“There are 2 rules in life: Number 1-Never quit; Number 2-Never forget rule Number 1.”~ Duke Ellington
I am standing in the wings, waiting for my entrance. Exhilarated, nauseated, eager, terrified, joyful, trembling. Perhaps most important, I am resolute. I am DOING this.
The dance phrase I am waiting to perform is both simple and challenging: a sustained and stylized, queenly walk slowly down the diagonal from upstage right to downstage left. I will enter with my focus lifted and fixed on a light, unwavering, as if I am being drawn to it. My arms are low and pulled back, suggesting holding a cape, and my chest is thrust slightly forward. One dancer sits on the shoulders of another dancer and follows closely behind me, gently sprinkling “snow.”
It may seem pretty amazing that something as unadulterated and direct as this slow motion walk with a develope (unfolding) of the leg off the ground, can be so difficult, but it is. For me, anyway.
My feet are both cold from the air conditioning and sweaty from nerves, a veritable fleshly thunderstorm. The better to clump faux snow on the bottoms of my feet. The silky, floor length costume that has tripped me up on occasion in the past and the shakiness of my whole body (nerves, again :)) compound the challenge. Unlike the athletic, voluminous or quirky movement I am usually drawn to, this solo regal walk does not allow room to cover missteps. Nothing to do but keep going, no matter what.
Looking back on the performances two weeks ago and that long, long walk, I have realized how much that simple phrase captures my dancing life, and also provides a model for living life life. On this lifelong dancing quest, there have been many missteps, stumbles, long pauses, pitfalls, gaping question marks, as well as much pain and discomfort. There have been the endless hours of physical exertion and floods of sweat, the exhaustion, the striving, the rejections and other blows, the hours and hours of driving, the injuries, the self-doubt.
And also, of course, the sheer thrill, joy, satisfaction, gratitude, kinesthetic dialogues, self-awareness, transcendence and profound sense of being home when I dance. The key to all of this feast of experience, along with underlying passion and the essential help of certain supporters, has been perseverance. To keep going no matter what.
Once we realize what brings us alive, we need to set our sights on that, and move unswervingly in its direction. Sure, the focus of our passion may change, or we may need time and space to refuel. But ultimately, we must be relentless in our pursuit.
There have been so many dark moments, as recently as yesterday when the studio space fell through, and I wonder again if I can continue. Then someone inspires me. Like the woman written about in “O, The Oprah Magazine,” who followed her heart and went through med school in her 50s and is now a new M.D. at 59! And Tony Bennett who is still touring and performing internationally at 87! Because singing for audiences is something he “has to do.”
Or I try to envision not dancing (you can fill in the blank with your own soul’s sustenance) and it’s unimaginable. It looks like not breathing.
So, as long as I am blessed enough to be breathing, I am on a quest. Down this very long diagonal. Persisting.
I hope to look across life’s stage and see you there on your own passionate path. We need to do this, and the world needs us to do this. Andiamo! Let’s go!