It is in our job description as dancers to provide inspiration to the masses. The arts are seen as the part of our culture that uplifts people out of the looming malaise our society is said to sit in (hate that…get off your butts people and do something about it). Art makes you think outside of yourself and pulls you out of your mundane daily grind and can allow you to think about things differently, be moved. The artist being the vehicle behind the work is the hub of this inspiration. Furthermore, as dancers, our art is witnessed through our bodies and expressions. So venerable, so exposed, so terribly clear when inspiration is absent, and consequently, so much beautiful potential to impact others.
As dancers, when we are in that special place, lost in the moment, we can feel immortal, not of this earth. The music starts, the dance begins, and we get enraptured within it, miraculously performing steps that just seep out of our limbs while our soul goes on a journey that doesn’t give us the reality check until it’s over, be it the music stopped, or the audience applauds, or we simply realize the steps for the piece are finished (that’ll do it!). We have this gift to share. It is our responsibility to share this gift and have it manifest itself as inspiration for others.
Now how do we, as inspiration givers, keep this inspiration going ourselves? Particularly when the practicalities of life (insert excuse #523 here) take over and we find it hard to get to that special place?
Inspiration comes and goes. Being an artist and living in the waves and wakes of inspiration, it’s proven itself helpful to have my big future goal clear and in the forefront of my brain. Then, setting tiny little goals for every class and rehearsal acts as stepping stones towards this ultimate desire. Knowing I want to open my own business within the dance industry down the road helps me be the best dancer I can be now, helps me take class with clear intentions, helps me work that much harder because I can see the ultimate payout.
Point being, when class, and just as equally your five-year plan, is this focused you have an agenda of which to grow and learn. You are not thinking of your degaggé the same way you did the day before since it is looked at through a new lens. Attending class in the first place has a larger purpose to obtain that goal of perhaps dancing with your dream company. You can accomplish this level of tremendous growth outside of an educational realm because now, even better, you get to be your own teacher. Perhaps you take class this week and are focusing on your relationship to the music, taking space, or maybe just letting go a bit more and enjoying yourself instead of being such a constipated thinker. Whatever your reason for taking class, do it intelligently and purposefully. Then see where you will end up one year down the road. Without an agenda, a purpose, a goal, you cannot grow and inspire at your upmost potential. Don’t just show up to class, or the audition, or the performance. It is not enough. It is not enough for that audience member who came to be uplifted. It is not enough for your parents who supported you following your passion perhaps when they came from a household that didn’t allow it. And it is not enough for that little girl sitting in the front row who’s dream it is to be on stage. (Yes, I went there. On board yet?) But most of all, it is not enough for you. Don’t sell yourself short.
Let’s be brutally honest here. It is not easy to get your butt to class, let alone be inspired for your big dreams while contemplating if this deflated industry is enough to support you financially and artistically. I’ve questioned my career decisions with dance and the arts (and at times with some shame in that however unfortunate and unnecessary). It is not always simple to dance; if your artistic side doesn’t feel fulfilled on a large enough level, then the financial sacrifices we make are no longer justified. These are practical and wise thoughts, but we can allow “real” life to complicate things and serve as excuses for attacking our long term goals and keeping on a daily inspired pathway. It has been these woes primarily that kept my mind wandering form a livelihood in the arts and shadowing my potential. (No thank you!)
Let’s be simple about it. If you love it. Do it. And stay strong when life makes you waiver. When we chose this profession, or it chose us, we did not come to it for security or pragmatism. We came to it because of how it made us feel – for the push, the sweat, the odd love of burning foot tape to our broken feet (yes, masochists), for the support from an audience, for the rush on stage, for the camaraderie of others dancing with us. We can’t just follow the money and security and leave our passion behind….that would make us sheer mortals rather than inspirational superheroes.
I had an eye opening conversation with an incredibly smart, slightly socially awkward (of course…), science engineer in the coffee shop a few weeks ago. I’ll admit to feeling a bit out of my league while hearing about his fascinating but somewhat technical description of having game-changing insight on a mishap of a space shuttle mission. He felt compelled to write his story on how this mishap could have been prevented, why it happened, and how he knew about it before the launch, only to know it couldn’t possibly work, and how the high powers that be wouldn’t pay his insight any attention. What an incredible story to tell! This happened over a decade ago and this very intelligent man was still questioning whether he should take the time to write and share it. What a waste of time – write it already!!!! I could tell he was aching to do so – clearly, you don’t just tell people this full story within the first five minutes of meeting them without it impassioning you and constantly running circles around your brain. So when I asked him why he hadn’t written it, he raffled off two common and perhaps sound excuses. – 1.) Who would read it (meanwhile I have this pea size blog!) and 2.) would this story ever reap any profit for him? I told him politely that he was crazy and he had to write it. Call me foolish, but money and notoriety follows passion. He has no idea where his story can go unless he writes it. He could get it published in a trade magazine, a journal, asked to talk publicly about it, asked to mentor other engineers in similar circumstances. The opportunities are endless…..if he writes it. Are you willing to risk a little to write your passion and win big? You have to do what you are zealous about, sometimes foolishly and completely lacking any practicalities, to allow your fullest potential to surprise you. Maybe you’ve managed to slip off the wagon a bit and let your story lie dormant. That’s ok, but stop wasting time. Let the time passed be what jump starts you back into gear. You can start over and fresh at any moment.
Have some big thoughts and dreams? Better yet, meet my friend Jared Matthew Weiss who helps people take their dreams and make them come true. No he’s not a fairy or full angel status, but he is awesome and will give you a real tangible way to get what you want – be it the perfect grand jeté, getting into tip top shape for that gig, or opening a dance studio. He has reinvigorated me for sure. Here’s his inspirational workshop held every Wednesday 7:30pm. You’ll find me there! http://refresh2.splashthat.com
Dance like you did when you were a kid. When doing the economical and sensible were the furthest from your concerns. When you didn’t have bills to pay and your main concern was whether Eddie in the third row in Social Studies liked you. Dance for something again. Give it meaning and give it purpose. Otherwise, why the hell would you do another grand plié with burning thighs, another pass across stage while the wind is knocked out of you, another knee crawl with bruised shins? You need a reason to do the piece better this time than the time before, for yourself and for the audience who came to be enlivened. So set a single personal goal this week, this year. Be specific. Carve your own path to stay inspired and leave the excuses for mortals, us dancers are such superior beings (yes, waft that nose in the air). And if you can’t find a good enough reason to foolishly pursue your childhood dreams (lame, and probably bs), do it for your grandma who always wanted to live on stage but let her damn feet get in the way….poor mortal.
Thank you my Fairbanks dancing all-stars from Alaska Grown who reminded me why I love what I do every time I saw you. Thank you my science engineer for reminding me even smart people can be foolish. Thank you Jared for keeping my big dreams in constant reach every day. Thank you Melissa Ullom, Steve Vaughn, Elena D’Amario, Eric Bourne, Ian Spring, Jason Macdonald, Sarah Braverman, Abby Silva-Gavezzoli, Lauren Garson, Leeann Ramsey, Kate Scarpetowska, Liz Koeppen, and David Parsons for being my family and the generous artists you are who keep me going; it’s an honor to share the stage and studio with you always. And (tear, tear, sniff, sniff) thank you Mom and Dad for letting me be a dancer from day one. And yes, I proudly accept this Oscar.