Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Being put to use

I have had the joy of feeling very helpful for the past few days. And, let me tell you. It is great!

It started when my sister who is directing a show with tap in it called to see if I knew what "double up" meant (I think they meant double time). She was blocking a scene in which the tap dancing character is demonstrating toe taps while calling out "double up and switch sides."  I told her to see if it worked and if not just change the step (or she suggested the dialogue) to make it match. The audience won't know.

Then my dear (and ever inspiring) choral conducting friend Vail calls me up to see if I can decipher a dance step from a video of gumboot dancers which she is having her students perform in the next concert while singing a South African song.  It took me all of ten seconds to watch the video and figure out the stepping and slapping pattern. Success! I broke it down for you her, and within 3 minutes my job was done.  I am on fire!

But, the greatest experience of feeling helpful was last night as a guest speaker in my friend Joelle's English composition class.  She had invited me to speak on dance and my creative process. Her students are preparing for a field research paper including a personal interview and my visit was to demonstrate how to interview someone (in a group setting) as well as shed some light on how making dances and writing share a similar creative process.  First let me tell you: I had a straight up great time. Perhaps a better time that some of the students.  I felt like I was able to really share.  No restraints or inhibitions. Because I wasn't their primary teacher I could speak openly and freely without worrying about whether they liked me or not (Yes, it does matter to me whether my students like me or at the minimum respect and trust me). I would never see most of these students again. It was time to let her rip!

As I was talking about dance, my company, depression, dance notation, time management, hitting a slump, working through challenge, taking time to reflect and observe and other bits and pieces of my dance and personal life, I realized that I actually knew a lot. I was impressing myself in the process.  The thing is, after pushing against the constant struggle of the daily grind, feeling always overwhelmed and underwater, I still feel like I need to learn more. I still feel like I am somehow behind or uninformed in my field.  So, this was a great relief to feel like I possessed useful information that was both exciting and interesting for this class of English students.  I felt like an expert. Strange but intoxicating.

I was putting my years of dance education and experience to use in a single situation all at once.  I answered questions without missing a beat, jotted down Language of Dance© symbols on the board without hesitation, performed mini improvisations from a spontaneous score and made the students laugh and be playful in their inquiry and learning.

I liked seeing them lean forward in their seats. Their eyes focused and alive.  I admitted that making dances (like writing) is tough at times, but worth the challenge because of the long term pay off.  Something we do "only for fun" or only "when we feel like it" usually yields flimsy results that are as fickle as our approach.  But, when we return to something again and again, we can experience moments when it becomes so powerful and real that we know we have created something valuable and precious. 

I wish I could recall everything I said to this class. It was like all my wisdom poured out of me at once.  It all seemed so perfect, true, exciting and urgent. But, my memory fails me as I try to recapture it all now.  It was a stream of consciousness experience never to be exactly recreated.

-sigh-


I do remember this one point with great accuracy: They as artists need to trust themselves because what we feel as normal human beings in our humdrum lives and/or creative endeavors is truly unique and can be fascinating to others. I reminded them that only we live in our own skin and our own lives.  We must share what we know and what we experience, because it opens a window for others to peek inside to our inner workings, and it invites them to reflect on their own. Complex, intricate, spastic, fragile.

I hope that this blog serves you in this way.  The window into who and how I am is open.  I won't always be fascinating, but I promise to always be true.  And, when I can, inspiring. . . or at least funny (every once in a while). 

Some very cool gumboot dancing
(no this is NOT the one I figured out. If it were I should get a prize. But it is still way cool and worth watching):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSgFAG0mtac

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