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

Learning to Dance

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I may feel broken, but my arms still move.

I may feel empty, but my feet are gliding across the floor.

There is a tightness in my chest, but I hear the beat, count to 8, and leap.

74th Street waits outside, alongside the bustle of Fairway Market, horns, and the Upper West Side sunset.

But for this hour and a half, I’m here.

I’m dancing.
I’m dancing.

 

This week I went back to dance class after taking two weeks off for my back injury. One of my dearest friends teaches an Advanced Jazz class at Steps on Broadway, and I knew it would be a safe space to test my back out, and see where I was at.

I was past the ice and strengthening stretches at home, and the heating pad wasn’t really making a difference anymore.

Many days had passed since I woke to morning aches, gingerly tapping my alarm.

I wanted to know how my mobility was.

I wanted to know what still needed to heal.

I know the warm-up very well, like an old friend, comfortable and familiar. The plies, tondus, and isolations all pour out like a choreographed dance, and it gives me the opportunity to concentrate on other things; the top of my head, the lightness of my fingers, and my breath moving easily in balance.

As the warm-up progressed, I was pleasantly surprised I was able to do it. When we had to roll back into shoulder stand, I wondered if my back would seize, and instead it lifted and opened as I placed my palms in the small of my back.

When we did a long standing sequence at the end, I slowly raised my leg behind me as my back arched, curious how high it would go. As I saw my foot appear in the mirror behind my head, I felt no pain.

My body was opening back to before. The time off and chiropractic care really helped.

So did being here.

 

I stopped dancing in the face of my divorce. A good month  and a half passed before I was able to walk up the stairs of Steps.

I was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t know who I was.

If I was no longer married, did that mean I was no longer a performer?

In losing a core part of the life I had built for 15 years, could I keep some of it, or would I lose it all?

What did dance mean to me now in the midst of so much change?

My close friend was teaching her Jazz class and I returned weekly for that hour and a half for one reason.

I felt alive.

It was a smaller expression, and I had a new habit of staring at the floor, but I was there, to place my feet on the Marley and be reminded not everything was gone. I was grieving, AND I was still here. As I moved, I didn’t feel engulfed by loss.

The tight balls that formed during my day would breathe open as I took my first stretch over in the set warmup, Coldplay reverberating off the windows and walls, a perfect reflection of my purse filled with wet tissues.

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

It was a safe space.

There would be times I would second guess taking the subway uptown, but no matter how I entered the studio door, I emerged calmer. In the stretching and turning, telling the story through dance, I felt centered. I was supported here, with community and friendship.

I was returning home.

Maybe I had never left.

 

There is super eight footage of me spinning around my living room so much, I fall down. For a moment, I’m gathering myself trying to find my footing, and then I get back up again.

And return to the dance.

It was there when I was four, flowing out my small reaching fingers, allowing me to say so much I could only articulate in the circular shape.

And today, as I roll up my spine, knowing once again I am ok, and the flexibility has returned, I look in the mirror.  My eye doesn’t drift to the floor or my face.

It goes right to my heart.

It goes right to the reason I’m here.

 

Maybe I’m in the black, maybe I’m on my knees
Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes
But my heart is beating and my pulses start
Cathedrals in my heart

As we saw, oh this light, I swear you,
Emerge blinking into
To tell me it’s alright
As we soar walls, every siren is a symphony
And every tear’s a waterfall
Is a waterfall

 

So, I dance.

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