The Treasures of Collaboration

nik_6134Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”~Helen Keller

The images in this post are the product of my collaboration with the multitalented photographer Nikki Carrara.  Sure, I had some movement prepared that I wanted photographed.

But that served only as a springboard that launched us on a tag team adventure. The ideas of one of us–whether verbal, visual or kinetic–ignited inspiration in the other, resulting in many evocative images, most of which never would have been produced had Nikki and I not cooperated in the creative process.

I hadn’t recalled all of that experiment when I sat down to write this.  Yet, it helps me realize why I am so passionate about collaborating: in most areas of life, and particularly with other artists.

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My unforgettable experience with Nikki merely reinforced my conviction that we are nearly always–always?–more powerful when working together with others.  The old adage got it:  Two heads (and hearts and souls) are better than one. Which brings me to today.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my decision to take a leap of faith and dive into co-choreographing a performance in a few weeks with a choreographer I have never set work with before and whom I don’t know well.  Oh, and with 3 other dancers I hadn’t met before or had barely worked with. The prospect seemed risky…and exciting.

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Today, at our first rehearsal, I think we were all a little anxious.  And, why not?  New faces, new movement, new process…making it up as we go.

And, as I’d sensed it would be, it was so inspiring! By the time I left the studio several hours later, I had such an abundance of ideas, my head felt as if it would explode…in a good way :).  Most of them would not have been born had I been creating solo; most of them were in response to the other choreographer’s movement and ideas, or to one of the dancers.

So, we are on our way!  Excited to see what unfolds and to cultivating our connection. Opening up to others’ visions and expanding our own.

Yup: better together.

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Compassion: Something We All Understand…and Need..and Deserve

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Here’s the poster I made to carry in a local event to support the Women’s March today in Washington, D.C.  For compassion is a gift we all need from others and from ourselves at some point, hey, at many points in our lives.

The sympathy, care, concern, warmth, kindness, tolerance, sensitivity, love that compassion entails–they are essential to us and the well-being of our palnet.  As the Dalai Lama wisely advised: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Indeed.

While there were many other posters advocating for more specific goals, the signs all really reflected at their core a call for compassion.  In one form or another.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the crowning moment for me at today’s inspiring demonstration.  It flowed from my sign and its message.

As people were slowly dispersing at the end of the event, a couple of women shyly gestured to me.  I thought they were pointing to my phone.  But the lovely lady who spoke English more confidently asked if they could have their photo taken with me.  Of course!

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As they stood next to me, putting their arms around my shoulders, I inquired why they had wanted a picture with me. She responded by pointing to my sign, and saying: “Why, because of compassion!”  They wanted to capture the moment and share the picture with faraway friends and family.

I discovered that although they are originally from a distant land, we are neighbors.  They live in my town and have family members who know one of my children.  While we parted soon after we chatted, we will always be connected by the luminous filament of compassion. May its potent radiance continue to flow and flourish!

The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”~Mahatma Gandhi

 

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The Courage to Experiment: Life Lessons from Dancing

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Life is trying things to see if they work.”~Ray Bradbury

Heh.  Well, after my previous post, trumpeting the importance about cultivating courage to venture again and again out of our comfort zones, fast forward to today.  When I need to put my money where my mouth is.

The invitation to skip outside the zone of the familiar came in the chance to choreograph for a dance performance opportunity that just popped up.  It’s happening very soon and, delightfully, will involve several dancers I haven’t created with before.

So, when the other dancer/choreographer with whom I am coordinating the event asked whether I’d rather have each of us set a piece or collaborate in choreographing one piece, I immediately reached for the familiar, readily achievable option: each set a piece.

[loud buzzer noise here] Wrong!

As the words started forming for the predictable answer, an enticing voice whispered to me to go for the co-choreography adventure.  Mostly because it seems like that–more of an adventure.  Inviting both of us to get to know each other, and ourselves, better through a close collaboration.

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Is it potentially riskier?  Absolutely.  There’s no cozy comfort zone here, no road map. Especially as we haven’t even performed in a choreographed piece together before and don’t know each other, and each other’s process or dancing, well at all.

Yet, as I sensed when I said “let’s choreograph together!” the ideas and excitement have already been flowing with each of us feeding the other’s inspiration.  Yes!

Rehearsals start this weekend and although I feel jittery with the usual daunted sensations, I also feel the electricity of experimenting with a new process and some new dancers.  Pursuing my passion for increasing human connections.

No matter what happens, I am on the path.  The path of expanding the possibilities.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”~Anais Nin

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Photo credit: Top-Nikki Carrara

 

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Ah, Courage! Or, Trying Something New

 

img_2386Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”~Anais Nin

Yesterday, after the maiden voyage of a movement class I’m offering, one of the attendees approached me and confided how glad she was that she had trounced her fears and come to class.  It had been “out of her comfort zone” (her words) and as such, had required extra chutzpah to get to class.

Ah, yes.  That old comfort zone.  So cosy, so familiar, so mesmerizing.  And at times disempowering and stultifying.

She recounted to me the story many of us know so well: that when she was younger, she set out on new adventures on the regular. Unfamiliarity? Uncertainty?  Bring it.

But then we live a little, take on other responsibilities, while our bodies withstand injury, aging, illness and we get worn down.  Suddenly, we don’t pounce on the new-to-us forays.

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Somewhere along the way, the intimidation of the unfamiliar overwhelms us and we’re cemented in our so-called comfort zones.

For some of us, daring to get out of those comfort zones was rarely, if ever, in the cards. Either way, as time goes on, the various forms of gravity, of stasis, demand more and more courage to transcend them.

But we’ve got to do so!  For if we stay stuck, er, stationary within the familiar we will never know what life is made of.  Nor what we’re made of.

As my new friend noted, she wasn’t sure whether she could handle what we were doing, but she realized she’d never know if she didn’t come.  Ye olde comfort zone would have kept her from discovery.

Through her venturing forth, and yes, triumphing, she learned what the class entailed and that she could handle it.  And as it turned out, the class provided precisely the release and energizing she needed to de-stress from some recent, significant challenges.  Ta-da!

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So, I’m heeding this angel who showed up in my life.  Reminding myself to keep exploring on unfamiliar seas, to keep fueling my courage so I can give this life as much of a go as possible.  Will I fail sometimes?  Absolutely.

But at least I will be on the path of expanding and not shrinking.  What about you?

“Courage: strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”

“…I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked.  We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time….” Dr. Brené Brown

Photo credits: Middle and bottom–Nikki Carrara

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Something To Live For (Still)

 

img_1408I’ve found myself repeatedly in situations lately in which I’ve attempted to recount all of the amazing gifts dance has bestowed me…boundlessly enriching and expanding my life.

Since I am rededicating myself to sharing this dance passion as broadly as possible, including teaching a workshop aimed at generating movement’s positivity with newbies and more experienced dancers alike, I offer this post from the archives (edited a bit…the original post is here).

It bears constant repetition: The world needs us now more than ever to cultivate whatever brings us alive so we can breathe that vitality into the atmosphere.

Shine on….

Sometimes this passion for dancing seems like madness.

Take this morning. Heading out early into the cold, discouraging day, I slipped repeatedly on black ice, tweaking an old injury.  As I scraped my car’s frozen windshield and then entered the battle of slippery, rush hour traffic, I asked myself, not for the first nor the hundredth time, what in heaven’s name I was doing.  But the doubt was only momentary.

I’M GOING DANCING!” I hooted jubilantly out my rolled down window into the wintry mix (eyes still on the road….).

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And that, my friend, says it all.

It says that I am on my way to cultivate joy, creativity, inspiration and passion.  Which, in turn, helps me lavish positivity on the universe.  It tells you that I am heading toward fostering, ironically amidst all of the movement, a grounded, mindful state, which can facilitate problem solving and emotional processing. 

And, if I am extra blessed today, my dancing will serve up some ineffably wondrous moments of transcendence.  Those spacious moments of optimal experience or “flow,” researched exhaustively by genius/guru Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, that occur when we are fully engaged in something deeply challenging and meaningful to us.  These luminous experiences do everything from providing a full, lasting sense of pleasure to helping us expand the limits of the self.  (Check out his fascinating book, “FLOW” )

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Sure, 2014 has roared in, heaping difficulties, losses and a whopping dollop of anxiety on my path. Difficulties and anxiety that I have tried, largely unsuccessfully, to resolve during most of my waking hours… and, hey, far into what should be non-waking hours :).

But 5 minutes into the dance class, all of the problems and losses have fallen away. And, yes!  Amazingly, I am able to dance out the tension, frustration and grief, and for a few moments find that indescribable experience of the “still point” that T.S. Eliot so eloquently evoked:

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only dance.”

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When I leave class, sweaty and exhausted both mentally and physically, my mind is calm, my spirit refreshed and my heart generous.  Later in the day, answers come to me for some of the nagging issues.  Most important, I am in love with life.

What my dancing passion teaches me, over and over and over again, is the truth of Buddha wisdom: “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”

Madness?  Heck, no.  I call that living.

Here’s wishing you your fully-lived purpose.  I wonder what it is?

Photo credits: 3rd from top–Nikki Carrara; Bottom–Rich Davis (Pictured: Elm City Dance Collective)

 

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30 Days Of Astonishment: The Full Moon

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Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon;
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.”~Rumi

Day 4 on astonishment:

THE FULL MOON

I sat down at the computer just now, fully ready to write about another source of astonishment. And then the full moon dazzled me.  Luring me to herald her.

When I went out into the frigid night to get a closer lunar look, I was amazed at how much radiance bathed the landscape.  The moonglow’s gold actually made me feel warm and took my breath away with its beauty.  Astonishing.

I realize that sometimes I fail to appreciate sufficiently the glory of the moon.  Sure, I see her up in the night sky, and may even pause to soak in her luminousness.  But too often I rush off to the next thing.

Right now, she is off to port…casting her spell of enchantment.  Her mystical energy of the feminine, of eternity flow, to be drunk and savored.

She reminds me that all I have to do is take the time to expand my windows, fling them open up so I can revel in the countless wonders of this life.  Whether those right on my doorstep or beyond, the world offers up these astounding treasures to be seen, heard, savored, revered.

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And what astonishes you?

Instructions for

living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.” ~Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Days Of Astonishment: Being Cooked For

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“…cooking done with care is an act of love.”~Craig Claiborne

Day 3 on astonishment:

BEING COOKED FOR

After an intense dance class, I dragged myself home in the dark: a drenched, and sore, dishrag.  It was almost too much to take a shower.

And then, the magic!  My husband cooked a delicious dinner.

While the aromas of one of my favorite meals wafted alluringly through each room of the house, I started to feel a little more perky.  But nothing could have compared with the unforgettable experience of eating that lovingly cooked meal alongside my family.  I found myself grinning uncontrollably: with gratitude, with pleasure, with revivification.

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It may seem commonplace.  And yet, what could be more vitalizing than being fed, having one of our primal needs fulfilled by someone else’s thoughtfulness, effort, creativity? It really is astonishing to go from flat out exhausted and ravenous to energized and satiated due to someone else’s generosity….especially when the food is tasty, thereby also feeding our souls.

Whether the cook is someone we know or someone we’ll never meet, his or her gift of a meal is truly amazing–nourishing us, mind, body and soul.

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What astonishes you?

Instructions for

living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.” ~Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”

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