Sunday, June 26, 2011

Birthday Cake and Am I Dancing Too Fast?

Sometimes when I’m learning new choreography, I put pressure on myself.  It’s not because I think anyone is watching me, but because I want to “get it” so I can really DANCE and be happy with the way it looks and feels (to me), rather than just going through the motions.  The happiest experience for me is allowing myself to “be” the music by expressing it with movement.   But what can happen is that I am so focused on “getting” and on “doing” the choreography that I end up dancing ahead of the music and finishing the phrase before everyone else.  (D’oh!) When I’m not following the music, it is very unsatisfying.

What has happened is that I focused on the wrong thing—I covered up my anxiety by dancing too fast.  When I slow down, I can allow myself to feel and be led by the music.  By dancing too fast, I am not allowing myself to have an authentic, genuine experience of the dance.

This dance example reminds me of why I use the term “birthday cake,” which is a reference to my childhood.  My parents didn’t like each other very much and there was usually a very tense atmosphere in my home.  But my siblings and I always made a great show of “We’re so happy!  Everything’s just FINE!” And we were so good at it that we were totally believed. 

I always say, “I can make dog poop look like a birthday cake.” So when I am polite to someone I dislike, for example, when I later relate the story to a friend, I say “I did such a ‘birthday cake’ thing.”

No matter what’s going on, I can usually hide it.  Now, this is fine because no one needs (or wants) to know my business all the time.  But the danger is: Am I faking myself out?  Am I knowingly hiding pain from others and also from myself?  By fooling myself, I am robbing myself of having a genuine, authentic experience in my life. 

My siblings and I were trying to cover up the pain of our home life, but we were also trying to hide it from ourselves.  We covered up the anxiety of everyday life by “doing”—talking, playing, going to friends’ houses—anything to distract ourselves.  This strategy helped us to cope.  However, when one grows up and has some autonomy, “covering up” leads to more anxiety and an experience that is not genuine.

So, if I can remember to let go of my anxiety and allow myself to slow down and really feel my true feelings (or the music), my experience of life (and dance) will be genuine and authentic.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Follow the Music.

When creating choreography, I have to love the song.  If the music doesn’t move me, I just can’t and won’t do it, no matter how popular it might be.  But even the songs I love sometimes won’t allow me to “crack” them.  Generally I feel anxious about new choreography---it’s a “I’ll-never-be-able-to-do-another-one-again” feeling.  So sometimes I’ll try to just stick something into an 8 count in the music—some small part of a combination I’ve seen on “So You Think You Can Dance.”  It never works and, although I might kid myself that it’ll do---I generally end up hating it (and myself) and throwing it out.  (Don’t let my WASPish exterior fool you---I can get all angsty.)    

If I can relax and listen to the music, it will lead me to what movement feels right.  If I can get out of my own way, the music will allow me to unravel its code.

In life, when I am lost and confused, I will often try to “do” my way to solving a problem.  But that never works.  If I can relax and trust that, like the music, life will lead me, it will allow me to get out of my own way and unravel the way to go.

Life is music.  Let it lead you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Of Antelopes and Cakes

When I was in high school, our mascot was not scary or threatening.  Most schools were the Lions or the Titans.  We were the Avonworth  Antelopes.  Often the Bellevue Bulldogs would call us “cakes,” a Pittsburgh synonym for wussy.  However, I like the antelope as a symbol.   The antelope is graceful, like a dancer.  And I often feel that the antelope’s reaction to trouble is the right one for me---flee!! Flee like the wind!! 

But fleeing gets no respect.  Even though I hate to admit it, I have found myself in situations (of my own making) where I have asked myself, “Is it possible to fake my own death?”  Sometimes you can’t (or really wouldn’t) run away, but you can use dance (or any physical activity) to flee your troublesome thoughts.  As you move, you can allow your mask to fall away and find your truth within.  The problem most likely will still be there when you re-inhabit your life, but you have taken a break from it.  Taking a break doesn’t make you a “cake.” You can take that break gracefully, in your own consciousness.

Sometimes taking a break, fleeing, can bring you a new perspective.  When you come back to yourself, you may even have an answer about how to (gracefully) proceed.  Being stoic and continually taking it on the chin, bludgeoning yourself with your thoughts, can be a pointless exercise in self-flagellation. 

So flee within the dance to come back to yourself.  The antelope is not a wussy or a cake; he’s a smart cookie.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Did I Miss It?

Dance is like life in so many ways.  I have been teaching dance for fitness for over 25 years.  I have learned lessons from dancing, teaching, and being a member of a community of dancers that has enhanced my experience of life.  It has truly been a blessing to be able to do this and share what I love. 

One of the things I want to share is how dance, like life, is only real moment to moment.  There have been times when I am dancing, but I am also fretting about something in my life, and then the dance is over and I didn't get to fully enjoy it.  Damn!  Did I miss it?? 

The same thing has happened during certain periods in my life.  I was so busy worrying about the next "thing" that I forgot to enjoy what was happening in the present.  Once again, I didn’t get to fully enjoy it! Again: Damn! 

 You can only experience dance, like life, in the moment it is happening.  If you are not in the moment while dancing, you miss the joy unfolding right in front of you.  If you are angry about the past and worried about the future, you miss the joy of life that is happening in the now.   Practice being  fully present in this moment.  It's the only one you've got. 

“Time IS.  It is said that ‘time marches on’ but time, in fact, marches nowhere.  It is you who march on, you who ‘move through time’, you who create the illusion of ‘time passing’ as you pass through the Only Moment There Is.”—Neale Donald Walsh.  At Home With God in a Life that Never Ends