How do we hold onto our integrity? What do we choose to give up when we can’t “have it all?”
That’s what yesterday’s fabulous and challenging dance class raised for me.
The questions came up as I stood on the side of the studio, awaiting my group’s turn to perform a lengthy phrase of complex choreography, done at a very quick tempo. It’s always helpful and often inspiring to observe the choices other dancers make. We can follow each other’s leads or note what to avoid when we take the floor.
As the movement phrase was both highly athletic and fast, I was curious to see how other artists were navigating the movement to keep up with the crazy pace. What I observed were several different patterns: Some cut back on the range of their movement. The result was either less fluidity or smaller dancing.
Others dropped certain details. Dancing the phrase with less richness. Still others executed the movement more expansively, but fell behind in tempo. Many were rendered frantic by the challenge.
The ideal, of course, was to keep apace while moving as fully and articulately as possible. Numerous dancers achieved this at least for a bit, and then needed to compromise something.
As I watched the dancers perform valiantly and beautifully, I was reminded that as much as we might like, sometimes we simply cannot do or achieve what we seek to do. Whether as artists or as human beings.
There just isn’t sufficient time or energy or mental focus or quickness or dexterity. Sometimes we simply have to drop something. Including hopes and expectations.
The experience underscored the importance of figuring out what is important, and then living those values as fully as we can. So that the concessions we make, whether tiny or huge, don’t threaten the overall cohesion of who we are at our core.
Sure, whether we omit a small detail in a dance class when details matter a lot to us or we snap at someone we care about when we are overcommitted may not break the bank on our personal vision. Yet, as we know, each of those little choices adds up. And if we are not vigilant, who we are or what we create fundamentally shifts through accretion.
What I witnessed in dance class were as many variations of the basic dance phrase as there were dancers. Some created phrases that were stiffer and more cautious. Some performed a phrase that was more spacious and luxurious…and slower.
Whatever the product, each dancer made a statement. Just as we make statements countless times a day. About who we are and what brings our lives meaning. A shortcut here and a divergence there, and you have a whole different “dance.”
We get this glorious opportunity to stamp our souls on the universe. What’ll it be?
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.” ~Joseph Campbell
“What do you stand for?”~Pina Bausch
Photo credit-Top: Nikki Carrara