“I just kind of knew, what I didn’t want to do” – Toni Meeks

Portrait Toni Meeks

From a local ballet company in her hometown El Paso, Texas, to the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm. Her start into the professional world of dance was rather unpredictable but successful.
At school she enjoyed English literature and languages. And with her adventures spirit, she took a leave of absence to work at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York, as a marketing assistant for Polygram Records in Stockholm and in an art gallery in SOHO, New York City.
Today she lives permanently in Stockholm Sweden and works as a specialised medical secretary at the Karolinska Hospital since 2017. Please welcome Toni Meeks!

Please find below the transcript of our conversation:

ballet, dance, started, dancer, job, ballet company, work, swedish, career, years, people, stockholm, performances, feel, move, thought, realized, enjoyed, friends, language, karolinska

Toni Meeks, Harald Krytinar

Toni Meeks 00:00
I think it was just before my 40th birthday. And I had to have surgery on my shoulder also because it was really bad. And then I had some maternity leave left. So I decided to do that. So I had my surgery done. So I was on sick leave, and then I went back to my maternity leave until I turned 41 and could retire. So it’s a tough situation. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 00:30
Hi, and welcome to the mean 10 years podcast. I’m Harold and I bring to you stories from dances and stage artists who shared their experiences about career transition from a local ballet company in our hometown El Paso, Texas to the Royal Swedish ballet in Stockholm, has started into the professional world of dance was rather unpredictable but successful. At school she enjoyed English literature and languages. And with her adventurous spirit, she took a leave of absence to work at the Metropolitan Opera ballet in New York, as a marketing assistant for Polygram Records in Stockholm, and in an art gallery in Soho, New York City. Today, she lives permanently in Stockholm, Sweden and works as a specialized medical secretary for the Karolinska hospital since 2017. Please welcome, Toni Meeks!

Toni Meeks 01:19
Nice to be here.

Harald Krytinar 01:20
wonderful to have you. Thank you very much for taking the time. And did you give me this opportunity to have a talk today? I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Toni Meeks 01:27
Me too. I appreciate it, too.

Harald Krytinar 01:30
Thank you. Tony, I would like to start, you know, you’re going to talk a bit about your career as a professional dancer. And I don’t want to anticipate anything. Um, and one of the first questions I always like to find out about people who were in that profession is, how did you start with ballet? How did that appear in your life? Do you remember any of that?

Toni Meeks 01:55
I do remember it. And I was actually a little I was almost too old, I think to start ballet. I was 11 when I started ballet, because my sister was taking ballet. She’s three years younger than me. And it just looked like fun. And I wanted to, you know, dance and get strong and build some muscles and all that kind of stuff. So I started taking ballet too. And I just realized that it was I was good at it. So I kept at it from then. So 11 I was I started dancing.

Harald Krytinar 02:24
And what was your ambition? You just said you weren’t we found out? You were good at it. You enjoyed it. You saw your sister do it. So I mean, there was this sort of personal relation with it. Yeah. As you moved on into your training, you realize that, you know, this was actually something you really enjoyed. How did that develop? I mean, did teachers encourage you? Did you sort of come home one day and say, Mom, I want to become a ballet dancer? How did that develop? You know, it

Toni Meeks 02:47
was my teacher was she was a dancer in the local ballet company there. And so when it was like Nutcracker time, which is the big season in the states for ballet, and we got to, you know, to be in the production. And it was kind of like from that point on that I realized that I really enjoyed performing and I wanted to and every chance I got if there was any kind of ballet going on that they needed extras or something like that I wanted to be there and be in that. So that’s kind of how it started. And then once I guess when I started to get a little bit older, and my and a little bit better than I could do other parts and other roles, and then I changed ballet school. So then I started going to the ballet school for the dancers that went directly into the company there. So that’s how it started. Nutcracker

Harald Krytinar 03:40
wonderful. Nutcracker was your inspiration and your true north at least at that age. So tell me you grew up in North American United States. Where was that in the United States? And how did you then actually really find your way into a professional career? Yeah.

Toni Meeks 03:58
Okay, well, the city I’m from is El Paso, Texas. It’s not a really big city, but it’s one of the, I think it’s like the fourth largest city in Texas or something like that. And it’s about the size of Gotham Burt and we had a ballet company there that was started by my ballet teacher there in El Paso. She was German also live there and she just was you know, like the soul of ballet community and oh paso and she you know, she worked hard to keep it alive and keep it going and had good dancers and a good company and the little repertoire but still always performances and I started out at a ballet school with one of her dancers. And then as I got older, I got to move up to the school and so it was the Ballet O’Paso, it was what it was called. And then when I was I’d been at the university for two years and which is where the company’s trained. They were based at the university with the studio whenever thing. And the stage we had in the dressing rooms there we used. And so after two years at university with ballet as a major, I realized I just felt like I wanted to start working. So I just decided that I’m going to start doing auditions. So one spring, I just started doing auditions, I, you know, went to several different places. And I ended up getting a job with the Dallas ballet. That’s another crazy long story, because I was the only one they hired. And when I got there, the company had gone bankrupt, so they had canceled the entire season. So I moved from El Paso to Dallas, and they had rented an apartment and everything. And then I guess they forgot to tell me, I don’t know, I showed up to my first day of work, and nobody was there. And I thought, you know, maybe I got the time wrong. So I’ll just wait around and see if anybody shows up. Finally, people start dropping in and there was class and you know, they were like, Who were you? And I was like, Well, I’m supposed to start working here today. And they said, didn’t anybody tell you that the company is bankrupt, and the whole season was canceled? And I was like, No, nobody told me that. So the director of that ballet company was Danish. And they had already planned a tour to Denmark for two weeks. And so I was hoping to be able to go on that tour, because then I’d make a little bit of money, and I could pay my you know, first and last month’s rent for that apartment that I had rented and move back home. So I did go on that tour. And while we were there, there was a shortage of dancers here in Stockholm. And so a dancer that had been on leave from here and dance with Dallas ballet, she knew of our situation that, you know, it’s a whole company of dancers out of work. Within two weeks, they needed dancers here. So the director came to Denmark and watch the class and performance and three of us got jobs from there. So then we finished the tour, I went back to El Paso, and I waited to get my approval, my permit, work permits. And then two weeks later, I moved to Stockholm. And that was how it all happened. I never was like I didn’t ever really get the chance to start working professionally until I moved here. So

Harald Krytinar 07:09
well, crazy story that you made. You made it work out with a lot of ambition. And with a lot of focus, I guess. And it’s wonderful to hear you still live today in Stockholm. And so, you know, it obviously made sense to you, and it worked out fine. So that’s wonderful to hear. How was it actually for you to you know, obviously, Ballet was your passion, you had decided that you want to make this as your, you know, professional career, you had the opportunity, although it didn’t look all that happy when the first thing that is obviously it felt like that’s the end of that. But somehow you made it work out and eventually you start to work in Stockholm. How did that feel for you? I mean, was there any doubt to move continents? Was there any doubt for you to maybe try something else?

Toni Meeks 07:56
Not at all. And you know, that’s the crazy thing is also is that I just was like I just wanted to work and I had no, I didn’t even really know where I was going. I mean, Sweden so far away from El Paso, Texas, and I wasn’t really sure where I was going. And I just but I never thought about anything other than I want it to work and dance. And was quite a culture shock when I got here. I mean, it was so dark and it was snowing the first day I got here. I didn’t even have a winter coat. I’ve never, I mean we don’t have like snowy. Okay, now this year was different. But we don’t we didn’t have a lot of snow and cold weather and El Paso and stuff growing up. So it was a completely new climate and the darkness and all that kind of stuff was but I never stopped to think that I wish I hadn’t. I don’t want to be here. I wish I wasn’t here. I never thought that way. I was just like, you know, like this problem began I tried to tell you about you just keep going because you have you know, I said yes to a job. And so now I’m doing this job and it’s what I wanted to do. Well,

Harald Krytinar 08:56
I can use your determination I can hear as your Yeah, important it was for you and to see through in a way that’s what I hear. When you start to dance and calm about what age were you and how many years? Did he actually stay within the company?

Toni Meeks 09:13
Yeah, I was. It was just before I turned 20. And I stayed with the company. And I was with the company for 22 years or something like that. In total. I did take some time, some leaves and I lived in New York for a few years. And then I was on maternity leave for a few years.

Harald Krytinar 09:32
Do you remember the time when you first started to think of accountants on for the rest of my life? Do you remember the period when that sort of those thoughts started to come up in your mind?

Toni Meeks 09:46
No, I really don’t. I don’t. Not exactly. But I think it must have been about the time when I mean when you start nearing the age of 40. And that’s when I guess I’d had my third child and I was thinking that I I didn’t have a whole lot of time left and I wanted to get back and I wanted to go back to work and finish. You know what I started and retire at 44 had I thought is what I was going to do. So I guess yeah, after my third child, I started thinking about. Okay, I have to start planning for the future here, because I can’t do this forever. And yeah.

Harald Krytinar 10:22
You just said, interestingly, you said I started planning. So do I hear that it was a process that took some time?

Toni Meeks 10:31
It took a long time. Because it was I didn’t know what else I could do. And I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I just kind of knew what I didn’t want to do.

Harald Krytinar 10:43
Interesting. Yeah. Do you remember what you didn’t want to do? At the time?

Toni Meeks 10:48
Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t want to continue working with dance. Okay. Yeah. Cuz I remember, all the years of, you know, performances and stuff. And especially in the wintertime, when it’s dark, and you have performances, you go home in the afternoon and rest, and then you get on the bus at 430 to go back to the theater and all the other normal people are on their way home. And you see them like turning on the lights in the kitchen and unpacking the groceries and getting their evening started. That’s I always wanted that sounds crazy. But I wanted evenings and weekends off and holidays off and all that kind of stuff. So I knew I didn’t want to work with dance again.

Harald Krytinar 11:29
How did it happen for you? In the end, you said it was a process that took a long time. So how did you develop the process? And was there any support around you to move forward?

Toni Meeks 11:40
Now, I would say that it came upon me a little bit quicker than I had thought it would, because I thought I would dance until 44. And then after my third child, and I was on my way back to the stage, it was like two days before I was supposed to have my first performance again, I injured myself. And I it was an injury that I had done the same foot with the similar injury, they like 10 years earlier. And it took me over a year to get back after that. And so it was the same foot and I was just, you know, heartbroken. And so and then, you know, you’re even when you’re injured, you still have to work. It’s like almost more work to do all the rehab, and you have to train and, you know, show yourself every day and be there. And it was hard to do that with three kids in diapers. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t easy. And they were sick all the time. And I have a husband that just worked all the time. He, you know, didn’t have, he couldn’t help out very much at the house. So it was, you know, pretty much down to me. And it was tough. And so then when I had been injured and you know, after six months, and it wasn’t better, and I wasn’t like getting back in class and stuff, I realized I can’t do this anymore. I wasn’t 100% at the theater, and I wasn’t 100% at home. So that’s when I decided I had to retire. And I was I think it was just before my 40th birthday. And I had to have surgery on my shoulder also, because it was really bad. And then I had some maternity leave left. So I decided to do that I had. So I had my surgery done. So I was on sick leave. And then I went back to my maternity leave until I turned 41 and could retire. So it’s a tough situation. But yeah,

Harald Krytinar 13:37
obviously, I can see how my you know, I can see how real that is. And I mean, today, this is many years back, but I can also see how our strong feelings still are within you. And, you know, we’re not talking of any theory here. We were talking of something you’ve experienced, and you went through, I can only imagine, you know that just the intensity of the experience that you had to manage and deal with. How was it when you said there was a surgery, there was also done some maternity leave? I mean, how was this for you to in a way to come to terms that, you know, this is it I’m not going back. And this process of actually in a way saying goodbye to your former colleagues or also to an environment of work that you knew really well. Do you remember that phase how that felt? I mean, once you really knew what was going to happen? I mean, did you feel that it was a conscious process? Did you feel that it was something actively Did you know the sort of farewell party stretched out?

Toni Meeks 14:38
No, I didn’t have any of that since I was on sick leave. It felt like I wasn’t really there. Anyway, so it just kind of I kind of like phased out of the theater. And that I don’t think that’s a good thing to do. I think it’s… I probably needed – should have had more closure somehow or something. I don’t know but And then yeah, it was, it was kind of a shock. It’s what it was. And you’re not really prepared, I don’t think to identify yourself just not a dancer. It took a long time to get over that.

Harald Krytinar 15:20
Do you remember how your relation evolved with your colleagues? People, you spend so much time with that you said you live a crazy rhythm that’s, you know, that basically doesn’t leave much room to have any other outside life because you live on a completely inverse rhythm. And then all of a sudden, now having this distance. I don’t know, how did that relation with your colleagues and friends develop in that time?

Toni Meeks 15:45
Well, I did have I, you know, I still have a few really close friends from the theater. And that didn’t change. And they were very supportive. And you know, whenever if we ever saw each other, if I ever went to the theater there, everybody was always happy to see me. And, you know, they you miss everybody. So they’ve been a support colleagues absolutely have been a support for me there. And, but I had a hard time I didn’t like wanted to go to performances. It was really tough. It still is. And I went, you know, for, like, friends when they had their last performances or something. If it was if them going on retiring. And for their last performances, I can go and watch. But I didn’t really want to go to the theater. Otherwise, thought it was heartbreaking.

Harald Krytinar 16:36
You know, that reminds me sometimes I get this question people ask when they find out, I’m a dancer, and they asked, you know, do you still dance? And I’m like, No, I don’t you know? And it is, I think it’s, for some people, that’s very people who have not been in that profession for them, it’s hard to understand why not, you know, but I think that is the difference between being a professional dancer and somebody who dances for the pleasure of dancing, I think it’s a very different way of why you move and what dance means and how it is a form of you know, have to express yourself, in a way you don’t express yourself, you interpreting somebody else’s work through movement, dancing, that sense is maybe not just this, an entertainment, as such, you know, because of the relation you built up over the years. You know, once you had, it was clear for you, you were moving out of there as a profession, and you were moving into your transition. But how did that evolve for you? I mean, how did you said that you weren’t clear what it was that you wanted to do? How did you move forward to gain clarity about what it was?

Toni Meeks 17:42
Yeah, I guess I did have I mean, I had friends that have their own businesses. And I tried, you know, going into a couple of smaller businesses and being partners and had a store for a while and with a friend. And that I really enjoyed that too. But it was I just kind of realized that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. And I talked to a lot of people and talk to other friends about what they were doing since they retired and most of them are still in, you know, dancing teaching. And I did think about that for a while because it is something that we have with us. I mean, it’s an incredible knowledge that you have and all the training that we’ve had, and that it would have been a natural path to follow, of course, but somehow I just like, so I was almost at the point where I thought, okay, maybe that’s what I need to do, because I can’t do anything else. But then, you know, just making new friends, not ballet friends, you know, living in the neighborhood that I live in and making new friends that have other jobs and other careers, it kind of opens your eyes to what else is out there. And, you know, it was basically a neighbor that, you know, thought this would be something that you would be good at it, maybe should try it. So that’s kind of how it came about. But it took a while – it took 12 years.

Harald Krytinar 19:02
12 years, and you tried many different things. How did you go about trying out those things? How were you imagining the future? Were you very hesitant? Were you scared of failure? Were you,… how did you approach those different experiences?

Toni Meeks 19:17
Pretty naturally, just friends, you know, saying let’s do this. And we can do that. And but it was hard with the kids having three small kids, you can’t really dive too deep into you know, a new career, or at least I couldn’t. And so I didn’t have time to really try to, you know, figure out if, if this is what I wanted to do and spend all my time doing it because I had the kids at home but and the other thing that I did know is that I didn’t want to do something like halfway. I wanted to be able to know exactly what I was doing all the details. I want to know what I’m talking about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it. And I realized that to be able to have that kind Have a job, you have to go, you know, some kind of a course or some do, you know, have some kind of an education. So that’s when I started looking at these shorter term, you know, courses that give you, you know, a career. So that’s what I did a two year course.

Harald Krytinar 20:19
What I understand is that this element of feeling competent was something really important to you. Yes. And obviously, coming out of Korea that you trained since you were 11 years old, which seems always in valid terms, but obviously, you’re still a child. I mean, there aren’t many professions where people start with 11. No. So you start from 11, eventually, around 20, you become professional do that for 20 years. So obviously, that kind of span of experience. I mean, yeah, that gives you headroom, to know what you’re doing. So and you were looking if I understand correctly for that kind of intensity, quality and competence in whatever else you wanted to do. Is that how you translated it? Yes, yeah. What did you think that feeling of competency would give you?

Toni Meeks 21:08
self-confidence, just knowing that I knew what I was talking about what I was doing, not having to question and ask for too much help from other people all the time.

Harald Krytinar 21:21
And I don’t know if the relevant but for me, the question is, why is that important to you?

Toni Meeks 21:26
Why is it important to me? Yeah, I don’t know. I guess it’s just a personality trait. I’m assuming I don’t know. But I, it’s not that I don’t want to ask for help. But I just want to be able to feel like I know what I’m doing. And I don’t know why it’s important. That’s a good question. It is. But it is important to me.

Harald Krytinar 21:48
I think that’s wonderful that you actually found that out eventually. So it wasn’t so much about what job do I want to do? But it seems to me that first you knew you wanted to feel competent doing it right? So you also said that you had an exchange with a neighbor by accident. But that sort of opened the door into your career that you’re pursuing today. So maybe you could just say what happened there? And actually, where did it lead to?

Toni Meeks 22:09
Okay, yeah, well, I have my neighbor, and she’s a “barnmorska”. And a midwife. And her, her husband is a surgeon, and ear, nose and throat surgeon. And they opened up my eyes to this, the career medical secretary, because since you know, I learned to speak Swedish, so and I had to, and I just, I like languages, it’s important grammar is important to me. And so they thought that that would be a good career for me, because it is, you know, the sweetest language you have to train, not translate, but type. All you know, the doctors dictate their journal, and notes, and you have to, you know, write it into the computer. And so that’s but they thought would, might be a good, good career for me, which it was a perfect fit.

Harald Krytinar 23:02
So he did go back to study, years ahead. Some years. He told me earlier in another conversation we had, you had some degrees already, but obviously that wasn’t straightaway compatible. So what was the struggle? I mean, now, it seems you’ve identified something like, this sounds interesting. But I mean, that’s not the job yet. So how did you then actually unblock all those questions that you had to answer first in order to get into that career?

Toni Meeks 23:26
You mean, like my eligibility and everything to study or…

Harald Krytinar 23:29
Exactly, I mean, you do that job today, and you enjoy it. You do it successfully. But obviously, it wasn’t just as easy as saying, I want to do this. And we’re like, Oh, thanks for coming around now. So how did you actually manage to implement all of that to bring everything together?

Toni Meeks 23:44
I did realize even before I started this course, that if I was going to be able to study in Sweden, I had to have eligibility. Since I went to the school in the States. I don’t have any, you know, Swedish credentials or anything over here. So I had to take a Swedish test for what level of Swedish I speak and stuff. And so then, I after I did that test, I signed up for Chromebooks. It’s like, you know, you do it on online distance. So Swedish, what was it? Swedish to? Sounds good. Nice. We just be I think they call it anyway. And so I did that course. And then once I had that eligibility, then I could, you know, apply to the, the school that I ended up going to, but I had to do that first.

Harald Krytinar 24:33
Is that just be is that like the diff? Like in Europe, you have those ABC levels, which is okay, yes, we needed to have a minimum B in order to be eligible actually to move on.

Toni Meeks 24:44
They have sweet Swedish a and Swedish B, which is like what they study in school, I guess events can be and that was the second year, the second-year Swedish. So I just had to do that course and, and then I could study but that was a really Find course because it’s all literature and I love it. Just reading and writing about books and movies. And it was fun. in Swedish.

Harald Krytinar 25:09
Obviously, I want to exit but the language I mean, spoken written language as a dancer is, it’s important. It’s great if you have it, but it’s not really the most essential skill you need in order to get a job. So I’m just wondering, if you look at your language skills today, compared to when you were still a professional dancer, or when you had just stopped dancing do you think was your Swedish as good or your language skills as good as they are today?

Toni Meeks 25:36
I mean, I think my speaking language was probably just as good. But now, since the focus when I write Swedish now the focus is on grammar. And so I think it’s much better now than then when I stopped dancing, because now I, it has to be…

Harald Krytinar 25:55
Now you are fully competent, and you know what you’re doing? <Yeah>. So you correct the doctors on their language, I hope…

Toni Meeks 26:01
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 26:07
How did that feel? I mean, you said it was a, it was a bit of a coincident with your neighbors that they brought that up. Eventually, it worked out. And today, you’re really happy with that choice. But when you when that moment, did it feel like the right choice straightaway? How did you imagine your future didn’t seem like another option? And maybe something else might come along as well? How did you feel at the time about the future?

Toni Meeks 26:29
It’s that happened again, you know, like when I told you the story, when I came over here, and I didn’t think about anything else, really, it’s kind of the same thing. And I actually I, I applied for that course, one year. And, and then, but my grades didn’t come over here from the States, they had to send my grades and stuff from the States. And they didn’t come. And I had no plan B, which is, you know, most people have a plan B, but I just go in full force for what I’ve decided upon. So then I ended up I had to wait another year. So the second time I applied, I called every day to make sure that my grades were on the way I called to find out if they’d gotten on, and I wasn’t letting the chance go by again. So the second time, and I still didn’t get in right away, I had to like, you know, there was like a waiting list. So I got put on the waiting list. And then one, you know, one after one people, you know, said no thank you to the course. And finally, it was my turn. So I did get to start the course, which is great. But I didn’t think about any Have I made the right choice? And no, it’s just like I decided to do this. So I’m going to do it now.

Harald Krytinar 27:35
How is the job today? Is it the way you imagined it? Do you really enjoy it? Is it something that you say oh, you know, it’s alright. Or do you feel like this is actually this is a good match? How? Yeah, how do you feel?

Toni Meeks 27:45
No, I really enjoyed I love my job. It’s fantastic. And all the aspects of it are great. I have a great boss. I have wonderful colleagues. I like where I work. And I like what I work with and the doctors and everything. And the nurses, all of them. It’s just a perfect fit.

Harald Krytinar 28:02
Just for people to know, but you correct me if I’m incorrect. What I’m saying but you went from the Royal Swedish ballet opera house, you went and you work actually for Karolinska, which is the biggest Hospital in Stockholm and in Sweden. So it’s very known, very, very highly reputed – reputation is that word in English or not. But it’s a very known hospital, I think even worldwide for what they do. So…

Toni Meeks 28:28
We just received a notice the other day that we’re the number seven top hospital in the world.

Harald Krytinar 28:34
Okay, so yeah, that’s, that’s pretty good. I would Yes, it That sounds pretty good. That’s the thing. It’s not just that it sounds good. But it also means that there’s certain mindset that I would think and I think this is what I’m trying to get at that, I think to work at a place like the Royal Opera. It’s not Yes, you need to move. Yes, you need to be able to do certain things. But you need a mindset that comes with that, you know, and I think maybe this is something which I find so fascinating about your story that in a way, yes, of course, dance is about movement. But without the mindset, it doesn’t get you there quite that far. And I think that’s what I find so fascinating about your story that you obviously managed to really translate the mindset of this looking always for to improve to make it like you said the grammar is really important. Also, of course, what is the content of it because it’s obviously doctors writing my patients, which means this concerns somebody’s health and life ultimately. So words do matter, you know, and I think this is wonderful to see that you’ve really managed extra to keep that kind of I don’t know if it’s it’s a texture quality, that you seem to be able to fill your daily life and your work with that kind of quality. Again, though it’s finds its way in your work and I find that really interesting actually, how you managed to do that.

Toni Meeks 29:50
I love it. And it’s an interesting part is to that I write for like when they call it like when they’re in the ward and they’ve had surgery or key chemotherapy, I work for a cancer clinic, and the doctors tell a story. And I have to put codes to that story and, you know, tell the story in codes, what kind of ailments they have, and what kind of things the doctors have done to help the patient. So that’s also kind of putting puzzles together and finding a red thread and keeping the story going and explaining what’s been happening.

Harald Krytinar 30:29
That’s really interesting, because that makes me think of something else. I think that you mentioned, at some point, when we spoke earlier, it was obviously, that needs a lot of contextual knowledge, in order to make sense of that it’s not enough to just transfer words, because if you don’t understand where they come from, obviously, you can make mistakes, because you don’t quite know what they mean. But I think you’re really fascinated by the context and interaction, you need to learn this learning x aspect seems to be very, very present in your daily life. And I wonder if that’s maybe another quality and something you really enjoyed was about the dancing, because dancing in a company is also about impairment learning something? So I don’t know, do you see parallels there, this learning spirit.

Toni Meeks 31:15
And it definitely is about detail. And maybe, I mean, you know, dancing, it’s like these little tiny muscles that you’re trying to force into certain positions and that you feel like it’s when everything’s working, and everything makes sense. And that’s kind of Yeah, sure, that could translate into what I do today. But that story is complete. You see everything in my coats.

Harald Krytinar 31:42
If you look back at your career as a dancer, and you look at the career of today, what aspects. Do you think you happy to be over and done with over and done with?

Toni Meeks 31:56
Like, what do you mean, like?

Harald Krytinar 31:57
Well, you said, like, you’re going back into work, when everybody is actually going home? You don’t seem to miss that aspect, are there other aspects where you think, Well, I’m glad Actually, that’s over. You know, I’m fine without that.

Toni Meeks 32:07
Yes, of course. I mean, I love the fact that now we have this thing called flex, and I don’t have to be there at exactly eight o’clock, I can come in at 8.30 or 9am and still, and still do what I need to do. And with the ballet job, you’re very, you can’t come late. And you can’t leave early. I mean, you can but you know, not very often. And it’s very strict, and you’re never, you never make your own decisions, you can’t decide when you’re going to work longer days, or shorter days. Or when if you’re going to take Christmas off or, you know, you can’t make those kinds of decisions. You never really feel like an adult somehow in the ballet company. In the job I have now I can take responsibility for my own work and make my own decisions. Not to a degree, of course, not fully, but it is a little bit different in that aspect, I suppose.

Harald Krytinar 33:01
Obviously, you’re part of a team. I mean, you have to work with the others to make it to synchronize your own workforce. But I think what you said this, you know, having some kind of level of autonomy about when and how I think that is the flexibility that definitely doesn’t exist when you’re done. So because we because it’s difficult to rehearse the groupies on your own. I mean, there’s only that much doesn’t make that much sense. If it’s about formation and positioning, and you know, that you need everybody there.

Toni Meeks 33:28
And it’s not something I reflected upon at the time, really, but it is because it’s a job. It’s a life way of life, the job you have and you do, you know, of course, you just do what you’re supposed to do. And but it is something you think about later that you know, it was very rigid. And the time we work when you work, you work, and you’re always there and you alright, show up to the rehearsals on time and you can’t come late. It’s just not. There’s no like flexibility really, you have to pass you know, be there on time. Go to all the rehearsals, which you do without question.

Harald Krytinar 34:13
I wonder today. I mean, this is you know, this is really many, many years back now. And I wonder how much do you consider yourself still a dancer or where’s the dance inside of you today?

Toni Meeks 34:25
Yeah, I still like to take class. I do. And the dancer I think I’ll always be kind of a dancer. I like to think I will be anyway. But I I don’t, mmhh, I don’t know. It’s still me. But I keep I tried to I don’t know. I don’t really know. That’s a good question too. But I still I will always think of myself as a dancer. This is my second career.

Harald Krytinar 34:54
What do you think if you could go back in time, something you know today that you think would have been really valuable to know You know, many years back when all of this was ahead of you? What do you think would have been helpful information for you to know at the time, if somebody had told you that they would have made certain things maybe a bit easier? Or more smoothly or something? Do you think there’s something, you know, they would have been a good thing to tell you?

Toni Meeks 35:17
Well, yeah, I always think about that, that I didn’t think I could do anything else. I think as a dancer, we get lots of free, and an education that you maybe don’t realize you’re getting, how to work with people, you adjust you. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. But it’s like, you get some kind of you learn to adjust then you have qualities that you don’t really know you have, I think, when you have to work with so many people in so many different kinds of people. And you have to you have, you just have to get the job done. And you work as a team, of course, and as a group to get, you know, to make the best production possible. And yeah, you are living close. And with these people every day in the dressing room, you see them every day, and you just have to know that it’s not an enjoyable, but it is a way of life that a lot of people don’t realize, and I think we learn and we take with us a lot of qualities from having that kind of job and loving it the way we did, or do. So I don’t know.

Harald Krytinar 36:39
That’s beautiful the way you said that. And I think I can very much relate to that. And I think like you said those qualities are there. Even if you don’t know about them, but they reside within you, and they make you who you are so…

Toni Meeks 36:55
and you can use them in other ways. You don’t have to just if you don’t, you don’t have to think that you can’t do anything other than dance. I think that’s another thing is that we’re quick learners. I mean, how can you have to learn the steps or you won’t get the job? So that’s kind of I keep, I think about that a lot that? Yeah, if you don’t learn the choreography, you won’t get the cart. So you have to be a quick learner. Keep on your toes. And yeah, and now have a good attitude. You can go do whatever.

Harald Krytinar 37:31
Tony, thank you so much, at this point, to slowly come to an end of this exchange for today, which I thank you already so much for having taken the time. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else that comes to your mind that you think would be interesting to share that you would like to put forward?

Toni Meeks 37:48
You know, that question maybe I should have thought about a little bit. But I know I just think as dancers that you know, don’t limit yourself, just because you’ve maybe I never finished college. But you can always go back and do other things. Just because we have a passion about doing things and getting things done and seeing them through I think is also a dancer quality. And if you just can find something that you enjoy, see it through and you’ll be fine.

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