My name is Samantha Hope Galler and I am a professional ballerina with Miami City Ballet. I work full-time as a Soloist with the Company and perform nearly 60-70 performances throughout the season. Before settling in Miami in 2014, I lived in Boston, Cincinnati, and Birmingham, making a slow transition to the warm and sunny south that I have grown to love so much. My journey around the country has been adventurous, spontaneous, and rewarding. Of all my stops, Miami is one of the most interesting places in the U.S to live and work. I find it easy to be myself and contribute to the community through my work without judgement as an artist, individual, wife, and friend. I tell everyone how living in Miami is a true way of life. You can open your shades almost every day to palm trees, parrots, and sun. Being near the ocean is a breath of fresh air. I always said I wanted to live by the water, but if you asked me 20 years ago if I would end up in Miami, I would have said no.
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of being a ballerina. Early on, I knew it would not be an easy task, but my goals motivated me to keep pushing forward. As the years passed, and I reached the end of my ballet training and graduated high school, I was faced with the real world. It was extremely difficult to obtain a job in a dance company, and today it is even more challenging. First, auditioning takes time, traveling, expenses, and acceptance of criticism. Secondly, the number of contracts varies from year to year. My first round of auditioning, in 2007, changed the trajectory of my personal career plan. I expected to have graduated ballet school with a Corps de ballet contract in hand, but this was not where I landed right away. Long story short, after an additional Trainee season at Cincinnati Ballet and an Apprentice opportunity with the Alabama Ballet, I finally joined their main ballet company and never looked back. Then in 2014, I decided it was time to reach for something bigger with more diversity in repertoire, touring opportunities, and artists that I knew would push me to the next level. My last audition was for Miami City Ballet, and that is where I landed and have loved it since joining. Now, nearly 14 professional years later, I would have chosen this path in the first place. I believe everything happens for a reason and when one door closes another door opens.
Dance pushes boundaries to create new standards and new obstacles to overcome every year. Each generation of students is expected to develop alongside the artforms’ evolution while remembering the inevitable element of time chasing them. If you are lucky, once you join a ballet company, you might dance for 10 or 20 years before retiring. Also, it takes years for a dancer to mature fully in their work. Depending on your physical and mental upkeep, environment, opportunity, stability, and adaptability, this maturity timeline can be affected. This past year presented artists with new possibilities to explore outside their comfort zones and develop work virtually. With this new exploration in dance, adaptability became a vital component for students. Adapting to ballet classes in the living room via zoom changed how artists think about space and movement. Ballet students, around the world, who patiently waited for years to audition in person did not have the opportunity to do so. In fact, Zoom became the normality and the main format for auditioners over the past 18 months.
Personally, I was given an enormous amount of unexpected time without dance and found it beneficial to reflect on my past. It took me a couple of months to understand the situation, but once I realized the weight of the pandemic and its’ impacts on society, I sat down every night and got to work. Within this self-reflection, I found positives and negatives during the lockdown. Along with my abundance of time, I experienced a maturity with family bonds, rekindling of friendships, and personal growth. I spent hours rewriting my resume and laying out everything I had accomplished thus far in my career. It was very scary to face the reality that I might never have a chance to dance again. It is said that dancers die twice, once when they retire and once when they actually pass on. To think that we did not have a choice in retiring was heartbreaking. Everyone in any career deserves to decide when their time has come to move on. Emotionally, I had to put that aside and use my time wisely. I looked from all angles of my performance-based experience to my teaching experience and spoke to various individuals in the field to get some advice and direction. I had taken over an entire ballet school and moved it online at the same time. With my experience teaching ballet students and adults ages 5+ in person and now via zoom, I discovered what elements my teaching needed improvements in. I found my options and am thankful for the time which forced me to search for answers so I can continue to make a difference in the dance world.
In conclusion, like all communities, the dance world is full of incredible stories of strength, peace, power, rejection, dedication, sadness, commitment, and hardship. We all have a unique and significant story, especially coming out of 2020. I keep saying, “when this is all over,” but I truly believe society has changed and we will move forward in new ways with new opinions regarding science, values, and beliefs.