"How are you laurabondwilliams?" my dance teacher asked me before class one day.
"Busy," I said, knowing and owning how lame that sounds. "Busy" because most weeks I am engaged in four primary activities: dancing, working, parenting and driving (noticeably absent: cooking, house cleaning, organic gardening). So I collect my thoughts in the spaces in between the busy-ness; sometimes writing short emails or dutiful (but woefully erratic) morning pages. One good thing about busy-ness is that I am not treating my writing so preciously. With that in mind, I'm sharing some thoughts that need to be aired.
For two years now, I've been having thoughtful conversations with adult dancers or others who want to be. I've taken over 200 hours of dance classes from more than a dozen teachers in three cities. I have talked to professional dancers, retired dancers, brand new dancers and born-again dancers.
For those who are not dancing and say that you want to be:
1) The urge to dance will never leave you. For the rest of your life, it will either be something you do or something you wish you did. (There's no in between.) And there are a dozen obstacles between you and class, and I understand that. Life, work, family, friends, money, time...when you figure it out, remember this.
2) When you are ready to honor that urge, wear whatever you like! Not sure if you can take a dance class because you don't have the right shoes, tights, yoga top or _________? For heaven's sake, don't let CLOTHING stop you. You got socks? Shorts? T-shirt? Let's go. Like a reason to buy new clothes? One of my ballet classmates occasionally dons a full black tutu. No, she's not a retired ballerina. She's in month 7 of her intense love affair with ballet. The dancer in me honors the dancer in her; I think she rocks the black tutu.
3) Simply show up.
After accomplishing 1, 2, and 3, you enter a new phase. Dancers, now I'm talking about us.
4) Stop being hard on yourself. Simply, stop. It's hard, I know. Just...stop.
5) Accept praise and constructive criticism graciously -- and from all sources. (Not only teachers.) The good Lord knows I'm working on this one. One of the most valuable observations I received this year came from a classmate who noticed that I danced more expressively in a different pair of shoes. God bless her.
6) Have faith.
As I write these, I realize that my advice is meant for me.
This weekend I made a confession to a friend, giving voice to a feeling that had eluded words until now: I may be a watchable dancer but I'm not creative. And my yearning for creativity is intensifying at a frightening, urgent rate. But, holy cow, I'm a slow learner -- because one of my teachers pointed toward this new path nearly a year ago -- lighten up, be playful, find the joy. Because, now I understand, that lack of play starves creativity.
For most of my life, I've danced from the outside in. (Do it the right way, and you'll be good.)
Now it's time to dance from the inside out. (Do it your way. And it may get worse before it gets better. See #6.)
Whew. Okay, breathe.
(Now reread 1-5.)
And find the joy.
(c) Laura Bond Williams, 2010. All rights reserved.