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.