Giving Our Hearts

Thursday, Jun 11, 2020
By Noah Wang
Juilliard Journal
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Noah Wang, in cap and gown, leaping into the air

Commencement 2020

This entry in a series of profiles of Juilliard Commencement experiences is by graduating dancer Noah Wang.

On May 22 at 7:30am, I rose from my bed and stumbled into the bathroom. It was the earliest I had woken up in weeks. After washing my face, brushing my hair, dressing in my sleekest indoor outfit, brushing my teeth, and pouring a steaming cup of much-needed coffee, I was ready for a monumental day: Juilliard commencement. My parents and I gathered in front of the TV screen to watch the stream of festivities, part of a ceremony happening thousands of miles away from our house in San Francisco. The virtual performers and Zoom speakers gave their hearts to me, almost jumping out of the screen to do so. It felt strangely intimate, although I knew that the address was reaching hundreds of other students across the world at precisely the same instant. My loving 2020 dance classmates came to life on our group chat, enthusiastically discussing the events of the graduation as they unfolded. It was so nice to have them by my side, even if it was only on my phone. After the main ceremony, all of the dancers congregated semi-in-person on a Zoom webinar, where our amazing director, Alicia Graf Mack, conducted our final send-off. Dance trailblazer (and local San Francisco artist whom I’ve long admired) Alonzo King gave an impassioned speech about how our self-discovery as artists will make waves. The whole experience acknowledged the feelings of loss, isolation, and uncertainty that we have become all too familiar with. But above all, it gave me something that I had not been able to grasp in a long time: hope. It reminded me that this milestone in our lives has been anything but diminished by this pandemic. In fact, we will be a stronger, fiercer, more impactful generation of artists because of it.

This milestone in our lives has been anything but diminished by the pandemic

Something else, small but unexpected, happened that day: I hadn’t received my Juilliard cap and tassel in the mail, so I settled on wearing my old one from high school. Minutes before the end of the ceremony, however, my dad came running through the front door with a package. It was my cap! I threw it on just in time to say goodbye to everyone, and of course, to take graduation photos. It was a small detail amid such a big day, yet it stuck with me. I had waited weeks for this thing that I thought would never come, but then it arrived at the 11th hour. I think everyone feels stuck, or dismayed, or fearful right now, waiting for something that will seemingly never arrive. But when that “thing”—whether it’s going back to work, seeing family, eating at a restaurant, performing in a concert, or simply feeling safe again—finally comes, it will be when we least expect it, or in a way that we won’t expect it. So for now, I am trying to focus less on waiting, and more on simply being.

As for my summer plans? Well, my immediate task is to move out of my New York apartment. (I left for spring break with barely a week’s worth of clothes!) But beyond that, my main objectives are creation and connection. I want to make art that feels good to make, but that also reaches the people around me, whether those people are my family, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, or beyond.