Writing for ABT When You’ve Really Never Had A Second Thought About Dance Before

31 Mar

Two months into my internship with ABT, I am still surprised I ended up here.

Here, of course, meaning on a virtual plane.

I’m not at all familiar with ballet. I was in dance class when I was five and lacking an internal sense of rhythm and any particular interest in the subject, I quit. Even the ABT’s annual The Nutcracker performances at the Segerstrom Center, only 30 minutes away from my childhood home, passed me by. As a result, I was completely oblivious to how coveted even an unpaid internship with the ABT would be.

So it caught me off guard when I heard nearly 200 people had applied to be interns. There are only 12 interns in my cohort. The news was even more shocking to me because at the time I was struggling to adjust to the online work environment and beginning to doubt the quality of my writing. 

Spring interns in Development are thrown directly into the deep end. January and February are right at the peak of busyness. Spring 2021 was especially chaotic since a vacancy in the department was forcing my supervisor to shoulder twice as much work as usual. And then as suddenly as all the work appeared, it seemed to vanish. I wondered if it was because the standard of my work hadn’t been up to snuff. It was messing with the worst of my lingering perfectionist, grades-obsessed tendencies from K-12. 

And as I observed the tremendous passion driving every one of ABT’s efforts, I wondered if this position was being wasted on me.

These are concerns I would’ve felt much more comfortable voicing in person, or perhaps would not have occurred to me at all in a normal internship. But because every interaction took place in the strictures of Zoom and email, it was easy for me to twist myself into anxiety pretzels about things I would just ask about directly otherwise. 

After one agonizing weekend I worked up the courage to voice some of these worries. My supervisor assured me that the confusion I was feeling was normal. Institutional Support is uniquely difficult for newcomers to adapt to, being bound up in not only ABT’s constant state of barely controlled chaos, but also whatever state of chaos ABT was in two years ago and the vaguest ideas of what ABT will be doing a year in the future.

So beyond the mechanics of how to create grant narratives with reference to existing materials, informal interviews with coworkers, and ABT’s constantly evolving plans, I would say the main thing I’ve learned so far is really just a recap of a lesson I think I’ll be reviewing all my life: to trust in my own judgement and that of others, and to ask questions instead of stewing in confusion. 

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more in the remaining half of the internship. I have really appreciated the continuous effort to familiarize interns to all aspects of ABT and ABT’s level of commitment to its DEI objectives. I’m especially pumped for the upcoming discussion on disability. If you’re like me and didn’t know much about nonprofits at all beforehand, an internship at ABT is a great primer, not just to arts nonprofits, but to what a warm and respectful work environment feels like. 

Angela Song

Institutional Support Intern

Spring 2021

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