In his poem “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost depicts a man who gets to a fork in the road and has to make up his mind which one to choose. He sighs as he wonders how such choices make a critical difference in one’s life, many years after he’d made them.
Twelve years ago I auditioned for the pilot season of the Reality-TV contest “Born to Dance” (The Israeli version of “So You Think You Can Dance”). I was at the end of my senior year in high school, my ship’s prow directed at Judaic studies in a Yeshivah followed by a three year long army service, and I had a general feeling that my career as a dancer was coming to an end, or a hiatus to say the least. However, I was passing more and more stages of the audition, and had a strong feeling that my chances of getting into the show were good.
When the final audition approached I was already one month into Yeshivah, broadening my intellectual horizons, and making new friends. On the other hand, I knew for certain that the show wanted me: I was a good dancer, I was a guy and I was a religious, all of which made me great reality material. Both options seemed as appealing to me (“and both that morning equally lay”), and I knew I could not choose both. The show’s itinerary included four days/week, while Yeshiva was a full time boarding school, miles away from anywhere. Reality-TV was a springboard; if I were ready for my stage career to take off – the exposure and immediate fame would have served me well. However, I felt that I was nowhere near ready to take that leap of fame; not only was I just getting into Judaic studies, I simply wasn’t ready to be exposed and seen on the big screen. Eventually, I called the producer up and told her that I’d decided to drop out of the show.
When I showed for the final audition, the show hosts were already whispering among themselves about the religious boy who’d decided to drop out of the show. The director told me that after I performed my dance routines, I would be asked by the host and judges about my wish to drop out and should just have a conversation with them about it – in front of the cameras.
I had suspected that the hosts were going to try and make it sound like my Rabbis at Yeshiva were forbidding me to dance – even though it was far from true, so I paid careful attention to every word I said, and tried to convey the complex and true story about how my Rabbis embraced me as a religious dancer from the start, how supportive they were and how they encouraged me to do what’s best for me, and how it was solely my decision to drop out.
When the time came for the hosts to announce the names of the those who made the final cut, they started by addressing me, and expressing their regret over my quitting. They said some kind things about how talented they thought I was, and how they would have loved to see me in the show, but then suddenly said: “tell your Rabbis back at Yeshiva that there’s nothing wrong with a religious man who wants to dance.” I was so shocked by this, and before I knew it they’d announced the names of those who’d made the final cut, and everyone was cheering. At the end of the day, I didn’t think it was all that bad, because in the interview I gave afterwards, I had another chance to explain just how supportive the Rabbis at Yeshiva were about my passion towards dance. However, I wasn’t yet acquainted with the power of the editor.
Months later when the show aired, I was shocked to find out how bits of my interview were edited and used to tell an entirely different story, about my Rabbis suffocating my passions, and ordering me to stop dancing. Devastated by the outcomes, I bitterly enjoyed my five minutes of fame; people approached me on the street and said they thought I shouldn’t have listened to my Rabbis and should have just followed my passion. It didn’t matter to them when I tried to explain what had really happened – I was labeled.
As the years went by, and the setting of Yeshiva gave way to that of the military, I would spend long hours pondering about the show and it’s twisted bottom line. I would stare at the stars and remember the two roads which once diverged, and doubted I should ever come back.
(Dancing with me in the featured picture is my friend Moshe, one of my best friends from Yeshiva, through our military service and till today)