Practice: Life Lessons from Dancing

“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire….”~Martha Graham


Photo credit: Nikki Carrara


Showtime. After years of work and floods of physical output, emotion, creativity and sweat, our new, evening-length dance piece premieres this weekend.

As a dancer, I think about “practice” a lot. Often, we think of it as involving repetition of actions or thoughts to attain proficiency. While that component of practice is, of course, crucial to dance and countless other endeavors, that isn’t the meaning I have been musing over lately.

I’ve been focusing on the deeper facet that Martha Graham depicts above. The part that entails tenacity, passion, and ultimately, a fuller understanding. Of whatever it is we are practicing, of ourselves and of something beyond ourselves.

I look back now over the years of rehearsals–the thousands of miles driven through all kinds of weather; the hours and hours of artistic exploration; the exhaustion, confusion, frustration and also the epiphanies, the camaraderie, the exhilaration and transcendence–and I realize how much I have garnered. About dance, creativity and artistry, of course.

But just as significant, if not more so, about honesty, constancy, perseverance and human connection. And as Graham so eloquently articulated, about vision, faith and desire.

This group of artists shares a passion for dance and a fierce commitment to the vision that art and dance are profoundly meaningful and important. We’ve lived that passion and vision week after week in long and taxing rehearsals, despite injury, serious physical illness, deaths of close family members, sickness, severe weather, and lengthy travel.

While I’ve noted before the spiritual aspect of dancing for me, I recognized awhile ago how much rehearsals with these folks have had an intensity that evokes faith. When I look up the definition of “devotion” in the dictionary, I am not surprised to read that devotion is “love, loyalty or enthusiasm for an activity or cause” that entails fidelity, care, and dedication.

So, as much as we will be performing a beautiful and challenging dance this weekend, the kinesthetic aspects of which we have practiced innumerable times, we will also be continuing what I consider to be a practice of devotion. Or, as the poet Rumi stated unforgettably, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

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27 Responses to Practice: Life Lessons from Dancing

  1. Val Boyko says:

    Good luck this weekend!
    These words are transformative and magical 🙂

  2. chiaink says:

    Beautiful Chloe, and break a leg!

    • SirenaTales says:

      So lovely to see you here, Chia. Thank you for your kind support. Hope all is well with you–I’ve missed your posts. xo

      • chiaink says:

        Thank you Chloe. I’m glad someone has missed them! I’ve just been so busy with moving out of my studio and other things that I haven’t had any time or energy for my art or blog but I will get back to it soon! Cheers xo

  3. So it comes back to the practice! Such an expansive term that offers so many paths to go down as you so wisely wrote about. And that your practice led you to devotion seems so right and perfect. Keep at it, my friend– moving forward with your heart guiding the way. (and have fun in the performances too!) xoxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      TT, Yes, PRACTICE! I have been mulling over this from before I commented on your cool post on training vs. practice, and finally got some thoughts on the page :). I agree with you, as always: “practice” can mean many different things to people. When I saw this Graham quote again, how my own “practice” works started becoming clearer. Thanks so much, my lovely friend, for your support. I cherish you and your companionship, and hope all is going well for you. Practice on ! xoxo

  4. Miranda Stone says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful, inspiring post, Chloe! Best of luck to you this weekend. I love the way you describe practice, faith, and devotion here. I feel like every time I pick up a pen to write, it’s an act of faith, an act of believing that I can create yet again. Hugs and love to you, my dear friend!

    • SirenaTales says:

      Ah, thank you, my friend. I will be thinking of you when I perform! Yes, I wholeheartedly agree–every time you pick up your pen, it is an act of faith, and courage. I am so glad you made this important point: the vehicle, e.g. writing, dance, gardening, walking, prayer, yoga, cooking, for the practice may vary from person to person, but the devotional intention is the same or fundamentally similar. I am so grateful for your constancy here, Miranda. Love to you

  5. kanzensakura says:

    I like this. I am going to use this for my devotional tomorrow. Faith, devotion, sweat, tears, joy, practice….I am inspired to practice life as you practice dance. My thoughts and cyber hugs will be with you and all this weekend. Break a leg!!! Fly girl, fly!

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, I am very touched by your comment, my friend. Thank you for that honor. If I may say so, your beautiful writing also reflects that deep care, dedication and love that connote faith. I will be thinking of your inspiring encouragement as I perform, and will aim to fly! xoxo

  6. Rachael Charmley says:

    Love the Martha Graham and Rumi quotes. You’ve picked such relevant and inspiring thoughts. I shall be thinking of you, and may you fly, which you will – beautifully, dear friend xx

    • SirenaTales says:

      Rachael, I am so pleased that you appreciate those quotes as they resonate deeply for me, too. And I shall be thinking of you, my lovely friend, as I dance this weekend. I am grateful for your kind wishes and support! xx

  7. Kellie Ann says:

    Well said my friend. I always appreciate your honesty – it’s a gift.

  8. F.G.M. says:

    “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – le sol, et le ciel, aussi, xxoo

  9. there couldn’t be a more fitting quote about devotion and creativity than the one you shared Chloe.
    ty for that, i hadn’t read that one before today. and now the time is near to show the world how to fly.
    i’ll be thinking of you this weekend sweet dancer, hope there are some video clips to share in the near future. Love and Hugs to you Chloe…L E A P !

    • SirenaTales says:

      MasterWho, Oh, I am so pleased that that quote resonates with you–yes, one of my faves, even written on the bathroom wall here :). As a reminder. Thank you so very much for all of your generous and ongoing support, my friend. Your company has been so important to me during much of this rehearsal process–I will be dancing with you in my heart! Thank you, thank you. Love to you

  10. Uzoma says:

    Showtime! Yes, I’m confident it went well ( it is yet to come?) Whatever we do and do well has a history of practice and ‘fierce’ (love your word choice) commitment. We should be happy with whatever is our passion.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, here’s to passion, Uzoma! Thank you so much–my shows begin tonight. I will be carrying your wonderful friendship with me as I dance. xoxo

  11. Eileen says:

    There is so much that simply sings for me in this, that I don’t know where to begin. The part about devotion really hit home. I lead a worship service this morning and one of the main points was that devotion is not a casual thing and that devotion connects us to that which is greater than us, yet inside us. That devotion transforms our practice.

    So excited to have read this post on this particular day. Hooray for you. For Martha Graham.
    For that which speaks to and through you, us, and the universe.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Good morning, Eileen. Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for offering your valuable insights. I am thrilled that this may have sung a positive, meaningful song for you. I am humbled by and grateful for your generous support. Shine on…xo

  12. Geo Sans says:

    small chat
    a friend on my hockey team
    is a cardiologist
    even doctors
    have been practising all their careers
    perfection is our cultural illusion

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