Surprise Yourself: Life Lessons from Dancing

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”~Andre Gide

We are in heavy duty dance performance mode now. After months and months, and in some cases years, of rehearsal, we are performing the new work in a variety of venues–from the stage to the sidewalk.

Of course, this means both that we have practiced the movement countless times and that we need to continue to find ways to keep each performance of it fresh. To strike the balance between being very well rehearsed and also wholly in the moment of “live” performance.

Our choreographer-director reminded us at Sunday’s rehearsal that we have to persist in digging more deeply–within ourselves and among each other–to avoid complacency. How to do that?

There are the obvious, outward triggers, that will keep us on our toes, like performing in different venues and dancing in the full production with costumes, lights, visual design. But the tougher and true test is an inner one.

Essentially, I need to find ways to surprise myself. Yes, every time we perform. In reality, I should always be doing this–whether there is an audience or not. Delving more deeply into mind, body and soul helps me grow generally as an artist and specifically as a communicator of this dance we have worked on for so long.

To make each show truly “live” rather than mindlessly rote, I need to question continually my own status quo: can I pause longer here, and move closer to the edge there? What happens if I connect with a nearby dancer in this moment? How can I tap into my emotion to drive that adagio section? When can I make eye contact with audience members?  Which avenues have yet to be explored for me to embody and convey the vision for this dance and for me as an artist?….

Photo credit: Nikki Carrara

Photo credit: Nikki Carrara

During the studio showing on Sunday, I purposefully came a hair’s breadth away from a stationary dancer when I leaped across the floor and then swayed near him. I’ve never before been anywhere near that close, and the newness and riskiness kept my skin tingling for many minutes. I need to keep riding those electrifying moments of discovery….

As I was ruminating about how to keep each show “new,” I realized again how this is the same thing we do in life. At least, ideally. We continue to explore, discover, take risks, try new things or just a new way of doing the “old” things, fail, move on, develop another part of ourselves.

Sure, there are times when we just need the comfort of the familiar. But to keep ourselves truly alive, we need to investigate whether today we intentionally choose the usual morning routine, same route to work, regular leisure activities, meals, friends, language, scenery, inner dialogue.

What if I try this new-to-me food, schedule, path, activity, worldview, self-image? What happens if I shake up even one teeny tiny thing?

Just as a fundamental test of a performer is how much and how well she can step outside of the known, a threshold question for each of us pioneers is how many frontiers we can trek in the lives of our minds, bodies and souls. Not in a destructive way, but in a vibrant and even playful way.

I’d like to say that I am really good at this. But I’d be lyin’. I still have so far to go. Leaving the sight of familiar shores can be scary. But thrilling as all get-out.

Here’s to discovering new oceans…..




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27 Responses to Surprise Yourself: Life Lessons from Dancing

  1. Miranda Stone says:

    Such wisdom in your lovely words, Chloe! I was reading them and thinking how much they can also apply to writing–I, too, experience that skin tingling sensation when I step out of my comfort zone and try something new with my work. But like you, I find that making those kinds of changes, and venturing into the unknown, is easier said than done. It’s something to strive for, at least! I hope all is well with you, dear friend. Love and hugs!

    • SirenaTales says:

      Thank you, my eloquent friend, for sharing your experience. And for your generous encouragement–you always hearten me! Here’s to many more skin tingling moments. Love to you

  2. stacilys says:

    Awesome Chloe. I’m all for change and adventure. I see and embrace change as something positive. In part, it’s quite romantic. Always good to be pushed out of our comfort zones. Even though it may be unnerving delving into the unknown:-)

    • SirenaTales says:

      Your life certainly attests to your embracing adventure, Staci. How refreshing and inspiring your openness is! I love how you view change as “romantic.” Hadn’t thought of it in precisely those terms before, but yes, I agree. I so appreciate your gracing my blog with your presence. Xo

  3. j.h. white says:

    Wonderful Chloe! Artistic discipline, collaborative fine-tuning, presence … blossoming in performance. I anticipate this bouquet of experience morphing into your solo choreography…xxoo

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, Jana, your very thoughtful and poetic comment has touched me deeply. First, by your recognizing all of these buds getting ready to blossom. And also for tying that bouquet in a hopeful way to my solo. I am so grateful to you for remembering that bumpy path I’ve been on…truly. Thank you for your friendship and sensitivity. Xo

  4. Uzoma says:

    First, what an inspiring quote. And then, an even more inspiring post!

    We, humans, want to stay and operate within what’s familiar. But to explore new grounds makes one learn more and understand life and different ways we can put our talents to use. We shouldn’t be defined by our limitations.

    I am always encouraged by your zeal and continuous enthusiam as you engage in various dance classes and shows.

    • SirenaTales says:

      My dear Uzoma, Your kind words make me blush :). Thank you so much for your support and your wonderful observations. Speaking of forging new ground, I recall reading your comment that you seek to get into production of “soaps” on TV. I wonder how that is going? I hope well, my friend. I am so very pleased that this piece resonated with you. Shine on….xo

  5. Rachael Charmley says:

    Ah Chloe. What you say mirrors the creative process for yours truly. Yes, it is scary; and yes (what an apt quote), Gide is spot on. Keep on trucking 🙂

  6. BeWithUs says:

    A Big CHEERS to that courage, my friend!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

  7. Val Boyko says:

    Love your energy and spirit Chloe! Val x

  8. ST- how cool to share your performance mode experiences which translate so smoothly into everyday life. This idea of going deeper is one that continues to show itself in my life lately as the best response to complacency, or boredom & to keep it feeling alive. I hope your shows are feeling fresh for you. And that you are enjoying the ride. Xoxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      TT, Thanks so much for sharing your insights–wise, as always. And deep gratitude for your good wishes and continued friendship. They mean so much. xoxo

      • ST, I couldn’t help but think of you this eve– the MDNA tour came on my tv and while I’m not a huge fan of Madonna, I was intrigued by how she has redone all her famous hits. She’s completely reinvented her songs & kept them alive. It reminded me of you and your performance mode. Of course these songs are up to 20 years old, but the idea is the same…Not sure if you have cable, but her concert is running right now. It’s interesting to see how she has reinvigorated her music…her art. xoxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      I am touched that you thought of me, TT! I’ll look forward to checking out the concert–thanks so much for the tip. (I, of course, will remember firsthand the 20 year old versions :)). My impression of Madonna is that she is a master of transformation and adaptation, which have helped her stay in a very tough game for a very long time. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and inspiration. xoxo

  9. Chloe, each time you write directly about your dance and provide a pic,
    the word that instantly and continually comes to mind is L E A P !

  10. willowmarie says:

    This past week has been full of unexpected change….some I danced well, some not. This piece has given me a piece of shoreline to walk as I reflect on it all. Happy Easter Chloe and thank you.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, Willow, I am touched and honored that I may have helped in any way, although it’s hard for me to believe that you in your wisdom and generosity didn’t “dance” well. Sending you all good wishes, my friend. Happy Easter, Happy Dancing….xoxo

  11. Kellie Ann says:

    It’s an ongoing process, an evolution. It’s beautiful to witness these moments in the studio. Thank you for pushing yourself.

    • SirenaTales says:

      So true, Kellie. I feel the challenge, both in the studio and beyond, is to stay in the flow, the process, and not to stagnate. It does feel, to me anyway, as if the stagnation occurs more and more frequently as one gets older (and one is increasingly surrounded by contemporaries who just stop moving, stop growing). Thank you for your inspiration! xo

  12. SirenaTales says:

    Reblogged this on Sirena Tales and commented:

    Surprising myself a good deal this past week and ruminating about how refreshing and, yes, scary and, absolutely, wholly essential this is. More on this soon….

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