RELENTLESS: Life Lessons from Dancing

Photo credit: Essennelle Studios

Photo credit: Essennelle Studios

“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!


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56 Responses to RELENTLESS: Life Lessons from Dancing

  1. M. Zane McClellan says:

    I can certainly identify with this. I am just getting back to writing and attempting to make a living from it. It’s a journey. Lovely post, Sirena. Thank you.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yay, you! Thank you for sharing your experience and insight, Zane, as well as your kind support and the beauty of your writing. Here’s to following one’s passion! Bon voyage and best wishes to you….

  2. F.G.M. says:

    Uplifting post Sirena, thank you and lots of love from inspiring Kew gardens, London, xxoo

    • F.G.M. says:

      I will comment more when I am at home 🙂 xxoo

    • SirenaTales says:

      How lovely to receive your kind words along with the gorgeous energy of Kew Gardens, Frederic! Merci pour tout de tes cadeaux merveilleux. I hope your visit has brought you much joy and inspiration….xoxo

      • F.G.M. says:

        Maintenant je suis à la maison, et it’s easier to write with my computer than with phone! The positive energy and the passion for dance you share with us trough this post are amazing. The way you tell us your performance is just thrilling. I love the lines: “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.” because I can feel exactly what you felt at that moment. Et cette déclaration d’amour à la danse: “And also, of course, the sheer thrill, joy, satisfaction, gratitude, kinesthetic dialogues, self-awareness, transcendence and profound sense of being home when I dance”, wow, Sirena, what beautiful words! Kinesthetic dialogues, self awareness, transcendence and profound sens of being home. C’est merveilleux de trouver ainsi des mots si forts pour nous faire comprendre le BONHEUR que représente pour toi la danse.
        And, last but not least: “So, as long as I am blessed enough to be breathing, I am on a quest. Down this very long diagonal. Persisting.”. I do love these words. Maybe far we all are on a quest. And we know what we are looking for, thanks poetry, dance, arts etc… in a way, it’s such a blessing! Oh, and I realize reading the comment Miranda that she calls you Chloe – is it your first name? Should I say “oh Sirena” or “oh Chloe” each time I read a post from you 🙂 🙂 Je voudrais encore te remercier pour avoir partager avec tes lecteurs d’une façon aussi VIVANTE cette expérience. Merci à toi chère Chloe/Sirena, avec toute mon affection, take care! Frédéric

      • SirenaTales says:

        Merci pour tes mots extraordinaire, mon ami généreux. I received this thrilling comment last night on my way to bed, Frederic, and it has touched me deeply. You also helped fuel my resolve to attend a new workshop this morning, a long distance away, that I had been trepidatious about. I am so pleased that I was able to convey my experience well enough for you to be able to share in it, my eloquent (in TWO languages) friend. Yes, we are all on a quest…I am deeply grateful that yours and mine have intertwined. Thank you, thank you plus que je peux dire. xxo p.s. Either Sirena or Chloe is fine–yout choice. Thank you for asking…..

  3. Wonderful post. I’m sure it was a fabulous experience. 🙂

  4. In the Stillness of Willow Hill says:

    I try to envision not spending time in the glories of nature…..but it is unimaginable. Your dance reminds me of the regal evening rituals of deer in Yosemite who move trancelike through meadows and forests to destinations unknown….before the coming of moonlight.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, I can well understand from your glorious posts how unimaginable ‘twould be for you to be torn away from nature. What a stunning image you have left me, my friend, with these regal deer, trances, and unknown destinations “before the coming of moonlight.” Such poetry of your words to accompany that breathtaking vision! I am printing out your comment to keep by me. I am grateful to you. Xoxo

  5. Pam says:

    thank you for the encouragement, Chloe. I have work to do, too, and need to get into the studio and just do it… I love being on the path with you!

    • SirenaTales says:

      So lovely to have you here, Pam. I am delighted that this may have resonated with you. Thank you for your support and inspiring work, my friend. Now off to the studio for both of us! xo

  6. j.h. white says:

    A moving post Chloe…. (I think I made a pun !)
    I can imagine how trepidatious that walk must have been. It gives me shivers thinking about it but you look poised and lovely in the picture. Bravo for continuing to challenge yourself and follow your passion.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Why, thank you so much for the kudos and encouragement, Jana. They are much appreciated….buoys to help me see the path and stay afloat. I am grateful for your continued support and friendship. xxoo

  7. Miranda Stone says:

    This is incredibly inspirational, dear Chloe! Lately I feel as though I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut with my writing, and I know I need to get back to it. As I read your lovely words, I can’t help but admire your bravery, the way you march ahead even in the face of fear. It reminds me of a quote by Katherine Hepburn that I just love: “Everyone thought I was bold and fearless, and even arrogant… but inwardly I was always quaking… I’ve never cared about how afraid I may have been inside–I’ve always done what I thought I should.” Hope you had a lovely weekend, my friend!

    • F.G.M. says:

      Miranda always finds the perfect words 🙂

      • F.G.M. says:

        And the perfect reference: Audrey Hepburn’s wonderful soul!

      • SirenaTales says:

        D’accord, Frederic…et toi aussi, mon ami. Thank you so much for your generosity. xxo

      • Miranda Stone says:

        You’re too kind, Frederic! And not always do I find the perfect words. Some days it seems like I have to save up all my decent sentences for my writing, and what’s left for me to use in speech and other writing is a jumbled mess! 😛

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, I LOVE that quote, Miranda! It is wholly apt and inspiring–so much so that I am going to write it on my bathroom Walls of Inspiration. The constant inward quaking: a familiar situation. I am thrilled that this may have inspired you somehow, although your work certainly seems not to lack any spark. I am more grateful than I can express for your stalwart support, my friend: ruts, quaking, bravery (faux and otherwise) all seem more conceivable with you on board…love to you

  8. Sue Vincent says:

    Just beautiful…

  9. Wonderful to read about your concert experience – and inspiring!

  10. Rachael Charmley says:

    I fear it’s all been said. Chloe. I loved this. Utterly inspirational, and a piece to go back to when the going gets tough. Thank you, dear friend for sharing this with us. xx

    • SirenaTales says:

      Ah, such strong encouragement and appreciation coming from you, Rachael, is music to my ears! So pleased this resonated. Thank you, my lovely friend. xxo

  11. stacilys says:

    Awesome post Chloe. I love the idea of not giving up and remaining persistent and perseverant.
    “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.”
    –I love this. It has actually inspired me for a poem I want to do off of a picture prompt I received today. Wow.
    I love the word “tenacity”. I even did a poem/post of it once. This post makes me think of that word.

    • SirenaTales says:

      What a wonderful thing to hear, Staci–inspiring another artist is a marvelous reward! I am grateful for your support and look forward to reading your poem. Here’s to tenacity! xxo p.s. FYI, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I tried to visit your blog several times yesterday and could not get on it. I have been at workshop far from here today, and so will try your blog again tomorrow.

      • stacilys says:

        Oh yes, this line – and the message of this post – has inspired me. I ended up going in a different direction with the poem, “No thanks to media”, but I have another poem in the making with this. It will be posted soon. Probably next week. I’ll let you know.

        Hmmmm, interesting. You haven’t been able to enter my blog? That is strange indeed. We’re you trying from the Reader? I’ve had problems getting into other blogger’s blogs at times through the Reader.


  12. Uzoma says:

    Great post, Sirena. I always find your stories very encouraging. And your enthusiasm and passion never seem to wane.

    Beautiful photo, too.

    Pls forgive the brief nature of my comment.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Your lovely support and presence always lift my spirits, Uzoma. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving me this wonderful comment. Hope all is well with you. xxo

  13. t h i n g s + f l e s h says:

    ” … I try to envision not dancing … It looks like not breathing.” This leaves me breathless. xo tony

  14. You know I get it. *grin*

    What really gets me (in a wonderful way) is how deceivingly easy the slow, simpler moves are. Singing’s that way. Takes real talent to pull off a slow song bc you can’t hide behind the rush of rollercoaster rhythms. The prolonged note you have to draw out lays bare what you got – or don’t got. Thinking aloud, this is a very interesting reality because yoga and tai chi (the latter esp) are profoundly difficult for their slowness and simplicity.. The photo is just beautiful, Chloe. Loved the post.


    • SirenaTales says:

      Wow, Diana, I am touched that you’ve circled back to read this piece…and, of course, leave your usual insightful comment. Yes, isn’t it crazy and ironic that the slow and simple can often be the most challenging (and under-appreciated)? Thanks so much for contributing those terrific examples in singing, yoga and tai chi–so apt and illustrative. I would also like to reiterate my gratitude to you for inspiring me work through this post via the discussion of your piece about the economics, politics and process for making art. Always an honor and treasure to have you visit, my friend. xoxo p.s.

    • SirenaTales says:

      oops…p.s. hope your visit here means you have dug yourself out from under the pile:)….

  15. willowmarie says:

    This is such a insightful piece Chloe. We DO need to “realize what brings us alive”. Allowing and welcoming it comes next. You’ve done both and shared them. Thank you. xo

  16. I pray your persistence rewards you with what you desire! Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed one of my posts. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

  17. SirenaTales says:

    Reblogged this on Sirena Tales and commented:

    Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

    “Are you doing your work?”…as the late warrior, poet, activist, priestess Audre Lord used to ask her audiences. Here’s hoping you are on the path, your path. May it be showered with lovely, heady spring blossoms…..

  18. Rachael says:

    Wonderful. “Feels like not breathing”. Thank you, Chloe, I know this 🙂 xxx

  19. Eileen says:

    the sense of coming home! Yes….that is what it is all about. Lovely post……lifts my spirit…..encourages me to recover that sense of coming home ……you dance to express your own spirit, but you write for ours, thank you.

    • SirenaTales says:

      And thank YOU very much for lifting my spirits with your lovely, heartening comment, Eileen. It means so much to hear that this piece resonated. I haven’t been blogging much at all lately–and have been on the verge of pulling the plug. Now, I’m not so sure. Thank you. Hope you have indeed recovered “that sense of coming home,” as you’ve so eloquently put it. Shine on, my indomitable friend!

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