A Letter from BEAST

Dear Daniel Pardis,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Academic Evaluation Committee of BEAST (Baccalaureate of Expressive Arts and Somatic Transformation) to inform you that you will not be graduating from your final year and must spend another year in the body of your spirit animal.

In your case, Daniel, due to poor attendance, attitude problems and a lacklustre performance in ballet and contemporary dance classes, you will remain a giraffe until such time as you can demonstrate a clearer understanding of your current morphology and its application to your process as a dancer and choreographer.

For many years, BEAST has striven to nurture top-notch dancers and choreographers by guiding them through a rigorous three-year program uniquely designed to break down the boundaries of the self and challenge the artistic process.

In the first year, we encourage the artist to recognize and connect with their spirit animal. As you know, this is the animal with which the artist feels most deeply connected, whose traits, behaviours and mannerisms most resemble their own; the industrious rabbit, the lone wolf, the proud horse, the querulous bear. You chose giraffe which was a startling choice, given that you’re short and kind of stocky; not unlike a marmot or a particularly well endowed groundhog, but your initial improvisational experiments really left an impression on us. You danced as if you had gangly legs and disturbingly knobby knees. You switched to a diet of leaves that you picked up with your tongue and looked upon your class work with passively huge and inordinately wet eyes. And your collaboration with Kelly, the self-identified zebra, entitled ‘We’re Both Basically Horses’was charming and economical. I had never thought of a giraffe as just being a disturbingly proportioned zebra with spots. Yet that really rang out when you started lifting each other. ‘Imagine a zebra lifting a giraffe …’it seemed to ask us. And we did.

The second year of the program was an intense one, and this is where we feel your performance began to waver. The initial mutation went very well; on the first full moon after summer vacation, utilizing a combination of ancient Egyptian ceremonies, medieval incantations and some advanced stem cell research, we physically transformed you into a giraffe. This can be an awkward time for many students as retaining your human consciousness while trying to pilot a brand new body that hitherto resembled you only spiritually, can be deeply frustrating but you seemed to take it well. You immediately fell to standing and staring into the middle distance and you utilized well the weight of the neck and head in movement. Jumping seemed particularly demanding because, as far as I know, giraffes don’t jump but nevertheless, you went about tackling the roll of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake with all the lanky grace you could muster. We saw you really reaching for that top leaf. There seemed to be real potential there and the attention you received publicly was well deserved.

Regrettably, it seemed your commitment to your work and process ended there. Perhaps it was your unclear place in the food chain, or just that your head is located miles away from basically everyone, but in the second half of the year you became aloof and it felt as though you were looking down on everyone and everything. Your attendance plummeted, you remained very focused in pilates class in the early morning but your energy really flagged during the middle of the day and you could often be found sleeping standing up in the garden instead of participating in composition and theory classes.

At the end of the second year, you received a warning stating that if your behaviour as a giraffe did not improve and if you did not further develop your technical dance skills, we would have no choice but to hold you back from graduating the third year. After some serious discussions you convinced us that your poor attendance was a reaction to a particularly complicated romantic relationship with Kelly the zebra and the consequential breakup, due to infidelities with Chris the caribou, left you feeling isolated and inept. You promised if you were allowed to the third year you would be a better giraffe. We feel you have failed to deliver on that promise.

Daniel, we of the evaluation committee still miss a certain fire from you. Where is your bestial desire? Why does this giraffe need to dance? What can your super tall body do and why must it do it in front of us? You seem standoffish to authority, remaining at the edge of the herd, allowing your stature to set you apart and when you blink your impossibly long eyelashes I see a boy trapped inside a long pony, not a man commanding his equine-ish beauty, standing erect in defiance of God and physics.

I personally can’t help but feel that your choice to become a giraffe should have been an early indication that we would end up here. The giraffe typifies an animal that stopped evolving, one that, once he had reached the leaves at the top, figured that was good enough and sat back to graze. The giraffe was a horse with a hankering for something sweeter and he stretched himself until he was able to get it. He grew an amazingly long neck and supported it on lissome legs and it took time and it took a lot of hard work but as soon as he got one whiff of success, he stopped trying. The giraffe had one good idea in him and that was that. The J. D. Salinger of the animal kingdom. Who knows what giraffes could have accomplished if they had kept striving, kept reaching for the top? I’m just speculating right now, but I’ve seen what kind of acrobatics it takes for a giraffe to drink out of the watering hole; all splay legged and tippy, lapping away and hoping that a stiff wind doesn’t blow them over. How could they think that was good enough? A pair of determined squirrels could take out a drinking giraffe. How about evolving some knees that actually bend or here’s an idea; how about growing that neck they’re so proud of until it’s long enough to reach the water. But nope, the giraffe is content just being the guy that can get the high leaves. A one hit wonder. The Vanilla Ice of the savannah.

In the meantime, all the other animals have gotten the memo that they have to keep changing it up. Polar bears are learning to find grizzly bears attractive enough to mate with because there aren’t enough single polar bears around, stray dogs in Russia have figured out how to take the subway, moths have changed colour to blend in with concrete buildings, there’s a bunch of parrots in New Zealand that have become carnivorous and a bunch of eagles in Africa that now eat only nuts and seeds.

Daniel, you’re a giraffe right now but you need to be more than that. More than just nature’s tallest mammal, more than just a leggy one-trick pony. To be an artist you have to be more than just industrious enough to not die of starvation and just weird looking enough for me to wonder how uncomfortable sex must be. Being an artist is not just a lifestyle of otherness; you must evolve and evolution demands effort. So, we won’t be letting you out of your giraffe body yet. At least not until you can prove that you’re better than the giraffe.

Primas sum: primatum nil a me alienum puto.


Sean Dawkins

Dean of Admissions and Transformations


Sandy Williams (1979) is a dancer and choreographer living in Brussels. Even though he (he’s a he) is Canadian.

^ Terug naar boven


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