One chilly January Sunday morning, as I was out on a winter stroll in Central Park, I found myself mesmerized by a scene straight out of a Woody Allen movie. Wait, let’s correct that. It was more like a Fellini-esque moment, an American “Dolce Vita”.
There was a woman, a dancer, Jillian Stevens, under Central Park’s music kiosk. She was dancing salsa with a passion and energy worthy of a performance at Lincoln Center. She radiated with a charm and dynamism that hooked you in, held you tight, and refused to let go.
Unintentionally, I became the first and sole audience member of this captivating performance, applauding this impromptu spectacle. Seeing me, Jillian invited me to share a coffee with her. That’s when I discovered Jillian’s fascinating story.
Think about a Manhattan girl, soaked to the bone with the spirit of this city. While others dream of skyscrapers and Wall Street, she dreams of Paris and Rome. Watching her, one can’t help but think of Barbara Streisand in “The Way We Were,” because Jillian embodies that artistic and defiant New York that we in Europe cherish so much.
Defining herself as a dancer and poet, Jillian began dancing at steps on Broadway at the age of four. She has since ventured into tap dancing, classical dance, jazz, hip-hop, and musical theater. During the Covid lockdown, she was forced to suspend her dance, but chose to channel that energy into words, into poetry. She wrote her first collection, “Blue Idyll,” a poetic depiction of a world where all beings are interconnected.
The more I conversed with Jillian, the more I saw New York through her eyes. An artistic New York, vibrant, creative, and innovative. For Jillian, art should not be confined to museums, it should invade the streets. She talked about Soho, Greenwich Village, Central Park, where artists have claimed public space.
Jillian Stevens, dancer, poet, Manhattan girl. I hope she can guide us through this artistic Manhattan she loves so much. Because in this dance, this poem, this dream of New York, there lies a promise of luxury, beauty, truth, and love. And isn’t that, after all, what we’re all looking for in this city that never sleeps?