The Artistic Middle

Do you ever feel torn between your life and your Art?

Do you feel like they can’t exist together?

There are so many demands on us today, and we want to be present for it all.
Family
Friends
Our living spaces….

We can look at a day, and feel so overwhelmed,
Grocery shopping
Laundry
Class
Day job
Email
Doctors appointments

And then there is all that is necessary to be relevant today as an Artist:
Website
Social Media
Crowdfunding
Marketing
Networking
Fan/Client Service
Email Campaigns

I imagine your head is spinning!

Where in the midst of ALL of this, do we have the space for our PROCESS?
Our love and artistic flow?
Where do we get to play?

 

This week was a massive shift for me.  After 19 1/2 years of living in New York City, I moved down to the Jersey Shore, in with my man.

From apartment to house.
From subways to cars.
From urban energy to the suburbs.

And all of this fit into a 10 foot UHaul.

Even with rain last Sunday, the move could not have gone more smoothly.  We had friends helping with loading and unloading on both ends, and my mother flew up bringing all of her decades of experience and genius from moving my family almost 20 times.

I gave myself absolute permission to feel everything that arose with the move, and most of my close friends reflected back to me what I felt deeply with every ounce of my being,

This is a BIG move.

While packing and the days leading up to the big day, I felt sadness and grief, leaving my home, and most of all, leaving the safe sanctuary in Astoria that had given me a haven while I healed from the most traumatic year of my life in 2013.

It was time to leave the cocoon.

Once the UHaul was packed, I asked for some quiet time in my sanctuary and lit Paulo Santo wood.  As the smoke wafted into the air, I walked around the 300 square feet, watching it rise and twist, and all that passed my lips was simply,

Thank you
Thank you

I sat down in the bedroom in a dark corner, and tears fell down my face, as I thanked every wall for holding me these past 4 1/2 years.

And then, I rose from the ground, took a bow, and walked out of my apartment for the last time…..

My man drove the UHaul, and my mother and I drove his car down to the house, down to my new house. As I drove along the NJ Parkway, I felt like I was in shock.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

The city in my rear view mirror, it felt so far away.

There was city Nikól.
And now I was driving towards suburb Nikól.

How was this going to work?
I felt so torn….

I felt like I was leaving city Nikól behind, and even that I would have to give her up.

 

Have you ever felt like this?
Torn between the passionate Artist you are and the person who is living a “normal”life?

Two days ago we dropped my mother off at LaGuardia airport in NYC, and then my man drove me to the Upper West Side to my favorite Wednesday night activity,

Advanced jazz at Steps on Broadway, taught by Lisa Harvie.

My man has never seen me dance live, as we met after my 20 professional career, so this was a big moment for me.

Class was packed and so many of my dancer friends came clamoring to the door to meet him, eyes lit up, knowing how special he is to me, and having appreciation for the journey I have been on.

As the music began, and my arms stretched to the ceiling, I started to realize something very surprising…

The class didn’t feel different.
The class felt the same.
I danced the same…..

My dancing actually didn’t change because I now lived outside the city. In fact, it was just as strong as before, and was especially boosted as I turned and leapt for my man.

His face was beaming.

But, the real lesson was how I FELT.

Perhaps city Nikól and suburb Nikól are the same.
Perhaps they have always co-existed.

The separation was all in my mind.

And perhaps, this is just part of the journey for me.

It was necessary for me to grieve in the leaving of the city.  Last week when I took Lisa’s class, I felt panic inside.  And this week, I felt calm and peace.

I needed to approach my dance from the other side, to see it’s all connected.
From NYC to Jersey.
From Jersey to NYC.

All the same.

Meeting in the middle, where my dancing lives, regardless of where I am.

 

So, where is your middle in your life?

What have you decided has to be separate?

What parts of you have you been keeping quiet, or shutting down thinking they can’t co-exist in your “normal” life?

This may be one of the largest mistakes I see Artists make, and trust me, I did it ALL the time when I was performing.

I thought I was keeping things neat and tidy, safe and secure….but in truth, I was cutting off pieces of myself and that directly showed up in my Art and career.

And for us as Artists, being whole and integrated is one of the MOST important things we can place our energy on.

Why?

Because our Art IS an expression of our lives.

Our Art comes from within.

This is why there can be a room full of painters with one subject and you will see completely different paintings.

Why 20 singers can walk into a room with the same song, and your experience as an audience member is completely different.

Why the Brooklyn Bridge has come alive through the lens of thousands of photographers, each one different in its use of light, angle, and frame.

And if our inner life is in complete turmoil and separation…..this will translate in ALL areas of our lives, not just your art, but in your relationships as well.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.

It’s all connected.

So, bring all of you to your Art.
Find the support you need to bring your life into balance.

You, the Artist and your Normal Life coming together.
We just got confused thinking they were mutually exclusive.

 

It’s all there inside.

Find your middle; the place where your Art lives regardless of where you are.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

A Dancer’s Faith

Do you ever feel like you are stuck in between where you are and where you want to be?

You are doing everything you can for your Art, and you know you just have to STICK it out, and yet, you want to yell out,

When will I GET THERE?

We can have such a clear vision of our success, but the journey can be downright exhausting.

Could we just skip to the raving fans and thriving career?

Wouldn’t that be AMAZING!

But since this is not our reality, the question arises, what helps?

When we are feeling stuck…..what is there?

 

Back in early July, I found myself in excruciating pain.  My right shoulder was killing me, and what I would normally think was a tight knot, wasn’t going away.

Something was wrong.

I soon found myself staring at a large x-ray in my chiropractor’s office, with the diagnosis of swelling in my disks, arthritis, and my skull at a 9 degree angle off from center.

I had injured my neck, and now had to go into treatment.

And stop dancing.

I’ve always been a good patient, and showed up for all my adjustments.  I started to see improvements quickly, and after two months, started taking yoga again.  It was feeling so good to move my body, and then I pulled a muscle in my back.

And was back at square one.

Still no dancing.

It took another month of recovery before I could take class.  When I walked back into the studio, I was both excited and scared.  This was the longest time I had taken off from dancing in my whole LIFE.

I was shaky…..I was off balance, but I was there.

In the coming weeks, it was frustrating.  I didn’t have full range of motion, and it felt so strange to be in dance class, my place of joy and expression, and NOT be able to fully let loose.

My back was still tight, my neck still tight, and I felt like I was managing it all.

And I didn’t WANT to manage it…I wanted to just DANCE.

Have you ever felt like this? Constricted in your Art?

Dance hasn’t been my place of safety and conservation…it’s been my place of FREEDOM!

One week, we did a fast combo, and I found myself hunched over, desperately trying to get in enough air.  My stamina was in the toilet…..class was feeling HARD.  I was really questioning if I would ever feel the same in my body again.

I wanted to feel strong again.

But, with each week, it got slowly better.  I was still going for my chiropractic treatment, and feeling my neck loosen, my back widen….

Incrementally, I could feel the change.

 

Last week, we learned this really fast combo.  As we learned the steps, I felt full range of motion.  I was feeling alive and strong, and having a blast. I had no idea what the song was, but the movement was so much fun!

And then my teacher turned on the song…and I grinned ear to ear as the familiar guitar strum reminded me of my early teenage days….George Michael singing on my Sony Walkman:

Faith.

Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I wait for something more
Yes I’ve gotta have faith
Unh I gotta faith
Because I gotta to have faith, faith, faith
I gotta to have faith, faith, faith

And then I danced…..

Five months after walking into the doctor’s office, I danced.

 

What does Faith mean to you?

Is it a part of your Art?

I see so many Artists struggle because they are stuck in their circumstances.  They can’t see PAST it.  They are disconnected from a larger picture.

The picture of their vision
The picture of their audience

The reason WHY they came to their Art in the first place.

What DO you have Faith in?

If we are going to take our work to a larger audience, we need to realize we are larger than our challenges. 

And I get it, it can be deeply isolating when you are in pain and struggling. I felt so self conscious being in dance class and falling out of turns, and doubled over from exhaustion.  But I kept showing up, each week.

If the only reason you are doing your Art is confined to your Ego, you will suffer again and again.

We ALL face challenges along our path,

Rejection
Disappointment
Loss

We don’t have control over people. There is a letting go here.

So, what can we CREATE and NOURISH to get back on the dance floor and be strong?

FAITH.

And this is personal TO you.

Two years ago, I interviewed four successful Artists that are dear friends.  They were at the top of their field, in choreography, performance, teaching and writing.  They were on Broadway, large films, and turning down work.

The common thread with them all?
Faith.

Faith in their Art
Faith in their audience
Faith in the larger picture of what ART actually is doing FOR themselves AND the world

You may be shaky and off balance in the process, but tap into something larger, and find the support that FEEDS you.

We are stronger together.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography