Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vertical Lines and My Mother

I am not a trained dancer.  I just love to dance, and I have made it my career.  Those are my only “qualifications.” 

When I was growing up, there was no possibility that I could study dance in a serious way.  My mother wouldn't consider it.  Also, as a single mother, she had no money for lessons.  Being a single mother defined her life.  (In those days, it was uncommon.)  Although she was only 35, my mother was unable to heal and move on after her divorce from my father.   She had to support four kids, and I’m sure she was afraid that I would starve if I tried to make dance a career.  That lifestyle, too, would undoubtedly lead to “premarital sex.” (Remember when that was actually a term?)  That was just too scary for my mother to contemplate.  I could dance for fun, but it could never be a vocation.   And I didn't have the confidence to question her judgment.

Because I am an expert at losing confidence—give me an inch of “maybe you’re not good enough” and I’ll make it into a mile—I think there are some things I just can’t do.  The latest is a barrel turn.

While watching the amazing dancers on “So You Think You Can Dance,” I saw a lot of barrel turns. (Turns off the floor that look as if the dancer is rolling backwards over a barrel).  I thought, I really want to learn how to do that!  And then I wondered, could I do a barrel turn? 

Why not?  At least I could try.  So I put a barrel turn in the choreography for “Summer Wind.”  The way I choreograph is to start at a very easy level and progress to more difficult levels.  My clients can choose to stay at any level they wish.

To develop a barrel turn, I started my learning process by first (a) turning in the right direction. Then, after internalizing this, I (b) arched my back and leaned my head back. Then (c) I practiced how to plié more deeply on my standing leg.  Finally, I worked on coming off the floor as I turned.  The most important part of the process, though, was first believing that if I could do (a), then I could do (b), and then (c) would naturally follow...

There have been experiments in which baby kittens were raised in environments with no vertical lines.  When the kittens were released from that environment, they bumped into chair legs because they couldn’t perceive anything that was vertical.  What they had no experience of, they actually couldn’t see.

My mother’s vertical line was having a happy life as a woman without a husband.  She couldn’t even imagine it.

When I was growing up, dance was my vertical line.  Lately, it was a really good barrel turn. 
What’s your vertical line?

You can manifest as “real” only that which you can imagine to be true.  What you think about yourself has everything to do with what you believe you can accomplish.  As you enlarge your perception of yourself, your reality will reflect greater and grander experiences.

Believe in yourself.  Believe in your right to be happy.  As you believe, so you dance.


  1. Poignant as always. My barrel is the internal battle not to nestle into to the comfort of isolation but to quell the fear of rejection and step through an open door that leads from friendliness into friendship. Opening the door maybe more of a back hamstring into aerial somersault. Baby steps :)

  2. just read all your posts so far ... and so enjoyed each one! You are as ever, a wise, wonderful and multi-talented beauty! So glad for all of us that you continue to have the courage to express yourself in ways that serve so many others! All those years I took your dance classes I just could never leave without saying "thank you!"because I always felt I had been given the gift of JOY for an hour! ... saying "thank you!" again for your interesting, insightful and entertaining blog posts! XO

  3. A "vertical line" will be a new way for me to express this idea. Thank you, Susie!!! I love this one because every human being can identify with it. We ALL have (at least) one "vertical line." For me, it's just a matter of which of the many I am currently working to eliminate. :)