The standard for a professional ballerina is simple. Be perfect. And like a graceful leap, ballerinas make perfection look easy. But backstage life is brutal.
Abigail Morwood has been a professional dancer for 10 years; she understands the merciless ways of dancing and politics. But she finds ways to bring Christ-centered grace to her profession.
Morwood is a senior soloist with the Cincinnati Ballet. She began dancing at age 10 in Montgomery, Alabama. But since ballet is expensive, Morwood didn’t take many classes until a dancer at her church, Eastwood Presbyterian, offered low-cost classes to children.
Her teacher convinced her to audition for the Montgomery Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Morwood was so impressive that the Montgomery Ballet offered to fund Morwood’s formal training. And when she was 15, the Montgomery Ballet offered her a full-time, paid position. She and her parents decided she should take it. Morwood graduated from high school two years later, ready to continue her career. In 2009, with the U.S. economy struggling, the only ballet company hiring dancers was in Cincinnati. Morwood auditioned and earned a spot.
Now in her eighth year, Morwood is proud of what she has achieved. But she has also felt the pressure of perfection and offstage politicking. With contracts lasting only 35 weeks, dancers must constantly prove themselves. And each day of work is grueling.
When she first moved to Cincinnati, Morwood’s pastor at Eastwood connected her with North Cincinnati Community Church. Through the church she found a family she could live with. And through her host family Morwood met her husband.
“I am so thankful for my walk with the Lord because I have learned so much through those times when stress and anxieties get ahold of me,” Morwood said. She has also learned to lean on fellow dancers who are Christians, many of whom Morwood met through a Bible study she leads for dancers.
In seven years Morwood has had 15 dancers come through her Bible study, which provides a space where dancers push aside perfectionism and deal honestly with life’s struggles. They hold each other accountable and model humility to others by admitting mistakes and asking for forgiveness.
Morwood sees that many of her colleagues are sad, lonely people striving for significance in a profession that forces most into retirement before the age of 40.
But Morwood believes God has called her to this profession and this company. And as long as she can, she hopes to glorify Him with the grace He gives her.