What’s still possible?
Hovering on the threshold of the dance studio, I remember to ask myself this question. I’m losing my nerve to take the challenging class in a genre which is not my strength. Pre-COVID, routinely taking difficult classes was part of my dance practice. Now? I am just starting up. And I am daunted.
After a crushing 18 months of desperately trying to keep my dance passion alive and my psyche afloat, all of the dancing both on my hard living room floor and outdoors has taken a major toll on my 60-something body. I’ve lost strength, flexibility, facility.
This morning at breakfast, as my trepidation builds and my year and a half of hunger for classes fades, I lament again to my husband what I’ve lost, cataloguing the casualties. Wondering if I should totally cash in my dancing chips.
Thankfully, he urges me to zero in on what I still can do. This reminds me of the seminal wisdom of my role models and mentors, the inimitable modern/postmodern dancers, Lisa Race and David Dorfman. They embody the lifelong commitment to movement. In whatever way we can and as fully as we can, we must keep moving. Make something up, adjust, adapt around injury or other obstacle. Just keep moving!
Then, synchronistically, I come across an excerpt of Still Possible, a soon-to-be published poem by luminous poet, David Whyte. The anthemic piece urges us to shine a light on what’s still available to us in life’s eternally shifting sands. I grab the baton he hands off, and commit to tasking myself with the inquiry of what is still possible.
I push too hard in one class and am gasping for air through my mask. What’s still possible? I can’t drop to the floor like that or do that leap. What’s still possible? I take more classes by teachers whose styles are not my forte. I tweak an old injury and need to teach. I choreograph and have to narrow my movement choices to pick ones that are sustainable. What is still possible for me, here, now?
As I continue this exploration, I remember the all too familiar stories from dancers who have fallen by the wayside over the years, sacrificing their entire passion for dancing on the altar of stasis. (Or ego?) I.e. not dancing at all because they can no longer dance in the way they used to be able to.
I get it. I’m just not ready to give up on this marvelous, infuriating, sometimes transcendent practice in cultivating joy and vibrancy. DANCING.
I would rather swallow, even choke down, the often bitter sense of loss over what was and move, perhaps staggering, and stumbling…onward. This practice invites us to develop facility and depth in using our creative chops of adapting, improvising, making it work. It may not always be pretty. At least for now, I’d rather take this path than be in the shoes of the gifted, older dancer who stopped dancing many years ago and confided to me, a stranger, that quitting dancing was the biggest mistake she ever made.
And then there’s the applicability of the inquiry outside the dance studio. As always, dance provides an opportunity to explore and practice ways of being, which are readily transferrable and highly beneficial to employ out in the world. At this time, in the ever-evolving landscape of my world and the world at large, with the resources I now possess, what is still possible?
Asking the question repeatedly helps us cultivate expansiveness, empowerment, vibrancy. It sparks our imaginations. Answering the question over and over invites presence, creativity, resilience.
I wonder…what’s still possible for you?