Sunday, July 27, 2014


This word has many shades of meaning.  In dance, I have to resonate with a song before I feel I can choreograph it.  The word is ephemeral because I can only describe my sensation of resonance as a feeling of being moved in some way.  Maybe the song makes me feel happy, maybe it makes me emotional, or maybe it brings up memories that have meaning for me. 

One can resonate with anything:  music, movement, a person, a book... I believe resonance has something to do with vibration.  Music also has vibration and when a class is moving in unison to a song.  There is a resonance that occurs – people vocalize at the same time, for instance, because breathing naturally synchronizes with movement.  

We gravitate to certain people because we sense their vibration is like our own.  People we don’t resonate with are not at a “lower” or “higher” vibration – just a different one.  At our core, we are all the same. 

And even though we feel resonance with others, we all have our own way of “vibrating,” whether it’s to music or to life.  I like the expression written by Tosha Silver in her book Outrageous Openness: “Go through life with an open hand.  Let what wants to come, come and what wants to go, go.”  We can use that open hand to navigate our lives or to “smack” ourselves or others.  It’s our choice.  

But when we give up the struggle of holding onto something or someone that no longer resonates with us, life becomes happier and freer.  We are in the flow and receptive to new adventures.  We have opened the space for whatever new vibration resonates with us to come to us.  

What does an open hand mean to you?  Letting go or a good smack upside the head?  That smack could make you remember to just let go.  

You get to decide. 

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Small things, Big Picture

When working on choreography, I look at the basic elements of the song (like the number of beats per phrase), but I also have to step back and look at the song as a whole (such as, how many times the chorus repeats before the bridge comes in).  There are an infinite number of movement choices in every musical phrase.  I choose which ones to make “real” when I create choreography.  In life, every moment presents an infinite number of response (or behavior) choices.  What we choose to do and say is what becomes “real.”  Additionally, what we choose to look at dictates our state of mind and affects how we experience our lives.

In life, we can often get stuck, focused on small things that just do not matter in the context of the bigger picture.  I’ve found that when a person is mad about a particular situation, getting stuck on something small is a symptom of anxiety rather than a rational response to a problem.  This hyper-focus is born of anger and narrows the array of possible choices.  What is being made “real” is the person’s fear.  It never ends well. 

When I was much younger and getting a divorce, I left my wedding dress at the house I was living in with my then-husband.  I had a crazy grandmother who was living with my mother at the time.  She was enraged because instead of coming home to them, I chose to live at a friend’s house.  Every day, my grandmother would call and badger me about retrieving my wedding dress.  Apparently, she felt it was imperative and had to be done NOW.  Of course, that was the least of my worries as I was very sad over the break-up of my marriage and didn’t care if I ever saw that dress again.  But my grandmother would just not let go.  She ended up getting the dress from my soon-to-be-ex-husband and took it to a dry cleaner to be “preserved.” 

Can I take a break here and just stand to the side, look at the larger picture, and ask you, “Crazy?! Right?!?”

Anyway, she ended up getting into a HUGE fight with the dry cleaner over the dress.  It didn’t help anyone and it certainly didn’t make me feel better.  To this day, I don’t know what happened to that dress. My grandmother was certain that either the dry cleaner stole it or my ex-husband was wearing it all over town – I don’t know what story she told herself.  The point is, in the larger picture it wasn’t about the dress.  It was about her rage at not being in control and how (once again) I’d proven my inadequacy as a granddaughter and human being.

On the other hand, focusing on the small things can get you through a tough time by consciously putting one foot in front of the other.  This is a very different kind of focus.  It’s one of openness to new ways of seeing situations and experiences.  It has to do with staying in the now.  The options one has in this case widen because the focus is on asking, “What’s the next right thing to do?”  This hopefully springs from love of oneself and trust that we will know “the next right thing.”  When you put a lot of “right things” together, you get one really big, good thing.  

In the context of dance, small movements sometimes set up the momentum for the bigger dramatic sequences.  It’s like a build-up before the leap.  In life, every step we make is creating the big picture of our lives and a build-up for the next leap.

We have no idea what the big picture is going to look like. We just have to go phrase by phrase, beat by beat, and trust that if every step is an expression of our heart’s truth, it will bring us to a beautiful song – or a big picture we are thrilled to see.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cheerful Disarray

After a good, sweaty dance class, endorphins are always running rampant.  In this state, it’s like being a little high or cheerfully disarrayed.  You can just blurt stuff that maybe you might think twice about saying at another time.  

We have to get messy sometimes and remember to give up what we believe something should look like.   A little disorder, I think, is often good.  I like to refer to the state of my home as “cheerful disarray.”  No, I am not a hoarder, but I am not averse to a little randomness in the placement of objects.  I am not a firm believer that “everything has its place.”

After class one day as I was kissing a friend goodbye, she said, “Ugh, watch it!  I am so sweaty!”  I blurted, “Good! If you’re not sweaty and a little messy, it probably wasn’t a good class – just like sex!”  And it occurred to me that after a dance class or at the end of a sexual encounter, if every hair is in place and you have not broken a sweat, if your heart isn’t beating a little faster, if the world doesn’t look a little brighter, it probably was not such a great experience. 

If you don’t approach dance (or sex) with abandon, being truly yourself, at the end of it all there may be something lacking.  It may be fun, but not completely and wholly satisfying.

A good dance class is like good sex – it makes you a little messy.  In a positive sense, you can get lost in it, expressing yourself without words.  Your body is saying it all, in your own unique way.  And that is a beautiful thing.

When we move from within, even though the result can be messy, it is authentic and life-affirming.  

Let’s embrace our cheerful disarray and remember that when we are expressing our authenticity, we are at our most powerful. 

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Fear, inflamed by my thoughts, is my greatest obstacle.  Fearful thoughts lead to attachment and sever me from feeling connected.  In dance, I can work myself up to a fever pitch of anxiety and you can guess how well that works.  Yes, adrenaline can be good and being a little nervous can sometimes hone your focus so that you do even better than if you weren’t a little anxious.  However, when the butterflies in your stomach become pterodactyls, that is the point when you have slipped over into fear.  It’s just not possible to do anything well or think clearly with massive creatures roiling in your gut.  

When my thoughts become obsessive and fearful, if I am aware of what’s happening, I consciously try to focus on what’s good in my life in the here and now.  In class or while trying to create choreography, if I am fearful (or feeling not-good-enough), I focus on how much I love what I do and how grateful I am to be able to do it.  With the release of fear comes the letting go of my not-good-enough refrain.

Recently, I had a dream that there was a poltergeist in our house.  When I tried to call my husband in the dream, I couldn’t speak.  I was frozen. 

I have an “I am” necklace by Maryann Dolzani  that has two discs – one has “I am” on it and the other can have anything you want.  Mine says “fearless.”  It’s an affirmation that I wear every day.  In my dream, the poltergeist had taken my necklace and was dangling it over my head so I couldn’t reach it.  I finally got to our bedroom where my husband was and I said, “Tell me you love me -- and I’ll say it to you and it will make the poltergeist go away!”  That worked -- and I woke up, still feeling a little scared.  

I don’t really believe in poltergeists, but I think they can represent the embodiment of fearful thoughts.  Subconsciously, a poltergeist can take away my “I am fearless” affirmation, but only if I am not thinking of love.

The next night, we were awakened by the sound of water running.  Our upstairs toilet had somehow, inexplicably, started to flood.  This was not a dream.  My husband, Drew, jumped out of bed and tore upstairs to turn the water off, but soon we literally had a rain storm in our kitchen below.  I had the crazy thought that somehow I had called a poltergeist into our experience. I looked at Drew and said, “It’s the poltergeist, say you love me!!” 

He did, and instead of worrying about water damage, we found it kind of funny.

Love transforms every situation.

It didn’t stop the rain, but we were both laughing.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks