Adele Myers, the generous, fiery and and oh-so-talented choreographer, gave me that image when we were discussing why we dance and how we can sustain a high level of intensity in our dancing. She likened it to untamed horses thundering through the wilderness. They run because they have to.
That vivid, apt image has stayed with me. I’m asked often how I keep it up, feeding this insatiable desire to dance. Especially in my 50s. I’m talking highly physical, intense dancing.
And my response is: Because I have to. I NEED to. Like I need to breathe. It’s some natural force.
It’s what’s fueled my travelling hither and yon, day after day, mile after mile to get to class and rehearsal and performance and workshop. There’s no doubt that my tenacity (or insanity–you pick!) has been rewarded and fed by the generous support of many, many gifted artists.
I also think this natural hunger has been intensified by my having taken a different path, sidelining the dancing while I went to law school and worked as an attorney–a laudable endeavor, just not my passion.
When you’ve shrunk your dancing, when you’ve neglected or starved her and made her very small in your life, you cling to her more desperately if you’re blessed enough to bring her back. You know how dark the days can be, indeed, without her magic.
Which is why my current circumstance is both puzzling and terrifying. Because in the past couple of months, the wild horses have slowed at times. SAY WHATTTT!! Even started just to gambol. GET A MOVE ONNNNN! Or merely graze. Gulp.
Sometimes I’ve feared they may even vanish over the horizon. Or the ground may dissolve beneath them, like it’s seemed to be doing to me.
If I’ve defined myself, or defined what’s profoundly meaningful to me, for as long as I can remember in terms of this passion for dancing, and the passion becomes diluted, what does that mean?
The facile observation is, of course, that I’m getting old. Sure, there may be a bit of that. The pain, the limitations, the faster trip to fatigue and sucking wind. (But there are things I can do now that I couldn’t when I was 20, dude.)
So, I’ve been extra aware when I’ve danced lately. Do I still love it, I keep asking myself trepidatiously? Oh, yeah baby. When I dance, I’m euphoric. Still enthralled. The mustangs still roar by.
What’s changed, I think, is that rather than being diluted, my dancing has been distilled. Instead of dancing everywhere and every time kind of unintentionally or because I thought I needed to hustle, I now seek to dance more on my own terms. Including that I don’t want to dance at any cost anymore.
I do believe that age is starting to give me a broader perspective. One through which I might ask myself occasionally whether I want to jump in the car first thing in the morning, race a long distance to class, and then rush back home again. Exhausted. Even if the class is wonderful. Even if this class could change my life, be THE one.
Maybe it’s ok not to sometimes. Maybe I can write or cook and then take a fun Zumba class 5 minutes from home (still gotta dance). And go to class next time.
As I’ve been writing this I recall more clearly the context of the conversation with Adele. Sustainability. Ah, yes. How interesting that I blocked that….
Because the other revelation I’ve had is that as massive as my passion might be, it’s not unassailable. I now realize that the seemingly endless struggle involved just to get to dance has taken its toll. I’ve been careless. I guess I need to be a wee bit more protective of this gift I’ve been given.
As troubling as this unfamiliar, more balanced approach has been, I now see that loosening the ropes of fanaticism has also given me freer rein to explore other creative outlets.
These other creative experiences in turn take some of the pressure off the dancing to be everything. Giving dancing a chance to breathe.
The herd of wild horses vanishing? Heck, no. I can actually see the herd more clearly now. And wouldn’t you know, there’s actually more than one herd. And you can run with all of them.