66 days of summer (at ABT)

31 Jul

StellainternphotoWhen I think back on these past two months, I almost can’t believe that I was the one experiencing it all. I was in New York for two days before my mentor contacted me, asking if I was free before the official start date on that Friday. It was already Week 3 of the Met Season, which is one of the busiest periods for the whole company. The next day I found myself anxiously awaiting his arrival in the plaza, staring up at the huge ABT banner that hung in front of the Met Opera and thinking “I work there!” We met for the first time in person, walked through the stage door, and the work quickly began. I learned the ins and outs of the Membership table that’s on display during all the shows to interest people in becoming more involved with ABT. My first day was also the first time I had ever seen ABT live in performance. I’ve been in a permanent state of awe ever since.

The days were long and packed, with new projects and events happening constantly. It’s a learning experience like no other. There’s no time to slowly transition into your role; you just jump in and assist wherever you can (kind of like being thrown in the deep end in the most loving way possible). I was usually at 3 or 4 shows each week, talking and connecting with people who stopped by at the Membership table, getting to share my passion about ABT with ballet-goers and feeling the excitement that fills the theater is pure magic. But also walking into 890 every morning and seeing everyone work so hard behind-the-scenes, made me appreciate that magic even more. It’s a small office, and all the staff work together to ensure that the pieces come together as smoothly as possible.

Development is relationships. That’s at the core of every task in the department. The work that goes on in the offices, from mailing out letters and packages to members to answering emails and calls about the company to analyzing database information, is all in order to cultivate these relationships and to make ballet accessible to the widest possible audience. The connections that happen at performances and events is the result of all of that work. It’s the culmination of a lot of small actions that creates a larger feeling of personal connection to ABT and the culmination of all those unique connections makes ABT America’s National Ballet Company. Having a conversation with a long-term donor at a show and listening her years of involvement that spanned decades, connecting with a patron who had a recent health scare but who still made it out to the ballet, hearing a mother beam with joy over the fact that her daughter had gifted her tickets to Swan Lake, these individual moments reveal just how essential these relationships are to the longevity of ballet and the arts and how necessary these relationships are in our world.

I can’t even begin to put into words how lucky I feel to be the one to contribute to such a world-class ballet company. To be able to see beauty happen on the stage, and to be able to say I’m a (very small) part of that is unbelievable.

Stella Ji

Membership Intern

Summer 2018

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