As much as I wanted to attend, I almost didn’t get myself to a recent hip hop class with some renowned master artists. ‘Didn’t think my temperamental, 58-year-old joints and tetchy ego could handle it.
Then I found myself offering advice, perhaps a bit sanctimoniously, to my son about the profound importance of being open and having dialogues with people, whether through music, words, dance or otherwise. That creating and walking across those bridges is essential to vibrancy–for each of us and for the universe.
I suddenly realized that unless I wanted to be a total hypocrite, I would need to vacate my cozy comfort zone and hustle on over to class. More important, if I stayed home, I would miss out on the abundant possibility that the class offered for the very dialogue I had been advocating.
When I arrived, I alerted the teachers that I might need to sit out if my body (er, ego?) couldn’t handle the cool, challenging movement I know hip hop entails. I also said that even if I had to bow out of the dancing, I at least wanted to learn by observing. Like every other wise teacher, these artists reassured me to take care of my own body.
But I did not sideline myself.
Sure, I needed to stretch and mark things pretty minimally at times, especially when there were numerous repetitions. And while I was able to do some moves pretty well, let’s just say that no one will be asking me anytime soon, or ever, to perform in a hip hop concert :).
That wasn’t the point, though. The point I was able to keep my eye, and my ego, on, for once, was to have a conversation, albeit in a movement language in which I am a beginner. Like any beginner, I am neither comfortable nor articulate in hip hop yet.
As I tell dancers who take my contemporary class for the first time, it’s like being a native French speaker and being thrown into a detailed conversation in Italian–or Japanese. Yes, there may be some familiar signposts and others completely unintelligible, at first anyway.
Does that mean we don’t try to speak other languages, and share previously foreign experiences. I say “no!” And yet we have to let go of that darned, thickly-upholstered and somnolent comfort zone, rousing ourselves to be courageous enough to be visible and vulnerable. Scary? Absolutely! Gratifying and expansive? Heck, yeah.
After class, all of the master artists voiced tremendous gratitude for how open we were, how good it felt to experience how much we wanted to learn and have a dialogue. No surprise there. We all want to be heard; we all want to be seen for who we are when we open up and share something meaningful, even if we appear to be tough or insouciant.
I was especially stoked that I hung in there after one of the artists noted appreciatively that I had done the whole class even though I had expressed reservations in the beginning. Reminder to self: How we carry ourselves in the world matters.
Synchronistically, that night I started to read Dr. Brené Brown’s fabulous new book, “Rising Strong.” She details beautifully how we can, and need to, pick ourselves up after we inevitably fall–especially if we are living the wholehearted life that requires our showing up and being vulnerable, time and again. Like her:
“…I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time….” (p. 4)
Showing up and having dialogues with people we don’t know, in languages we speak only brokenly, can be “vulnerability central.” We can appear clumsy, ignorant, slow, powerless. But for my buck, that “show,” bursting with humanity, connection, curiosity, and possibility, is the greatest show of all.