Muses

Art/Images, Change/Transformation, Creative, Dance, It's Personal, Life, Poetry, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

Earlier this year, for the first time in my life, I met someone who inspires me to create art.  Despite my introverted extrovert nature, I meet a lot of people from many different walks of life.  I tend to network in an  unusual variety of circles, and have a knack for remembering and connecting people – often making connections others don’t see.  I don’t actively nurture all these connections, but I keep them in my mental Rolodex.

I’m also a social dancer, and I’ve talked to and danced with thousands of people.  In all those thousands, I’ve met (at most) a dozen or so who truly inspire me to create movement with them.  None of them has ever inspired me to create anything beyond the three to four minutes we spend together in the music.  Those moments are magic, but they’re ephemeral.  The sense of what happened fades, and all my body remembers is the warmth and joy and connection.

This was different, this unexpected inspiration.  I’ve never experienced this type of connection, where all thoughts have the potential to spark the drive to create.  Positive or negative charge is irrelevant, what is relevant is that something emerges from that charge.  I started making art when I was young, wanted to be a musician for a while, and then stopped when I left home.  I dabbled in photography for years, drawing here and there.  When writing became more of a focus, other forms of creativity faded until I discovered dance.

My first experience with dance was with a woman named Fariba, a class named Spiritual Bellydance.  I was living in a conservative area that the time, but was exploring any number of non-traditional interests and hobbies.  For me, this class was a revelation, a revolution.  After years of martial arts training and equestrian activity, I found something that incorporated similar awareness and presence, but for reasons of pure sensuality and beauty.  I did it simply because it brought joy and pleasure into my being.  Fariba inspired me, and her memory continues to visit me when I’m dancing.

When I began to learn salsa, I had any number of teachers, but few true inspirations.  Over the years, that has changed as I discovered Magna Gopal, my good friends Sheena and Asia – the first women I saw lead swapping and dancing together in bachata, my instructor Sarah Riddle, and Stacey, one of my best friends.  All these women inspired me to try different types of movement, to experiment with connection and stillness, excitement and joy, technique and exploration.  I recently had the great good fortune to get social dances with Frankie Martinez and Franklin Diaz, dances I wouldn’t have been brave enough to ask for if I hadn’t been inspired to push myself over all these years.

So to find someone who inspires me to create art – images that convey a feeling, emotions, thoughts – is welcome and scary all at once.  Art has not been a way for me to communicate how I feel.  Until now, writing was that channel.  Now, art has become an outlet, in a way that words aren’t.  I’ve spoken with poets, and this feels like their descriptions of writing poetry – using words to shape a feeling, sensation, experience – an urge I’ve rarely encountered.  But now I feel compelled to release that desire to express…something…through drawing.

I’m not entirely certain how the whole “muse” thing works, but I suppose this is part of it.  They bring energy, alien patterns and dynamics, that demand a response, but the old responses aren’t strong enough, or subtle enough, or bold enough, so I look for alternatives.  How else can I interact with this experience?  How can I hold it, let it go, integrate or spit it out?  Do I hold myself in safety, or expose my vulnerability to risk?  All these questions – unanswerable, rhetorical maybe, but each a challenge to how I see, feel, and think about myself.

It amuses me to think that I’m just the latest in an infinite line of humans, of artists who have struggled to understand the nature and sense of inspiration.  Finding novelty in something as old and well-worn as the creative urge is both precious and fleeting.  I believe the work now is to make the effort to enjoy this time, and whatever it brings.

All-SM

Down and Left

Dance, It's Personal, Laughter, Reflection, Uncategorized

I’m a social dancer, have been for 10 years or so.  My go-to is salsa, but I dance all the latin dances (street style, not ballroom), a smidge of tango, a whisper of east coast swing, and a generous, juicy dollop of blues.  As most women do, I started by learning to follow.  As most women don’t, I got bored with following and learned to lead.  Actually, blues dancing taught me that if you don’t want to miss out on half of all the great dancers, you better learn to lead.

The experimental, fluid nature of blues dancing lends itself well to lead-swapping, so I spent several years learning how to connect, and lead all different types of movement. This has served me well in all my dancing, but especially bachata.  Bachata, for me, has more room to experiment and play, so that’s what I do.  I stay loosely within the choreography, but enjoy experimenting, playing, and seeing what my lead (or follow) will do next.

But I digress.

Tonight, Wednesday, was bachata night at the main local spot.  I rarely go out during the week, but I was able to go out tonight and it was one of the best dance nights I’ve had in months.  Months and months.  Why was tonight so special?  Because not only did I get probably a dozen great dances (as a lead and follow), I got to pass along an excellent piece of advice a friend gave me several years ago.  Ready?

Stop looking down.

If you’re a social dancer, you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve done it, you’ve danced with people who do it, we’re all guilty.  We get into the music and we find ourselves looking down and slightly left – maybe at our feet.  That’s the position our eyes take when we’re remembering feeling, smelling, tasting – anything kinesthetic.  It’s a comfy place – we’re jamming out, our body is moving, and our eyes are probably glazed, down and left.  But there’s something off about that whole scene, my dancing peeps probably already know – there is no way to connect with your dance partner if your eyes are pointed at the floor.

And the whole point of social dancing is to connect to someone else, through a shared experience of music and movement.  That WILL NEVER HAPPEN if we don’t stop looking down.  Looking down also means our energy is directed into the ground – not up or forward or out or around – down into the earth.  The earth doesn’t mind, but our dancing and our ability to connect suffer from our narrow range of focus.

So among many other lovely moments, I had the opportunity to do something I rarely do on the dance floor – I gave some advice.  I gave it in the form of compliment and a request (you have a beautiful smile.  if you dance with me, I’d love it if you’d look up and share that smile with me) or something like that.  Then, I made it into a private joke.  If he looked down too long, I’d find a way to trail my fingers into his line of sight and up popped his eyes – big smile and dimple at the ready.  Lavish compliments, big smiles and laughter, flirting and keeping the eye contact – all wonderful tools that everyone thoroughly enjoys.

I am so grateful.  He is a dancer of enormous talent and potential, still young, and I’m so grateful he was willing and eager to listen, and to push himself out of that comfy spot.  Each time we danced, it got better.  He admitted it felt awkward, but that’s what happens when you’re doing something different that’s going to change your dance life – it’s awkward for a while and then it settles and the world unfolds again.

When dancing as a follow, it is always a risk to ask a lead to do something different.  Leading on the social floor is so hard, and it’s ridiculously easy to accidentally crush someone’s confidence.  On the floor, I make a practice of staying away from anything that seems like teaching or coaching, but sometimes, it’s the right thing to do.  One of the biggest joys of being part of the dance scene for such a long time is seeing different dancers grow and progress and change over the years.  Knowing that my support and encouragement has been part of that process is icing on the cake.

So get those eyes up, people, up and forward – 1 2 3, 5 6 7!