Francesca Harper is an internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer, and artist. She was a principal dancer in the Frankfurt Ballet, performed on Broadway, and formed her own dance company, The Francesca Harper Project. She is currently a professor at the Juilliard School, NYU, and Ailey/Fordham.
“As a dancer, bearing and managing pain is a constant. I am used to physically and mentally pushing myself.
As an African-American woman, I built an immunity to the invisibility I felt while navigating through the predominantly white worlds of ballet and commercial theater.
I have also lived through crises. I was in New York City during 9/11 and lost friends and family members to AIDS, which ravaged the dance world.
So when COVID-19 hit the city, my first response was not to mourn, but to shift. I had to organize new systems of survival for my family, my students, and my company. I was searching for ways to inspire and motivate.
For me, one of the hardest parts of COVID-19 has been the financial stress. Within a few days, my commissioned works for Alvin Ailey, Jacob’s Pillow, and an Austrian ballet company were canceled. I’m resourceful with money, but this sudden stop in income was a new type of blow.
While we sit in this uncomfortable period, I am choosing to live in hope and look toward the future. One way to do this is to practice gratitude.
Pentacle has been a lifeline during COVID-19. It’s an organization that provides pro bono accounting and financial services to art organizations, and allowed me to make a new plan for the summer and fall.
I have learned new ways to connect with others. I am crowdfunding for my dance company, teaching online, and developing choreography for online media.
As hard as the economic change has been, I am also relishing this break from the hustle. I meditate, cook, and self-reflect. When social distancing restrictions are lifted, I plan to reprioritize my schedule so these habits can continue.
I know through experience that on the other side of any challenge is the opportunity to grow, so while this is a painful time, I am grateful that I have been able to learn from it and strengthen myself for the future.”