“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams." Gene Kelly
Dear Mr. Kelly,
To say that you are my hero is no understatement. I wanted to be you. I still want to be you. Your work is the reason I am a professional dancer today. Your work is a standard by which I measure everything I choreograph, everything I produce, and everything I work on. I am still trying and working to get into that space and up to that standard that you so effortlessly occupied in all you did.
I remember my mother buying the movie Singin In The Rain for me when I was 7 years old. To that point in my young life I thought Fred Astaire was the greatest dancer I had ever seen. I can remember like it was yesterday seeing you for the first time dancing so effortlessly through that replica rain storm, hanging off that lamp post, and skipping up and down that curbside. After seeing that movie for a large portion of my youth, there was no one else but you. I watched Singin In The Rain everyday after school, I could recite every word of the movie, I wrote every dance step from the movie in a note book, I practiced the steps everyday, I asked Santa Clause to bring me a pair of your tap shoes, and you took the place of the greatest dancer to that point I had ever seen. I still get choked up every time I see you turn around, smile at that cop, and sing, “I am dancin and singin in the rain.” It moves me so deeply because that moment locks and incapsulates the dreams of my entire childhood and seeing it today gives me such a sense of gratitude, humility, and reinvigorates the possibility of dreaming where I want to go today.
To start I was so impressed with you as a dancer. As I started to get older I learned of your work as a choreographer, as a director, and as a producer. The innovations, the quality, the boundaries you pushed, and again the standard that your work resides in is of the highest order. Your status in my mind grew not only because of your dancing but because of the control over your work that you projected in front of and behind the camera. The Worry Song, The Alter Ego Dance, The American in Paris Ballet, The Broadway Melody Ballet, and so many others stand as an example of what dance on film should be, what vision from pre-production through collaboration to the final product looks like, and most importantly what the strive for artistic perfection should embody. Your works, your versatility, your genius has stood the test of time and every year that passes you become more celebrated. As a dancer and as an artist this makes my soul burst with joy.
I remember that you passed away two days before my 11th Birthday. I remember that it was a cold February day. I remember my mom telling me. I remember feeling so sad that I would never get to meet you, that I would never get to dance for you, or that I would never be able to deliver the sentiments that are in this letter to you personally. I had the privilege to meet your wife Patricia a few years ago at a show I was dancing in. To have met her after that show and for her to give me such kind praise gave me a small sense in that moment of closure on an old wound that subconsciously will never heal. Meeting someone who was close to you, who cared for you, and shared in life with you was and still is one of the most joyful meetings of another human being I have experienced. I profoundly wish you could have attended that show with her, that I could have met you, and danced for you too.
In the end, I will never achieve anything that closely resembles your work. I will strive to for as long as I am an artist. However it isn’t the artistic perfection I seek. I only hope that when my career is done and that I am long gone that I will have inspired the dreams of just one young person in the same fashion that you inspired mine. If that is at all a possibility, my life as an artist will have been one that I am truly proud of. I thank you for your work, your life, and your contributions to the dreams of so many.
With profound love and respect,