The gifted, generous choreographer and dancer Robert Battle was spurring us to dig deeper in performing the movement phrase he had just taught us. Although I took his classes years ago, I can still feel the thrill of hearing him urge that “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!”
The drama and sweep of that statement have galvanized me on more than a few occasions. But I confess that it took awhile for me to appreciate just how far-reaching the ramifications are for Mr. Battle’s fabulous advice.
I was reminded of this again yesterday as I was buying a book about dance at a lovely independent bookstore. When the young woman who had been helping me was ringing up the sale, she paused, and suddenly asked if I am a dancer? Yes! What kind of dance? Contemporary or modern.
Her face and energy immediately lit up as she shared that this is the kind of dance she used to do. For 16 years.
She explained how much she misses dancing; her longing was palpable. She told me how it’s been a struggle to find a way back, how tough it is to find other dancers and opportunities, how much her body yearns to get back to it.
My response? “DO IT!”
I suggested a couple of contacts for classes and performing, which she eagerly wrote down. As I headed out the door, I called to her that I would return to prod her (only half-jokingly :).
Yet another tale of forsaken passion. I don’t know about you, but my path is strewn with them. Shoot, I have even lived the tale when I chose the “safer” path of law school and lawyering over the riskier, yet for me richer, life of the artist. So many people living an eerily similar, cautionary, and often heartbreaking, story. It makes me want to hug my passions more closely, live them more fiercely…and certainly more gratefully.
Which gets me back to Robert Battle’s wise and wonderful words. Of course, when we are engaged in our passion, whether it be writing or dance or running or cooking or whatever, we need to aspire, give it everything we’ve got.
But as you know the heavy lifting doesn’t stop there. If we are fortunate enough to discover what makes us come alive, we also need to advocate fiercely, even to ourselves, especially to ourselves, for passion’s essential place in our lives.
We need to clear the decks, shift our schedules, ignore the naysayers, jettison our excuses, align our commitments with what makes our lives meaningful. And DIVE IN. To nurture and grow that passion. Relentlessly. Even if it means creating and cultivating opportunities to help our passions thrive.
So, of course: air, water, food, shelter. We all need these to survive. But to truly live our lives beyond a level of mere subsistence? To do that, we need to honor and foster our passion, inside and out and all around. Yessirree, we need to go after our passion as if our lives depend on it.
“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.”
― Charles Bukowski