Before he takes a final bow, Christopher Ruud writes a poignant letter to his younger self
On the eve of retiring from dancing with Ballet West I find myself grateful and reflective. It has been a colorful career filled with joy and triumph along with some sorrow and anguish. In the midst of this reminiscence, I want to write my younger self a letter. Not so much as a warning about what to avoid or to change the future of our life, but mostly to give you hope.
You will lose almost everything.
Tomm Ruud, or dad, is the first great soul you will ever know and he loves you more than even the most eloquent poets could describe. You already know this though. I remember that feeling too. How every hug and every word felt like a great wizard putting the complex puzzle pieces of your perception, and of life itself, together effortlessly. You will carry his love and his example with you forever and it will make you strong. He will die—far too soon. You will be holding his hand at the very moment he passes. You will suddenly feel you are completely empty. Not like part of your soul is missing but all of it.
I cry as I sit here writing this. His absence changed the world as the death of a star changes the gravitational balance of a galaxy. I feel that shift still. However, it is what will solidify your strength and galvanize your determination. It is going to hurt like hell but you will never truly lose him.
Later in your life, you will perform “Ferdinand” in Michael Smuin’s The Tempest. You will be utterly aware of the fact that this role was created on Dad and how rare that is for any dancer and how special that is for you. You will even wear his costume. With his name still sewn into the seam. After your last exit on opening night, you will find a quiet corner back stage and weep.
And this is when it will really happen. You will realize that he is with you. He was there on that opening night and he’s been there every day of your life. He imbued you with his spirit. His love. His effervescence. Which brings me to my point…
You are a collection of all the experiences of your life. Ultimately, that is why you will succeed on stage and in life. To the audience you will be able to communicate love, loss, grief, sadness, and true happiness because of it. You will suspend the audience’s disbelief and bring them into a world that you create if only for those few precious moments. You will love your friends and family fiercely. You will live and you will dance with every ounce of your being and to complete and utter exhaustion. You won’t accept defeat because your heart will be defeated completely and you cannot accept that again. You will live!
And, this is when you will meet Loren. The how and why of your meeting and courtship I will leave out to not to spoil the beauty and splendor of the beginning of your life together. I will only say that you are happy, you are with her now, and you have “met your match” in every sense of that colloquialism. She will help to reshape your life and inspire you to be better. To strive to be the best version of you that is possible.
She is not the only woman to do this for you.
Mary Wood is the epitome of what a mother is and should be. She sang to you every night as a young child. She puts up with your tantrums. She tends your wounds. She cooks healthy meals for you every night. She drives you to gymnastics meets and ballet performances and cheers for you in the audience. Her heart and soul worry for your safety and wish for your happiness every moment and she will never stop. Call her more often. Listen to her without distraction. She is one of the most emotionally and intellectually intelligent human beings that you will ever meet.
You will be under the tutelage of two Artistic Directors in your dancing career for roughly a decade each. Jonas Kåge and Adam Sklute. These great men will put up with your flaws far more and far longer than they could be expected. The best part of your dynamic with these two great men is that they won’t simply expect greatness in your dancing they will expect greatness in how you conduct and represent yourself. They will take pains to teach you this lesson. I implore you to recognize this early and never forget. They and everyone that works directly under them will give you more and bigger chances than most people ever get in their career.
You will lose everything, and you will gain everything. You will be shocked at exactly how much of life’s richness you absorb and how many people you gain as valued colleagues, friends and family. There is an almost endless list of stage partnerships that you will cherish literally forever and right alongside that are a group of administrators, donors, crewmembers, costumers, teachers, dancers, choreographers, and re-stagers that are equally as important to your heart. They are the family you will gain. None of them related by blood but people who are your brothers, sisters, and parents.
Take a deep breath. Try to enjoy the ride. Let the path come up under your feet.
Join Ballet West to celebrate the extraordinary, 21-year career of beloved Principal Artist Christopher Ruud. The celebration will follow the closing night performance of the Choreographic Festival, Mr. Ruud’s final bow onstage with Ballet West in a new work by Edwaard Liang. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, and beer will be served. The celebration will begin at 9:30 p.m. at the Hotel Monaco. Guests must be 21 or older. Space is limited; tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets: bit.ly/2VGZADy