Monthly Archives: January 2014

Big Question 5

Do I partner with someone whose reputation is not the best in the community for the opportunity to continue my career as I get older?

Being a mature dancer can open doors. With maturity, I can bring a track record. I can show dedication to the art. I can show that even sometimes when I stray, I still like to come back home. I can bring a wealth of knowledge. I can bring technique. I can bring experience from other shows. I can show you what I know because I have taught what I know. I can tap into training resources. I can open up my connections for you to tap into as well.

Being a mature dancer can close doors too. With maturity, I can bring intimidation. I can bring prejudices against me from previous projects. I can bring my biases about how things should be done. I can bring social stigma about my age when put up against younger dancers. I can bring limitations due to years of physicality.

I think whether the doors open because of my maturity falls mostly on my shoulders. If I am being self-conscious about my maturity, I will project that to those with whom I am working. I often find though that younger dancers I work with look at me with shock and admiration when they find out how much more senior I am than them. Apparently, I continue to not look my age neither aesthetically nor physically.

Getting back to the original topic of partners . . . when it comes to finding partners, I know what I bring to the floor. I know that there aren’t many partners my age kicking around, so I am dancing with men my junior. Some will not consider a partnership with me because of this. As long as I can keep up though and a chance is given, all is well. I do not think that I have to compromise with someone whose reputation is undesirable unless the partnership brings something to my life that is not available elsewhere. In life, I have choices. I also have the opportunity to sit back and see how things play out.  With that in mind, I still have many years left to attract into my realm the partners and projects for which I am looking. I am thankful everyday for this.

Uppers

I get asked why I dance. Often. I suppose it is a fascination to some. Maybe something of desire and envy to see someone living a seemingly free life. Dancers are often objects of desire. Sometimes not seen as humanistic in nature. Their bodies seem to contort in unnatural ways that seem so natural to them. Even the way we participate with our environment can be strange to others.

Have you seen a dancer look under a table or do up their shoe laces? The average human will get down and keep their spine fairly neutral to accomplish a task. Many a dancer will bend or twist in a strange way to accomplish the same task. Why? I think there is an unconscious desire to release endorphins and adrenaline as often as possible. Using muscles to accomplish tasks in extra physical ways can do this. I know that when I stretch, I get happy. That’s the chemical release. Even just twirling seems to give me this.

The easiest way to make a dancer a downer is to put them on the side lines. This can be a result of injury, punishment, or the like. By not allowing them to move and get their natural rush or  high, you are taking away something that is sought by them to maintain a balance. The term adrenaline junkies is not solely reserved for those who jump off or out of things, making their bodies think they are in imminent danger. Athletes in general are adrenaline junkies. Athletes use their muscles to release that drug which gives them that high rather than just putting themselves in situations that the body believes is dangerous.

This drug seeking behaviour is good for keeping the mind in an upward state. If you keep giving yourself hits, you keep staying up. However, just like any drug user – illicit or prescribed – the body does go into withdrawal with the removal of the drug. An endogenous chemical like adrenaline or endorphins act the same way as an exogenous drug that is consumed. Athletes are superior at releasing it through their active lives. When you take away that activity though, the body and mind can go into withdrawal, which can put the mind into a downward state quickly.

I have had physiotherapists and chiropractors who were elite athletes and I have had those who were not. Their approach to recovery is usually night and day. The athletes are aware that putting me on the sidelines, even for a week, will have negative repercussions to my self-esteem, my clarity of mind, and my general state of happiness. They approach recovery like this: get me healed and keep me moving in the mean time. Those who are not athletes want to do it the easy way – pure rest. While pure rest might get the results faster for the specific injury, it puts me behind in my training and my mental state will not be as positive during that time as well. I prefer the athletic therapists who are looking at the whole picture and who have been where I am.

If you are finding that you are in and out of happy states regularly, maybe it is time to evaluate your routine. Try to get your training in regularly whether it is on the floor, going for a walk, stretching, or hitting the gym. Getting that happy hit daily will help keep things flowing stably for your brain and keep you ready for action all at the same time. Enjoy your ability to give yourself a rush from within your own body.

The Should-ers

Everyday I hear of situations that turn lives in a different direction than ever expected. These curves include injuries, disease, family life, and the like. You never know what could be waiting around the corner. The important thing is to be present and enjoy every moment.

I hear people question my way of life and the way I earn a living. “Who do you think you are telling me how to run my life?” Honestly, this is my internal reaction most of the time when people try to advise me on my life. I don’t know that it is so much an arrogance on my part to reject that someone might have insight. It is more a boundary breach that I try not to do to others.

I know that I am not going to change until I am ready. I know that others are probably wired just the same. So why do people try to parent me? That’s really what unsolicited advice feels like if you evaluate it. Unless I am given permission to, I try to refrain from doing this to others. I am not a big fan of should-ing people. The term should holds a certain amount of shame in my eyes. I was handed enough shoulds in my family life to last a lifetime. I don’t need others handing me their shoulds as well. From what I see, a should is usually a reflection of the shoulder’s own inadequacy. In such, they are trying to fix something they cannot in themselves by requiring me to be something I care not to be. Go fix your own life before you try fixing mine. When I am ready to be fixed, I promise, you may not be the first to know.

I think dancers and artists bare more shoulds than most.  “You should be doing something more useful with your life”. “You should get an education that will get you a job.” Let’s be honest. Any degree from a university these days, is not likely to get you a job in your field. If you enjoy dance and want to get a degree in it, you are still going to learn critical thinking while fulfilling a part of yourself that you may never get to gorge again especially if you give into the shoulds. “You should be doing something more realistic.” How’s that working out for you should-er? Are you happy in your realistic world? Are you happy being a grown-up? Really?

We live for a very long time. We are going to have multiple careers during that long time. If you love something and can make a living at it while your body is able, why would you not indulge that? If you can dance and people want you to share that part of you – even if it is just part-time or a single project, why would you not indulge that? Stop listening to the shoulds in your life. Listen to your heart. If your heart says for this next while you are meant to dance and live in expression, then do so. Those who should you, aren’t respecting your heart. Why would you keep that around?

Sensitive

Can you feel me? Can you feel me when I breath? Can you feel me when I move? Can you feel me even when I am unwantable? Can you feel me when that achilles of life tears?

Can you hear me? Can you hear men when I scream? Can you hear me when I cry? Can you hear me when I am crumbling inside? Can you hear me when you are deafened by the beating of my heart?

Can you taste me? Can you taste the sweat rolling off my back? Can you taste the fear I am dancing? Can you taste my past and taste my future? Can you remember how the first show tasted?

Can you see me? Can you see the pain I am telling? Can you see movement in my soul? Can you see the scar tissue I move through? Can you see my strong hold?

Can you smell me? Can you smell the adrenaline coursing through? Can you smell the light I emit when I move? Can you smell the gratitude coming off my pores as I am thankful for this moment I get to dance. Every movement senses and I become one with everything in my midst.

Over Coming Dance Life

Do you ever have those days when you feel like life is just too much and you want to get off the ride for a little while? I have those days more often than not and I know I am not alone. Some days I feel so overwhelmed that I want to sit in silence in the corner just listening to my own breathing to lull myself. My sense of overwhelm is not unique in the dance world.

From the outside, a dancer’s life looks like a bed of roses. Getting to dance for a living is a beautiful thing. It leads to a life lived expressively. It leads to a life where a person can feel free. It leads to a life outside the box for many making us objects of fascination and revere. It just plain looks like fun!

With so many apparent positives, why can a dance life become overwhelming and unhealthy? That’s a good question. There is a lot more to a dancer’s life than meets the eye of the observer. I think the biggest cause of overwhelm in dancers is constant self-adjudication – critically examining form, body, and beauty with a microscope. With so many hours served in front of a mirror, there is little way around this self-adjudication. This has its pros and cons.

For the pros column, this adjudication is time invested in self-improvement, change, and besting form. This results in a healthier dance body when alignments are engrained and perfected resulting in fewer injuries. This results in a healthier career as well because if you have excellent form, you have a competitive edge to obtaining more work. It is also gratifying when what feels good on the inside matches what looks good on the outside.

For the cons column, this adjudication can be damaging mentally. It can feel like there is a carrot constantly dangled slightly out of reach of perfection. It can feel like you are never going to achieve that perfect moment where you feel like you have made it. It can play games with your mind and affect self-esteem. The constant strive for perfection and lack of reaching it can drive some people mad. This madness presents itself as depression or an eating disorder in many dancers.

Eating disorders often develop out of depression as a means of gaining control in a life that seems to be unravelling. When you feel your career is in someone else’s hands, that your body cannot be physically perfect because of your genetic make-up, or you are putting in your all and feeling like you are receiving little in career, these are stressors that can start a person down this road.

Eating disorders start in many seemingly innocent ways. A common start is just a simple diet to meet an aesthetic ideal. From there, it can start to feel like you have so much control and power over yourself and becomes an obsession that is hard to shake. There are few dancers that exist that have not battled an eating disorder of some duration or experienced depression as a result of the crushing demand for perfection.

It is important in our line of work to keep grounded in reality. It is important to take time away from the perfection of the studio to spend time enjoying the other amazing things life has to offer. This includes interpersonal relationships, other forms of pleasure, and sometimes just having quiet days that do not include physicality. Having someone to talk to who can hear and reflect back to you your stressors and help put them in perspective can be a healthy checkpoint to have in life as well. A dance life is supposed to be enjoyable, so make sure you are taking time to make it so!

Big Questions 4

If I want to push my dancing further, do I stay with a coach that I have been loyal to for many years or do I upgrade to the shiny new coach turning out eye catching competitors?

This is a tricky question. There has to be a reason that you stayed with your existing coach. The reasoning for this has to be assessed. Did you stay because you did not know better? Did you stay because this is who all your friends go to? Did you stay because you were afraid of change? Did you stay because you love the way they coach? Did you stay because they make you feel good about yourself every time you hit the floor?

Change is not an easy thing for most people. It takes us out of our comfort zone. This can cause panic and fear causing the brain to try desperately to put on the brakes and keep you in your regular pattern. Some people thrive on change and enjoy the thrill of it.  You have to acknowledge that changing coaches will push you out of your current knowledge base. This is how you grow and you have to be prepared for this. If you are ready for this, it is time to start your search.

First off, let your current coach know that you are seeking an outside opinion on your dancing so that they do not hear it through the dance gossip line that you have been associating with their competition. If you are in a large enough centre, you should have options for coaches. I would start by interviewing them. This can involve a goals conversation as well as an assessment of your current dancing state. You also want to know how much time they have to invest in you. If their schedule is full up and they take you, you will not receive the attention you need and not achieve your goal in switching coaches.

Having someone new assess you will quickly show you whether you are prepared for the change. It will also show you how well you accept criticism from someone else’s view point. You may go through all the coaches in your city and realize that the one you have is your best match. That is okay. If you have not burned bridges with your current coach, you should be able to return to them without issue. You will also likely return to them with new appreciation and they will likely work harder to accelerate your dancing as well because they know you are hungry to grow.

If you do find a coach that seems to be a better match, it is time to get the relationship built. They will want to see that you are committed to learning their methodology. You have to put previous opinions on the movement out of your head so that you can absorb as much as you can from this new coach. You will never lose what you previously invested in yourself. You may actually need a hybrid between the two methodologies in the end. In the end, you will always be a stronger dancer, even if you decide to go back to your original coach.

Take some time to assess where you are at with your dancing. When you started, you had goals. Have you achieved those? What are your goals for the next year? Do you have the right coaches, teachers, and adjuncts in place to get to where you want to go this year? Being a dancer requires a team approach. Make sure you have a solid team working with you to accelerate you toward achieving your goals this year!

Resolutions

I had wanted to post my resolutions on the first of January, however, I did not have them adequately straight in my head to share. I have spent the past three days thinking about where I want to go with my life this next year based on the lessons learned from 2013. This is what I concluded:

1) Find synergy in my working relationships. This is something I have sought in passing, but have never put much effort towards. This year is going to be different. For those with whom I work, I want to be able to discover the areas where we complement each other. I want to make my working relationships explosively productive for everyone involved. If I am going to be joining forces with someone, there has to be great reason to pool our talents and we need a goal in mind to see if that pooling is successful. For those working relationships that are parasitic rather than synergistic, I will be letting go of those. I know the majority of mine have the potential to be synergistic, so I am looking forward to amazing things happening for my colleagues and myself this year!

2) Balance technique with letting go. This is an ongoing struggle for me. I want to be good at my dancing, but the moments where I have been the most eye-catching on stage are when technique and just being come together. I want this year to be like none I have had before. I want my body to function at a new level. It will take a lot of hours to get my technique to the level where my body holds onto the technique with minimal to no thought. I am prepared to invest in myself this way. I have a plan in place. This again does need to be balanced with being in the moment. I have to be able to find those moments in practice, not just on stage. I will be putting effort forth to balance these scales when I work.

3) Give back to the community. I want to find a unique way to give back to the community this year. I want to share my knowledge with up and comers and also with those established in the community. Every dancer has a unique journey. There are so many lessons learned along the way for each of us. I want to start a dialogue with the community about what brought them into the community and what keeps them there. If you want to share you story about dance, there is now a section on the home page called Share Your Experience. This is an opportunity to have your voice. Simply comment on this post and tell your story. I will repost the comments with your name or anonymously, whichever you prefer.

Let’s put our best dancer’s feet forward this year and get honing our artistry while expanding our sense of community. It is going to be fantastic year – I can feel it already!

Wrap This

I know for many, 2013 was a very unbalanced year full of incredible change and challenge. 2013 was no different in that respect for myself. I learned a lot about myself, who my true friends are, and what I am capable of overcoming even when I am ready to just lay down and surrender to the pull into darkness.

Every time we go through challenging situations, we are forced to grow. Sometimes we are forced to grow because we end up so broken that we have to grow new parts to be able to glue the pieces back into a semblance of ourselves. Sometimes we are forced to grow in a new direction because the direction we were headed becomes glaringly harmful. Sometimes we are forced to grow because we get kicked to far out of comfort zone that we have to learn how to fly. The end result is an evolved version of our former selves.

As I look back on 2013, here is what I learned:

1) Embrace the pain. I am chronically in pain. From what I have been told, it has now been too long for the pain pattern to actually reverse. There is a physical change that happens in the brain that holds the body in this pattern. This is something with which I am learning to deal. I used to be upset by it as it felt like my body turned on me. Now I look at it as a reminder system to be kind to myself.

2) Be a passenger. Going from someone who was talented at making things happen to someone whose world got so out of control with very little that I could do about it – that was a huge learning curve. I had to learn to trust the universe and be okay with letting things unfold. As my acupuncturist told me, be a passenger in the universe’s limo for a while. Just sit back and observe things unfold. There is a path laid out for me that is going to happen whether I try to force my way through it or just chill out and go with it. I have to practice this every day as my natural instinct is to grab the wheel and try to take over.

3) Make a wish. I started a funny thing after my friend’s birthday this year. I kept one of her candles and started making a wish on it daily. This also applied to any other candles that I blew out. Putting an intention out there, whether it be a wish, a prayer, or a beg, helped me focus on what I need. Reminding myself everyday of the positive change I sought after the dark overwhelming change I had been through this year was helpful. As a result, I am starting the new year with more work, community, and partnership than I ever dreamed I could have.

4) Ask and you shall receive. I had always been shy about asking for what I need. The last quarter of the year, I started doing this. I put my request for help out to anyone who I thought would be able to or would know someone who could help me. I hit a few dead ends at first. At least that is what they appeared to be. Then, suddenly in those dead ends, a door appeared that opened up to incredible opportunities. By me asking for help, that request stayed in the back of the mind of the person I asked. When the opportunity I desired came up, I received communication that they had something for me.

With 2013 a day in the past, it really seems like a far gone dream or nightmare depending on the day I look at it. I hated much of what I was put through this past year while I was going through it. However, now I am thankful. It was rough, but I learned and grew much more than I imagined I could. I am so much calmer about everything now and see obstacles only as a challenging growth opportunity that I will emerge from the better. Onto 2014!