A farewell letter by PNB dancer Emma Love Suddarth.
No one expects change to ever feel easy. Change doesn’t feel normal. It doesn’t even necessarily feel good. But all that aside, a change can be right. And this one is definitely right for me. It’s with that in heart that I’ve decided to hang up my pointe shoes, slippers, and socks and step on from my career as a dancer with PNB. In my fifteen years with the organization—two as a PD and the rest in the company—I’ve missed one Sunday matinee, and that’s only because Boyd Bender chuckled at me when I asked, “so do you think I can go on?” as he stared at my giant black-and-blue ankle sitting in front of his face. Needless to say, this change is going to feel entirely strange for me; however, nothing could be more right.
I’m the ultimate creature of habit—straying from routine, from schedule, from what I know is not in my nature. Just ask Price how willing I was to NOT try and carry 3 overflowing grocery bags on each arm in from the car, at 39 weeks pregnant. I’d always done it before so why change the plan? However, someone recently took my normal, my safety net, and threw it out the window, grinning the whole time. That guy’s name is Milo. And I couldn’t be more grateful. We don’t move backwards, and we can’t freeze time no matter how much we might long to. Our “normal” is always in flux, whether we acknowledge it or not. I’m learning that not only is change inevitable, it is the only constant in life, and the only thing I can always depend on. While that concept is entirely daunting for a personality like mine, it can be simultaneously freeing, and encouraging, if I choose to not only admit it, but live into it. There will always be unanswered questions, unrealized hopes, and what-ifs left each time a chapter comes to a close—and that’s part of it, because the entire story is still unrealized.
I am exceedingly grateful for my story here at PNB. In 2006 I entered as a kid, and in 2021 I leave a dancer, a friend, a wife, and a mother. It’s impossible to do justice to all the ways, both big and small, in which my life and heart have been made full in this building. While performing has been a gift, it’s the small things, the day-to-day that will last in my heart forever. It’s the uncontrollable laughs in the studio with Otto as he throws one of his clever word puns in between his notes on the last run. It’s the continuous support of people like Larae or Sherri, unknowingly calming this anxious siren as they sew the butt of my costume to my tights for the five millionth time. It’s the selfless nature of Boyd day-in and day-out, sticking around those five extra minutes after he’s done to get this swan through her last show. It’s the friends I’ve not only made, but I’ve had the opportunity to grow up with, and enter new phases of life with, and that will last far and beyond these walls. You’ve all blessed my life—and I’m more thankful for this chapter than I can ever hope to express.
And, I think it goes without saying, it’s the time I spent with one guy in particular that I’m most grateful for inside these walls. He showed up in 2009, I slapped him in the face in a lift gone wrong in Romeo et Juliette—it’s a funny story although it depends who you ask how it goes—and the rest is our story. It’s the simple moments—conversations backstage during party scene runs, “couples therapy night” with Boyd and Lori, catching his eye from onstage and feeling a renewed sense of confidence, walking up to The Phelps Center hand-in-hand every single day—these are the hardest things to say goodbye to. My two most treasured moments from my career are these: standing upstage left, in the dark, waiting to start our pas de deux in Petit Mort, hearing his breath behind me and knowing there was no person I trusted more in my entire life; and sitting behind the box at the end of Little mortal jump, our dancing done, my head on his shoulder, simply overwhelmingly happy. Can’t wait to sit back there with him one more time. Lucky for me he’s there in every chapter that my story holds.
It’s gone by in a blur—a blur I’m simply grateful for.
Featured photo: Emma Love Suddarth in Price Suddarth’s Signature, photo © Angela Sterling.
Photos: Emma Love Suddarth and Sarah Pasch backstage. Behind the scenes in PNB’s physical therapy room with Price Suddarth and PNB’s physical therapist, Boyd Bender. Emma Love Suddarth (in costume as the Siren in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son with former PNB Costume Shop Manager, Larae Hascall. Emma Love Suddarth and Price Suddarth in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, photo © Angela Sterling.
Emma Love Suddarth and Price Suddarth backstage. Emma and Price during a photoshoot for Cendrillon, photo © Angela Sterling. Emma and Price with their son, Milo.
All photos courtesy of Emma Love Suddarth unless otherwise noted.