Rise

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This doesn’t feel good.

My ankles wobble.
My calves are seizing.
My toes are literally gripping the floor for dear life.

And I’m supposed to look graceful right now?

I can feel the tension making it’s way up my body, from the clenched toes squeezing together. My abdominals are hard, my shoulders are making their way into my ears, and my fingers are sticking out at an odd angle.

How am I supposed to balance like this?

I think I’ve stopped breathing. The veins are starting to protrude from my neck.  Maybe if I hold my breath long enough, I will actually be able to stay here.

Nope….I fall forward, and stare at the dancer next to me balancing so squarely and effortlessly on her leg.  How can I be so close and yet completely separated from this one thing?

Why can’t I balance?

Can you relate?

 

To rise.
What does this mean to you?

To a dancer, it comes down to one word,
Relevé: a rising up onto full point or half point from the flat of the feet.

For me, I was convinced for years that in order to rise, I had to tip my weight forward.  I would be on the balls of my feet literally piked forward at an angle, and then contort my body to somehow balance.

I fell out of turns, I gripped the ballet barre, and I had a hard time in the center of the room.

I would hear the teacher saying over and over,
Rise straight up!

But, I couldn’t do it.  My body and mind just didn’t seem to know how.  My quads would take the weight and I would pitch forward first to rise.  I was convinced this was for other people, not me.

So, I fell.

Can you relate?

 

I started working with an amazing ballet teacher named Christine Wright a few years ago who approached her class more from an energetic place and performance.  She zeroed in on me very quickly and asked me to put my focus on my fingertips and the top of my head when I was dancing.
She would ask me:

Where is your energy?

After years of feeling so contracted, I started to experience a very different feeling as I moved.

A feeling of expansion.

We began every class with a body scan and meditation, and ended with a lovely cool down.  I realized I had been cutting myself off from my full body as I was dancing.  I was so concerned with holding my positions, that I was literally gripping everywhere.

No wonder I was falling.

I started to reach past my fingers, reach out through my head, and realized I had been holding a ton of tension in my upper body.  Then, one day, we were doing a simple relevé exercise in the middle of the room, and I pushed down.

I rose without pitching forward first.

And a flood of new thoughts arose:
This is what it feels like!
I’m on top of my legs!
I’m balanced!

I CAN do it!

By releasing the tension in my upper body, listening to my teacher, and allowing the energy to flow throughout my whole instrument, I was able to do one thing,

Rise.

I guess it had been that simple all along, I just didn’t believe it.

Can you relate?

 

Where are you holding tension in your Creative Process?
What beliefs are holding you back from the simple act of rising to your success?
Have you embodied a habit because it’s safe and all you know?

It can be so scary to release what we feel has served us and contort our expression for the sake of just putting it out there.

We hold our breath and grip the floor, just hoping we can make it through.

We will make it through the writing, speaking, performing……creating.

But, in this contortion, what is the response you are getting to your work?  When you create from tension, your audience feels that.  So, how is your audience reacting?

When we are locked in the external judgment of perfectionism, we cut ourselves off from our creative flow.

So, what if we used our whole instrument?
What if we expanded our energy, threw away our old limiting habits, and put our focus on one simple action:

To rise.

What if we found the right teacher to reflect back HOW?

Imagine creating without all that held tension…..

 

Yesterday I opened my email to this message from one of my private clients who just started a new online course, an area of deep creative passion for her and something she wants to teach others and share.  She wrote:

I am confident that I will be able to successfully complete and pass this program. I haven’t felt this optimistic and confident in a very long time. My future looks bright.

A rising up from the flat of the foot.

Now you dance.

Are you ready to relate?

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Written For Children

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Fantastical
Psychedelic
Imaginative
Hilarious

I feel I could list descriptives on and on, like the never ending spiral of the visual rabbit hole Alice fell into. The National Ballet of Canada’s full length production choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon pulled out all the theatrical stops including puppetry, projections, and very athletic choreography for their production of Alice in Wonderland at Lincoln Center.

My friend Alison and I sat enraptured for three hours, leaning over the red cushioned bannister of the David Koch Theatre‘s third ring, eyes wide, with each turn and leap. I transitioned between my chin on my hands to sitting back in wonder, taking in the grand sets and bright colors, transporting me to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.

On my bookshelf lies a beloved childhood book with a worn white jacket, and fabulous illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. This was one of many stories read to me bedside by my mother and a real favorite. When Disney came out with their animated version, I soaked up the two dimensional cards, the rabbit’s ever-present stopwatch, the caterpillar, and the Mad Hatter’s tea party, singing gleefully, “A very merry unbirthday to you, to you!”

In high school, I performed in an ensemble version of Alice for a regional and state theatre competition. The piece used few props and costumes, but lots of imagination. I was part of the caterpillar, made up of several actors dressed in white gloves, shirts and socks under black light. We formed the inquisitive creature with levels, moving together as a group, reciting the simple question to Alice, “Who are you?” Dry ice creeped over the stage, filling the air and space with our imaginary hookah and probing questions.

High school was where I fully embraced my love of theatre. Until then, I was more music and dance focused, putting my attention on my violin, handbells, and ballet.

Mr. Maiden, the head of the theatre department at Centreville High School believed very strongly in the power of ensemble and I was a rapt student. He encouraged me, and opened the possibility of acting, finding ways of melding my love of dance with theatre. I was a member of the drama family there, and grew with the spirit of community he passed along to each student.

I felt a return to Mr. Maiden’s vision while watching the National Ballet dance in colorful costumes, amidst a playground of projections and creativity. As Alice grew too large for the door, giant pointe shoes and arms descended onto the stage, mirroring the ballerina as she squeezed into a small square, suspended and in shock. She began to cry crocodile tears and soon there were waves on the stage, and different animal characters appearing, swimming at all levels, game for a race.

Throughout, Alice returned to curiosity. She encountered the knave, the Duchess, the cook, the Mad Hatter, the white rabbit, a sleepy mouse, all jumping into each new scene taking up their steps and their dances. Her energy was infectious, and delightful. Her curiosity genuine, purely of the moment.

One of the true highlights of the ballet was the Queen of Hearts dance with her footmen, each a different card. It was a play on Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Rose Adagio where the Princess Aurora dances with four suitors, balancing in beautiful attitude, and holding on her own before the next gentleman takes her hand to promenade in a circle. In the Queen of Hearts court, the four men where there, except without the grace, or coordination.

Taking a cue from vaudeville and slapstick, her balances turned into drops, flexed feet, and many moments of her sprawled out on the floor as the men looked on gaping, clumsily attempting to pick her back up. At times she was literally dragged across the stage, her red tulle spread out, and she would bounce back up to begin again with whatever knave stood trembling nearby.

The fear of her power was quickly diminished by her simple humanity and a good laugh, which the audience delighted in. Her common action of slicing her hands across her throat for “Off with their heads!” felt empty as the illusion was magnified. Ultimately, she was not to be feared, and when she got really angry sentencing a be-heading, the card army surrounding her was easily blown over, forming a snake of bodies, falling like the airy dominos they truly were.

Mayhem ensued, and after a lengthy chase and spiraling in reverse, the stage re-set to present day, showing Alice and her boyfriend relaxing on a bench listening to music.  The white rabbit, now a human with rose tinted glasses, strolled onto the scene, taking a picture of the young couple. Upon their exit, he picked up their copy left behind of Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece, sitting down to read, scratching his head, much like a rabbit would.

This element of play and story brought me, my friend, and the whole theatre to its feet upon the curtain. I clapped for the joy, the lesson, and the girl who loved the way her white glove moved in the black light as she peered through the fog. She was part of a whole, bringing wonder to life, and embracing the sweet curiosity of possibility.

As Alice responded to the caterpillar, “ I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out-
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,
And, with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s wither’d wreath of flowers
Pluck’d in a far-off land.”

– Lewis Carroll

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In the spirit of community and collaboration, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Katie Lynch.  ZenRedNYC.com is all about the dance of creation and expression, and the joys we can all share.  She has a beautiful love of cooking she shares with her tribe, and her offering this week is a Alice in Wonderland themed soup!  So get out your Disney youtube, some carrots, and enjoy the continued path into our shared Wonderland:

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“Hi there! My name is Katie Lynch the creator and host of Eating with KT. Eating with KT is a Food and Cocktail vlog catered toward simple recipes that ANYONE can make.
Originally from North Carolina, I have always believed that hospitality is the cornerstone of my brand.  As a person, it is a goal of mine to make at least one person smile a day, so I try to bring that same energy into my videos! I like talking to my audience as a friend-someone who I can hang out with today. I would love to come into your life-if only just to make you smile!
I believe that ANYONE can cook, you just have to break it down in a way people can understand. Make sure to check in next week as I teach Nikol to make this delicious Alice in Wonderland inspired Carrot Soup! ”

INGREDIENTS:
-2lbs Carrots
-Olive Oil
-1 Large Onion
-2 Cloves of Garlic
-1 Stem of Rosemary
-32oz Chicken Broth (1 whole container)
-1/2 Tsp of Hot Sauce
-Salt
-Pepper
-2 Strips of Bacon (Optional)
-Sour Cream (Optional)

DIRECTIONS:
-Saute chopped onion and minced garlic and full rosemary sprig in a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan.
-Peal and chop carrots and add to onions and garlic.
-Let cook for about 15 minutes or until carrots are completely tender/soft.  Feel free to add a little bit of water and cover with lid to speed up the process and steam the carrots.
-Once cooked, remove rosemary sprig.
-Transfer vegetables to blender and puree. Slowly add chicken broth and continue to puree.  If you have an emersion blender, keep veggies in pot and blend away!
-In a large sauce pan combine pureed mixture over medium heat ad season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce! (Add as little or as much hot sauce as desired)
-If you are using bacon, before transferring pureed mixture to large pot, fry up bacon strips in pot. Remove bacon (But leave the grease!) and chop into small bites. *this will add a nice texture and crunch to soup*
-Top with sour cream and enjoy!

Tune into CookingwithKT.com next week to watch us making this delicious soup together!

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