Homecoming

“What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be, how intelligent and generous we can be. I have a chance to teach and to love and to laugh. I know that when I finish doing what I’m sent here to do, I will be called home. And I will go home without any fear, or trepidations, wondering what’s gonna happen.”
– Maya Angelou

I have to tell you, last weekend my world was blown wide open. I saw Beyoncé’s Homecoming on Netflix.

Written, directed, and produced by the Queen Bey, the film documents the making of and live performance of her 2018 Coachella Show.

The first black woman to headline the infamous festival, she spent 8 months conceiving an original piece that was not only a love letter to her heritage, but an explosive night of empowerment.

Steppers, dancers, full orchestra, breakers, a baton twirler, back up singers, full drum line…..all on a massive bleacher.

Beyoncé created her own black university up on that stage; alive, proud, unapologetic, and celebratory.

And the film was rich with quotes from prominent black voices like Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and one of the greatest female writers of our time, Maya Angelou.

I was SO inspired.

And did I mention she created this show after Jay Z cheated on her, a very difficult pregnancy, gaining a ton of weight, and birthing twins?

And none of it was sugar coated. Beyoncé was very open about her fears and doubts. She was raw, free of makeup, and struggling to learn choreography after a long hiatus.

So, we saw this juxtaposition of her dressed as Nefertiti, standing in her power AND sharing the road to this moment.
“I studied my history, I studied my past, and I put every mistake, all of my triumphs–my 22-year career–into my 2-hour Homecoming performance.”

Standing strong, standing confident and saying to the world,
Here I am.

What has stuck with me since seeing the film was when she said,
I wanted to make an environment where no one felt marginalized.

That last word went through me.
Marginalized.
Verb meaning – to place in a position of marginal importance, influence, or power.

Have you ever felt that?

Do you have something important to say?
Do you want to say this with your Art?
Have you struggled with HOW to do this?

I remember for years secretly wanting to be the lead, to create my own show. It had started young, starring in and directing my own version of the musical Annie when I was eight.

Then, choreographing an original ballet to Hans Andersen’s The Little Match Girl in high school.

And when I entered the professional world out of college, I started with guns a blazing. I was on fire, turning down work and working towards my biggest dream.

But over time and with so many rejections, I struggled. While I worked in my profession, I couldn’t seem to step out of the ensemble or playing supporting roles. I started to doubt if I “had what it takes”.

And then I lost everything, my marriage, my home, my car….and I questioned if I was still an Artist. 

But even through the deepest pain, I kept dancing. And I returned to writing. The Artist was still very alive.

So I hired a coach, because I wanted more for my life, and I created my one woman show, my company ZenRedNYC.

I had felt marginalized as a woman in my profession. I had felt I was a dime a dozen, and had to compete to survive. I felt I had to “be what they wanted” instead of spending my time figuring out WHO I was.

I had thought my recognition would come from someone else giving the green light, whether it was a director, or a casting agent, or a choreographer. I never imagined I could actually CREATE it myself.

After my divorce, I was sick of trying to be someone else, or that image of perfection I THOUGHT was going to get me cast and bring me the roles I wanted. Turns out, I had the right idea as a young girl.

I reconnected with that eight year old and took a leap. I started saying what I really wanted to say, raw and real. And to my shock, when I was vulnerable and real, it actually brought people close, AND it opened them to do the same.

Beyoncé moved me deeply because she created this show.

She didn’t wait for permission.
She didn’t ask if it was ok.
She created it herself.

And formed a family around her that shared her vision.

“I’m so lucky and grateful that I’m able to take all these crazy ideas and actually make it into something that heals people; that may spark vision in people, that shows them to dream big, that shows them that they are limitless. It’s possible. If my country ass can do it, they can do it.”

And you can.

It can be so easy to get caught up in believing the gatekeepers hold the reins, but what if you are more powerful than you know?

What if the reins are YOURS to take up?

If someone gave you a permission slip TODAY, and you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do differently?

Art has the power to change the world, one beautiful audience member at a time.  You possess this, because you made a choice to be an Artist.  You made the choice to CREATE. And maybe it’s not even a choice…maybe it just IS.

Because all we have is today.  Your greatest point of power is the present moment.

So, what do you want to say?
What is the show that is dying to be birthed?

Is it a book
Album
Blog
Exhibition….

As Beyonce says,
You are limitless.

Stand beside the great women and men who have come before you to make this moment possible.

Step forward and share your light.

“Tell the truth, to yourself first, and to the children.  Live in the present.  Don’t deny the past…and know that the charge on you is to make this country more than it is today.”
-Maya Angelou

Effortless Inspiration

What lights you up?

What inspires you and just makes smile wide, wide, WIDE?

What brings you JOY?
What makes you want to go out into the sunshine and just DANCE?

As Artists it is so vital we have joy in our work.  We have so much on our plate! We have to think about,
Promo
Social Media
Classes
Submissions
Booking gigs

And then somewhere in all of this is the actual CREATION.

This is the FUN part.
This is the juice!

So, how do we stay connected to the JOY when we are mired in all the to-do’s of being an Artist in today’s DIY industry?  How does our Art not feel like just another JOB?

Especially when we are juggling side hustles!  No more jobs, please!

Do you ever feel like this?

The magic sauce for Joy is in one simple word:
Inspiration

And it’s a vital ingredient for going Full Time and having a long and fulfilling career.

Last weekend I felt Joy.
Last weekend I smiled wide wide WIDE.
Last weekend I wanted to bound outside and just DANCE all over NYC.

The reason?

Seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group perform their latest premiere, Pepperland.

Set to the Beatles infamous Sergeant Pepper album, the dancers exploded on the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s stage in vibrant costumes.

What really struck me was the jazz interpretation of the album.  Ethan Iverson, one of Time Out New York’s 25 essential jazz icons, created this original score based off the Beatles songs.  Sometimes they were recognizable, sometimes they were so off the wall!  It was so innovative.  They had a full jazz orchestra and a classical baritone singing.

Not what you would expect, right?
And that’s the why it was so inspirational.

Somehow, Mark Morris and Ethan Iverson had taken this iconic album and given it a completely NEW interpretation.

I remember the first time I was introduced to Mark Morris.  I was in high school and saw The Hard Nut, his version of The Nutcracker.

It blew my mind.

Not only was the whole piece set in the groovy 60’s, but there was cross casting, and the snow dance was all done by men in tutu’s exploding hand fulls of glitter into the air. This was not the traditional Nutcracker I had danced in, or seen over and over on TV during the holidays.  It was so new.

And I was inspired.

So much so, I created my own ballet version of Hans Andersen’s The Little Match Girl for my senior project in high school.

The Little Match Girl was one of my favorite stories my mother used to read to me as a little girl.  It was a classic, and seeing what Mark Morris did gave me the courage and also the inspiration to put my spin on something that had brought me such joy as a child.

So, sitting in the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House last weekend, all that joy came flooding back in.  I as in awe of what this team of incredible artists from the dancers to the choreographer to the composer to the lighting designer created off of their love of the Beatles.

Their inspiration.

It was a ripple effect…the domino from one artist to another to another to another.

So, what about you?
What inspires you?

It can be so easy to fall into believing we have to come up with original material ALL the time.  This can be an immense amount of pressure and I have seen so many artists get stuck, and actually never complete work because it’s just not good enough, or someone else is doing it.

Have you ever felt this?

But here’ s the gift.

As Artists, we are translators.

This is the super power we all have.

We look at the world around us, and translate it into our medium, whether that is
writing
dance
visual art
music
sculpture

And ALL of this translation comes from a source…it comes from our inspiration.

And we have an endless flow within us.

Memories
Favorite songs
Artists we love….

It’s all there, waiting for you.

And NO one else will translate it like you, because there is only one you.

In a way, you’ve already won in this world because you’re the only one who can be you.”
-Fred Rogers

This is why Art is so powerful.

When I was leaving the theatre, the gentleman in front of me said,
Oh I loved this!  They were skipping!  Who skips anymore?  This makes me think of my grandchildren.

His inspiration.

One of the most important relationships you can have is with your own inspiration.
Get intimate with what lights you up.

Because when you do, you will tap into this endless flow with ease.

Come out into the sunshine and dance.
Your audience is waiting.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography