lead me to performing more with them, or it may not, but she helped me see that I can claim that association for myself, no matter what anyone else, including herself, thinks.
This circles back to something I posted about last summer. That being able to call yourself a Dancer is something you have to go claim. You don’t have to wait until someone says “good job, you are good enough, thin enough, get paid enough” and so on. If you dance and you see it as a part of yourself, you can take that title. You can proudly wear the T shirt. It should be noted that that majority of dancers who do it for money MUST supplement with other work or have outside financial help. Just as loyalty isn’t just about money, your definition of yourself as a dancer shouldn’t be either.
I think this is a wonderful thing about dance! A lawyer really can’t be called successful unless he has clients. A doctor can’t really have an office and a name plaque that mean something if he doesn’t have patients. But a dancer can be any one who’s life is improved by dancing, whether for themselves in the kitchen or in front of thousands of people for thousands of dollars. This is a wonderful thing about art in general; so often we MUST do it purely for pleasure or we will wilt inside, and no money need change hands.
So, while I’ll admit I am still working on this, I’m telling you: Go ahead. Claim what you want for yourself, even if its only on the weekend or in your living room. Even if its only for friends or a volunteer group, or if you’ve been feeling wrung out by the competitive professional world. State and stand by what you love.
Wear the T shirt.

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