How Expansive Can You Be?

That was the challenge posed to us in dance class today.

Sure, it was directly in reference to performing the movement, which had such abundant possibility.  Just begging us to stretch our limits, or our perceived limits anyway.

Cover more space! Reach farther! Suspend longer!  Release more fully! Surprise yourself! The list went on and on in my mind as I accepted the challenge and trampled the constraints that I had unconsciously set for myself on the previous run-through.  It was a much fuller, more exciting and yes, fun, experience.

I so appreciate when this gifted and wise teacher shakes us out of our dusty assumptions, stale, rigid patterns, our “falling asleep” at the switch of examining unhelpful self-perceptions about what is possible.  So often, the possible is circumscribed by what’s been done before–by us or by others.

Yet, if we are truly alive to the moment, we can expand beyond the illusory safety, the illusory control, of the familiar and venture onto new frontiers.  This goes for dance class and every other physical activity, of course, but as you can readily appreciate, is also apt for living our lives.

So, with this gem of a teacher exhorting us once again to “never settle” I head out into the world, drenched in sweat, exhausted, exhilarated, inspired to take the practice of opening up to more possibility outside the studio. Wondering now: How expansive can I be?

Photos: Top and middle courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016, 2017


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Bliss Is Our Compass

Taking stock of a summer of creative projects so that I can determine how to move forward, I flounder.


Which step to take, in what direction?  It feels discouraging to scour the landscape for a path and find none.

Then, finally, thankfully, Joseph Campbell’s profound wisdom echoes over time and space to counsel again: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” 


Whenever we delve deeply into what’s meaningful to us, seeking to create and share something uniquely, genuinely ours, there is no path.  It can be lonely, daunting.  An enormous struggle requiring buckets of courage and tenacity.  (I wrote about Brian Wilson’s inspiring quest here.) Which is why we so often give up on offering the vision, the gift of our true selves.

As the sun sets on the day, I still don’t know how to proceed, and for at least one endeavor, am running out of time to prepare–or pull out.  A glow suddenly catches my peripheral vision–I thought it was a flashlight. I look out the window to see the luminous moon rising.  Moonglow bathing the neighborhood.

The scene, the generous radiance remind me not to shrink, but to keep seeking to expand. As does Campbell’s unforgettable anthem of expansiveness:

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living…
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”


Photos courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017; Sculpture: Gil Boro

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Dancing Is My Church: Life Lessons from Dancing


Dancing as prayer, as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship” or “as an earnest hope or wish.”

I’ve been offering my dancing as prayer for some time now, and have been keenly aware of this recently as I send the energy of my dancing to a friend who is in hospital with a serious health challenge. And, of course, to Houston. And to those I love…and those suffering or who need a boost. The list goes on.

So, today, I danced, and will keep on doing so, keep on worshipping in this way, for as long as I am able. Dancing is my church.

Photo: Sculpture-Gil Boro

Sirena Tales

When I read musician Sarah McLachlan’s words recently, that “music is my church…” I didn’t really need to read any further. I knew exactly what she meant. Because dancing is my church.

It took me awhile to realize fully what that means. For so long, dancing was viewed, and often dismissed, as a “hobby,” and worse, as “only a hobby.” Including by people I respected.

10599277_10154640613440383_4937845943007963405_n Photo credit: Rich Davis

My lifelong dance practice is still shrugged off as a mere “pastime” by some folks once they learn that I don’t have a regular teaching and performing gig.  Dancing is diminished in some eyes because it is pleasurable, physical and the opposite of lucrative.  For these people, the “fluff” of dancing is about as far from the gravitas of a place of worship as you can get.

I couldn’t help recalling this yesterday as I took class with many passionate…

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Everyday Magic: The Small Deeds of Ordinary Folk

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I’ve found.  It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”~J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s wise observation came to me this morning from the lovely Angie.

The first in the inexorable ripple of positive acts.  Or, perhaps the second, after Tolkien’s sharing his generous insight.

Or perhaps the third, fourth or thousandth, after the deeds that Tolkien observed, inspiring his words.

Or perhaps the zillionth, after countless individuals took it upon themselves to be kind, thoughtful, generous, patient, compassionate, self-sacrificing, loving.

Exhibiting all of the best and highest that humanity can be, and so often is.

Yesterday, at the stormy ocean, a surfer reached out a hand to a stranger caught in a riptide and carried her to shore, as lifeguards assisted a few others who were in danger of drifting out to sea.

Less heroically, perhaps, a man at the bottom of the stairs leading up from the beach sprang up from his seat to offer a hand in carrying heavy items to someone he didn’t know, but who was clearly struggling.  The kindness was in itself priceless…who’s to know if it may also have warded off an accident or other mishap?

Drivers on the hot, crowded road wave other travelers in, yielding to them rather than cutting them off.  The customer in front of me turns to hold the door and insists that I go before her when she sees me balancing items precariously.

The list goes on. And on…..

Even if scientific studies didn’t substantiate that kindnesses given to us boost our wellness, we can feel in our bodies and minds the relief or connection or warmth that flows through us when we have been treated with respect, courtesy, compassion.  We even feel  better when we witness kindness offered to others.

We know that we are more likely to pass on the positive juju if we have been its recipient.  And certainly more so than if we have been treated unkindly, thoughtlessly, cruelly.

What Tolkien’s paradigm does is place much responsibility for how things are in our world  squarely where it should be: right at our own feet and at those of our fellow humans.  Although the responsibility carries with it the requirement of effort, thought, and maybe sacrifice, that responsibility also carries with it much personal power.

And with that power, the amazing magic of inspiration, transformation…and hope.

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In The Middle Of Things: Dance!

(Sculpture: Gil Boro)

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.  Dance in the middle of the fighting.  Dance in your blood.  Dance when you’re perfectly free.”~Jalaluddin Rumi

“How cool and beautiful to have dance spring up in the middle of things!”  That was a comment of an audience member after we danced recently in a pop-up performance as part of a street event, amidst strollers and people dining outside and shopkeepers.

My sentiments, too.

After arranging and dancing in several such performances this summer, I am more convinced than ever of the magic and power of weaving dance and other art into everyday life.  Spreading creativity and beauty, especially in unexpected places, helps expand our perspective. And fire up those synapses that might be dulled by the mundane.

Whether dancing next to the Farmer’s Market or in a sculpture garden, on the sidewalks in front of to stores or on benches next to cafes and overlooking a stream, each performance has sparked something vibrant in viewers.  Surprise, delight, curiosity, humor, even their own spontaneous dancing–these reactions by viewers have illustrated the wisdom of Rumi’s exhortations.

Dance and art invite us to express our humanity in an infectiously constructive way.  Releasing grief or anger, sharing joy and excitement, amplifying expansiveness….and expressing the inimitable.  Channeling all of it in a flow of creativity, of positivity.

In each place where we’ve performed, dance energy nows resonates there…along with the exchanges we have had, golden threads we have woven with people we will never meet but with whom we have spun indestructible dialogues.

Who knows whence the threads will lead?  All I know is that they will lead to better, more radiant, more  vibrant things.   As Pina Bausch urged: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.”

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Why Let Go?


Letting go

of possessions, things, clearing the house, donating

invites spaciousness


Letting go

of rules, constraints, forms in writing

permits possibilities to pour forth…..

Letting go

of unhelpful habits, of self-sabotage and self-defeat

welcomes wellness, relaxing into growth….

Letting go

of unneeded tension and resistance

avoids injury, eases movement in dance class….

Letting go….

of the walls, the rigidity

all the clutter, the detritus, these rules, fears, hesitations, burdens?

Ahhhhhhhhhh, letting go

springs us forth into 

freshness, flexibility, expansion, renewal




Photos courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2016, 2017; Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds

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Yes! We ARE Artists

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost….”~Martha Graham

As we were dancing today in a pop-up performance, an older lady expressed appreciation of our dancing, commenting with knowledge of the art. When I asked if she were a dancer, she answered wistfully with that dreaded response, “Well, I WAS a dancer.”


I’ve written about, lamented, the “was a dancer” fallacy here.  Long story short: In my book, you are a dancer or painter or writer or musician or other artist or you’re not.  It’s not something that changes, like a hairstyle or an address.

So, yes, we gave her the “once a dancer, always a dancer” assurance. And were rewarded with her pulling a few dancerly moves…just to prove our point.

And now, this thought: What if all of us artists responded every time with a “Yes! I am a
dancer/musician/painter/actor/calligrapher/writer/other artist”?  No apology or qualification, no confession of how long it’s been since we last created, whether or how much we are paid, what critical acclaim we’ve received, pedigree we possess, commissions or jobs we’ve had.

Simply, YEEESSS!

What a more sparkly world it would be (wouldn’t it?) with countless proclaimed artists beating the drum!  And so, yes, yes indeed, here’s to all of the artists.

“…It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you…. No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” ~Martha Graham

Top photo: Courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017; Sculpture: Gil Boro

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