Vulnerability: Life Lessons from Dance

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”–Criss Jami**

Every time we perform dance in front of an audience, we make ourselves vulnerable.  I know this full well from experience, but it was still a revelation to hear this truism recently from the gifted teacher I’ve been training with.

Soon after her comment, I was living the vulnerability repeatedly in rehearsal, in class and onstage, in front of my talented peers or my mentor in rehearsal or a concert audience.  Before going on each time, I feasted on some version of the familiar, tumultuous stew of fear (or terror), nausea, trembling, uncertainty, dread, coaxing, and, ultimately, commitment.

FLOAT--blk & wh, high release(RD)

Photo credit: Rich Davis

I wish I could get to that last part–the commitment part–with less of the other stuff :).  But I realize in writing this that at least I am more frequently, and sometimes even joyfully, reaching the point where I am “all in” on revealing myself when I dance.

Because, of course, we can hold back when we perform, just as we so often do in life.   The point, or my job, is not to hold back.  Rather it is to put everything I’ve got out there in my dancing.  Sure, the hard work, skill, passion, artistry.  But also the weaknesses, mistakes, uncertainty, flaws…and heart.

Paradoxically, this opening up can be terrifying, liberating and thrilling at the same time.    It’s being fully alive.

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Photo credit: Essennelle Studios

I realize now that this practice in being vulnerable is a main reason why I am so hooked on dancing.  Because it invites me to engage regularly in what one needs to do to live a vibrant life: to commit to an ongoing process of opening up and, ideally, growing.  As Brene Brown so sagely observed, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”  Dig those ingredients of vitality!

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Photo credit: Joe Sills

And, perhaps because we pioneer into our own frontiers of possibility when we reveal ourselves, we engage in the ineffable (yes, that is one of my all-time fave words and experiences:)). Or,   as Theodore Roethke put it, “[t]hose who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.”  Yeah, baby.

**Special thanks to the lovely sorceress Angie at http://www.amagicd.blogspot.com for bringing to my attention these inspiring quotes.

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23 Responses to Vulnerability: Life Lessons from Dance

  1. kanzensakura says:

    What beauty and passion – what an incredible way to live.

  2. ST: I’m prancing along right with you on this vulnerability practice. It is such an inspiration to read about your experience in the performance arena that you’ve so eloquently captured here, on your blog…which by the way is looking pretty snappy in it’s new outfit of holiday design! LOVE the photos as well xoxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      Dear TT, Yay! So wonderful to have your inspiring companionship, my friend. Thank you for sharing your big heart and copious honesty, in general and specifically on the vulnerability path. And thanks for the kind comment on the blog’s new look for the season–wasn’t sure if it would throw people off with the change. xoxo

  3. fictionfitz says:

    To me your thoughts and those of others could as easily be about writing. Perhaps the vulnerable alive part is about creativity?

    1963 Times Lit. Suppl. 15 Feb. 112/3 The care of vulnerable groups is one indication of a country’s degree of civilization… One especially vulnerable group, handicapped children, has never been as well cared for as now.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, I agree about the applicability to writing, as well as to other endeavors that are creative or otherwise (deeply) meaningful to the person creating or initiating. I do feel that the added wrinkle with dance involves both the exposure of the body/physicality, which for many is additionally charged emotionally, as well as the immediacy of the response by an audience. They are right there, in person. But it is only a permutation of the basic concept of revealing to the world who we are, as you aptly note. Thanks very much for you thoughtful input, including the note and link to the article about disabled children’s vulnerability. Best wishes to you….

  4. chiaink says:

    To be vulnerable is to share in both the frailty and strength of being human, for it evokes a strong empathic response in others, bringing out the best in us.

  5. kanzensakura says:

    You’ve been nominated for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award – go to my site http://kanzensakura.wordpress.com for info! Congratulations – it was my pleasure.

  6. Pam says:

    truth always rises…and it does here

  7. willowmarie says:

    This rings true, VERY true. Every time we dance we’re vulnerable and I think others sense it, maybe it’s part of what gives dance the power it has to touch so deeply…a kind of soul community. Thank u for this my friend.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Ha! Yes, of course you are right, but hadn’t thought of dance in this insightful way, WillowMarie. I am deeply grateful to you for sharing your wisdom here, my friend. Shine on!

  8. Ann Koplow says:

    Yeah, baby, for this post! I love your writing and learn from you, each time I read.

  9. Uzoma says:

    My! You’ve opened my eyes to a truth about creativity. Truly, everytime we unveil our art to our audience we make ourselves vulnerable. We are trying to showcase the best of us while at the same time also trying to avoid any slip.

    Great quotes, Chloe. Apt for this post.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Thank you, as always, for your insight and support, Uzo. So pleased to hear this resonated with you. Yes, I think this willingness to be vulnerable is a main reason why I view artists as heroic, as they/we time and again open ourselves up with our art. Cheers, my friend.

  10. Kev says:

    Must be great to be able to dance…and in front of an audience. That’s talent! Although I cannot dance myself, never had lessons either…I do love watching others and sometimes fantasize about it. Funny you should see it as a vulnerability…well, yeah, I feel vulnerable when I’m at a party doing a little jingle…but I didn’t think of someone who could actually do it as feeling that way…but I guess your right, I just never saw it from that perspective before. Good article, insightful Thanks. 🙂

    • SirenaTales says:

      Thank you for visiting and sharing your experience, Kev. I so appreciate your time. Well, I do believe that when we create art, create something meaningful to ourselves we do open ourselves up and thereby become vulnerable. Dancing in particular also invites scrutiny of our physicality, which I feel can heighten the sense of vulnerability. Again, I am grateful to hear your views! Happy 2014.

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