"When the music changes, so does the dance." -Hausa proverb
Art has been described as a way to cataloging human emotion. Having a degree in art not only gives me the opportunity to be an artist, but study it and its ability to mirror the human condition. Living in NYC and going to NYU I had one of the greatest gifts in being in the hub of the art community and watching the the joy of learning and pure creation. I found that pure creation correlated in so many ways to spirituality for me. It was the same pounding in my heart, it gave me the same sense of peace. It gave me self awareness. I could see the world around me expressed in front of me with this art. And from that I began to compare, contrast and ask questions. In this discovery I created a deep love for dance. Dance uses the physical body to the fullest capacity. It challenges us to tell stories. Express. Move people. Both emotionally and physically. It is a celebration. A way to take overwhelming emotions and express them in a way that goes far passed a humans ability to use words. It gives us the gift of perception of situations that maybe we cant just process by thinking about them in our head. We can see it in front of us, put to music and broken down, turn by turn. It takes the primal movements of our animal ancestors and brings a reflective meaning to it. As time has flown by, the way in which we dance has shifted and changed with the ongoing development of forms and range in music and the human freedom of expression. Some forms work in an ornate function. Others flowing organically with the music. Some fighting against the music. Some solo, some with a group. But as our diversity of time flowered, as did dance.
I often compare dance and the form in which we choose our choice of religion and how we express our own inner connectivity with the world.
Ballet has a sense of tradition, it has a strict structure, rules that must be governed. With these positions and places you can do the steps necessary to express not only what the music provides but what the choreographer is trying to tell through the human body as an overall story. Another form of dance that spoke to me is tap dancing and always makes me think of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, routed firmly in the ground, how they accentuated the music and floor with firm light steps and yet they were floating the rest of their bodies with grace and elegance. So positive and uplifting! Then there is Hip hop, pushing the boundaries of what we think form is, developing from a culture that was beginning to not only develop its own form but takes traditional roots and literally turns them on its head! Since the beginning of movement, we have been pushing the forms of expression through our bodies, how we celebrate at a wedding with dance, how we show deep love with a slight way of the hip. Why does religion have to be any different in how we think about it?
The early years of my life where in the Catholic Religion and I often compare it to ballet which has many traditions, such beauty, and grace. Now many categorize me as New Age, perhaps that dance would be a form of hip hop, or something modern, routed in taking traditional techniques and molding their boundaries into something else, something that is needed for this younger generation. But if you think of the fact that when the moment is gone, and the dance is finished, no matter what form in which you choose to dance, you must applaud the expression, the dance, or even the dancer itself. I have understood for a while now that it is not the type of dance that makes you a dancer, but rather the choice to express through movement and music. To realize, to celebrate, to laugh, and to have passion is key. That for me is where religion has begun to fail us. We stop celebrating, and we live in a fear. We have begun to compare our forms of religion so strictly, we forget why these forms were even created. I don't care how you dance, or what religion you follow, as long as you ARE dancing, as long as you are seeing the world as a place to express and celebrate. What I have found is that art is a way of cataloging the human experience, and it is done with such dynamic forms that have developed over the years, why not celebrate our existence and beyond in the same way. It does not matter how you dance, it matters that you are dancing.
When I was in college I was part of a very rigorous structure of study that involved several forms of dance. I can fully admit that my body and mind were not perfected to do some of those techniques in the way in which the professor would want. But I tried my hardest, always at the end of the day attempting to put expression, joy, entertainment and, I say with pride, even a bit of my own inner clown into the moves. I noticed I did this especially when I knew I may not have been able to approach them strictly from the angle that my teacher was wanting me to fulfill. Perhaps it was in these clown like moments I was telling not only those around me, but myself to lighten up and let your own inner clown enjoy! These moments unfortunately were rare and dance over time became a chore, something I dreaded to do. Something I feared because my body, combined with the way my mind worked, didn't necessarily fit the mold or the box I needed to be. This gave me such pressure to be in a box that would make me in to be successful in my chosen profession. I watched many of my broadway fears rise up before me, and loathed going into anything that required dance, do partly to my now own irrational fear and self judgement of what I could or couldn't do. But I began to realize it was not dance that I feared, but the boxes and environment in which it was being fostered. I had one teacher who ruled with an iron fist. Surprisingly, it was in his class that I succeeded more than in the others when doing one particular form. It fit my body so well, it felt right, it hit my curves and the way in which he choreographed felt organic to me. Suddenly I felt like a dancer, and I forever held onto that movement as a time of self awareness of what I could do. As time went by I started to distance myself from those ideas and boxes I had been keeping myself in within. I would go out to dance and challenge myself to just have fun, even if I fell or was silly. I tried to put LOVE into it. I made dance fun again for myself, I let it become pure expression again rather, that a requirement I needed to have to be on Broadway. The pressure was taking away its essence and I saw that. A few years ago when I was approached by some of my old teachers to share to some teens who were looking as musical theater as a career on what you should do if you weren't necessarily the best dancer ... or as if I recall, didn't like it.
I was singled out with this opportunity, in front of my peers, young impressionable teens and my teachers on what I would share in regards to dance where I had felt the most vulnerable and weakest. Talk about a challenge. After being in that business for years I knew what they wanted me to say. Push yourself, keeping going, take lessons, etc. But I took that opportunity to express something I often didn't at that time. I said out loud that regardless of what they thought...I actually liked dance. Better yet, I loved to dance! I told the teens that some teachers just didn't speak my language, some teachers energies and I didn't mesh and I would get in my head in a place of less than, a place of fear and lack. But I knew through other experience that I could dance, that I needed to find the dance that made me feel confident and build from there. I needed a home base where someone spoke my language, and I needed to see and understand that you can't be exact in everything right away, that it takes time to find you and what best speaks to you. I talked about putting expression into it, therefore putting yourself into it. I told them that I always loved dance, how I still weep when I see a ballet and the music swells as the girl rises by the powers of her male counterpart below. But to dance myself, to let myself not dance within fear, I had to find people who spoke my language, and I did! In that moment I not only challenged what I knew those teachers had already thought about me, but I dared them to put me in a different box, because I had already threw the box out of the window long ago.
I talk about this because dance and music directly correlate to spirituality with me. We are humans, and in this experience we find ourselves needing a sense of control of our lives. To do that we mold categories, boxes that we can feel safe in. Identities that can not only empower us but hold us back. I am a Singer, Actor...(hold your breath) Dancer! To fit into a mold we have to mold ourselves, but be careful in how you are shaping yourself and those around you
The same lesson comes from religion and the way in which we organize spirituality. In our attempt to express ourselves, learn, and celebrate this universe that is bigger than all of us, we put words to it, give it a category, place rules and a structure upon it. We take either divine human knowledge passed down through our DNA and the energy around us, or as others like to call it God, and we share it in spaces with others that speak our language. Do that! Share, learn, DANCE, but think twice before you ever knock another dancer down because they choose to do ballet over tap or hip hop over ballroom. Christian or atheist, we are all here on this energy plane trying to celebrate life and what not only lies beyond, but more powerfully what lies within us.
If you take away the walls and categories, if you even take away language...we are left with pure movement of the body, pure expression. If you take down rules, boundaries, traditions, and you tell people through only the movement of their body "tell me what what God, Energy, The Galaxy, Science, just what the existence of life is with or without any names or boundaries" - you see a sense of wonderment and just pure awe of how can we even encompass such a huge task. Its humbling to try to express in how we are even alive and here. Their body can't get big enough, or expressive enough, its all rooted in love. And suddenly we don't seem as divided. We seem so cosmically similar. We have been in categories so long that we forgot we are made from the same earth, the same DNA, we are brothers and sisters, all of us. And we are all just trying to find a way to dance.
I begin to implore people to find that person that speaks your language, find that teacher that brings out the best in what you are. Find those people that inspire you to live with purity of self. The group of people that challenge the boxes in which we have put ourselves in. Sometimes we get so comfy in one dance that it become a routine of habit rather than a joy of extending the body in celebration. Get people around you who help you to think with positivity, who give you perspective, who WANT you to love regardless of the boxes. Then try a different dance and see how the movers and shakers in that form are moving their feet just like you. Let these different dances and ways to worship the world influence your ability to see the world and see the humanity in others. We live in a globally connected world. We GET to ask questions. We have come so far with freedom that the idea of curiosity is no longer a threat, but a welcome idea. Ask people who celebrate the world in different ways from you how they do it, why they do it. What is their purest form of motivation, then study it and find out how its different from you. To have enlightenment is to have knowledge. To walk through the world and see all the forms of religion, science, music and dance and know it is okay. See from a place of love, not fear. If there can be music that inspires dance out there for everyone, there can be a form of spirituality that you can find or create that helps to to be a better expressive and communicative human. One that elevates you to love, live laugh, and cry in beauty. Live in that, see what that is. And see what connects, not separates, because in that connection is where you find love.
I want to give you a gift. It is the gift of acceptance. It is the gift of perspective. It is the gift of pure understanding. It is the gift of peace. It is the gift of silence. It is the gift of positivity. It is the gift of music. It is the gift of self love. It is the gift of patience. it is the gift of understanding life.