Day two of dessert-free week. I have to wear a belly bearing costume on Sunday which is a good kick in the pants to put down the extras. Plus, I just feel as if I can be a bit healthier and I want to see how much better I’ll feel (and maybe look) if I work a bit more on portion control and good choices. What a tragic struggle, mamma wants a cookie! I might be going to Bailey’s Chocolate Bar for Valentine’s day so there might be a cheat on Thursday if I am ‘good’ until then. It is the day of love after all, and I love my saturated sugary fats. What a sacrifice.
Last week, the company had a round table meeting in which we all shared why we dance, or love to dance. It’s funny how true passion shines through our experiences of pain or ignorance or just the mundane. I found some of the things that my friends said so inspiring that I am compelled to share a few. (The pictures are from my visit on Sunday to The Butterfly House)
One dancer said that it opened her eyes, another said that through inconsistencies in life, dance was always there. One incredibly talented and smart friend of mine said that she loved the physicality of it, and the challenge. “And I need a challenge,” she said.
In facing the daily grind and hardships of dance, one dancer wisely articulated the high that is unlike anything else for her when something really goes right- when strength and music and technique and artistry all come together in this incredible moment of freedom. She said that on days when she doesn’t necessarily feel completely motivated to go to class, you just do because it’s that work that allows you to have those moments.
And the thing that I am telling myself everyday (and admittedly wrote down in my journal the moment it was said) came from a young dancer with a wise old soul- she said that she would probably find happiness in life if she were to lose her legs or have some injury that would make dancing impossible, but today she has legs and dance is just such a pleasurable gift. The part I liked best…..Open the gift today.
As for me, I don’t really know if I would be happy doing something that didn’t somehow involve dance. I love to teach and I love to write about dance and to see it and to ramble about it aimlessly to people who probably couldn’t care less. I love to draw dance, to make it up, to study it. But to me, there is nothing in the world like being able to dance.
I think that I have always been someone who wanted to please others and was desperately afraid of being seen as a failure or stupid or ugly. There is no denying that from a young age, I could recognize that I received positive attention through dancing. But I also remember being eight and thinking ‘how fast can I do those chennes?” I love the physical challenge, the push. I think dance became a huge part of my identity because it was the thing that I knew I was good at, that made me feel like I was making my parents proud, and was a way that I felt I was seen and looked upon with favor. I just wanted to be seen for the little bit of good in me.
The dance world is of course filled with judgement, and pressure, and criticism. It can be abusive, malicious, competitive, political, unfair, tiring, unstable, you name it. It’s hard to face a job or a hobby that readily throws daggers at you and doesn’t have a lot of tangible payback. I went through a long period of time caught beneath the dark underbelly of dance where self-doubt and fear made me think that I just wasn’t good enough. Sometimes this motivated me to work hard but mostly just made me feel small and unworthy in the face of something I valued and loved so much. And for a while, I thought if I couldn’t do it as perfectly as I wanted to, I had to step away from it. I thought that I was capable of doing SOMETHING extremely well and while it hurt that I thought it wasn’t dance, I just wanted to feel good at something again.
I come back to dance now with a different sense of my love for it. I don’t feel as though I dance because I don’t know who I am outside of the studio and that I just want to be seen in the one place that I feel ok about myself. I do it because it is enjoyable to move (hello endorphins and metabolism boost). I do it because I believe that I have something to say, to share and I feel like I do it best when I am performing or choreographing. Dance has this strange ability of forcing me to confront myself and my flaws and all of my emotions but also to clear my head and feel as though I can deal with the things that come my way. I feel like I am being honest with myself when I dance. I am working on making that a typically positive experience of self-realization rather than sometimes.
Dance has opened my eyes too, and at this point is the lens through which I see the world. I could put everything of me into dance, the good and the bad, and I like the idea that it could be turned into something enjoyable, thought-provoking, or dare I even say, beautiful. Dance makes me feel extremely humble, and yet I feel this tiny flame within myself that shines the most in those moments when I give myself over to just moving and performing without the self-judgement. When I dance, I feel right, I feel my small yet singular place in the world. It is the closest feeling that I have had to destiny or God or whatever higher power may be pulling the puppet strings, or winding the clocks, or letting us spin madly through this little life on this planet.
I don’t think that I dance because I am selfish. I also don’t think that I dance because I am selfless- like I’m some sad struggling artist that is just destined to ride the poverty line because I’m chained to the will of ballet. I don’t honestly always enjoy it. Every time a teacher says ‘time for fondu!’ I want to cry a little, or a lot. Or go work at a bank and finger money in my comfy chair all day long. I lose track of time in pure enjoyment much more when I’m painting or playing the piano. But I somehow feel connected to something that seems both bigger than me and completely within me when I dance. Dance is a human physical challenge that channels something within all of us and produces something that not everyone has the strength, agility, guts, determination, vulnerability to do. In overcoming fears in myself, physical limitations, in making someone smile, in doing something beyond the mundane- I feel victorious. I feel like I win and everyone, my parents and teachers and fellow dancers and fellow humans in the audience get to win also. And that my friends, is why I love it so and keep at it.
Exciting things this week- The Annual valentine’s Day list of Love is coming, I’m reviewing a Harry Potter themed play this weekend, and I’m conducting an interview with a member of Nashville Ballet Company as they get ready to visit St. Louis with their production of ‘Carmina Burana’. And on Sunday, I’m performing with Common Thread at the Pazzaz Gala.
Hope that everyone is pursuing a passion-filled and purpose-driven life! xo- jess