The Struggle is Real…be a loser!
My oldest son is writing his first book. This book is one of many that have been inside of him for a very long time. He is nearing the end of his first draft, but it has been a battle. I have watched the process from afar and have thought how much it is like giving birth at times when we create. Sometimes it just flows and emerges with minimal battle scars. At other times, it is long, drawn out, and painful and there are many scars. It is the same for probably most creations.
Good choreography is like this. I have created amazing choreography in 3 hours. Other times it has been weeks, months, or years of percolating. I recently created 12 mini choreographies in 12-14 weeks back-to-back for my students. All different styles, regions, languages. I used Modern dance, theatrical dance, ‘belly’ dance, jazz and had no problem. It felt amazing and wonderful and empowering when that flow happened. Each week I thought would be the week where the particular student would say I missed the mark. Each week…success! And let me tell you that they did not pull their punches and take it easy on me. Hungarian, Estonian pop (Yikes!!), Sri Lankan, The Tea Party (which I don’t know how to describe), and good old school traditional music. That was an experience.
This was immediately followed by the discoveries of the babies at the locations of residential programs. I refuse to call them schools. It was a gut punch. They continue to find more bodies. These were weeks full of pain and sorrow. My heart literally ached. On my mother’s side there is a mix of many nations one of them is the Boricua peoples of our island. I cannot express in words how this feels yet I am a privileged person. I can pass.
I felt compelled to create a dance in order to deal with the powerful pain I felt from the nations. It was cathartic but oh so painful. It is a good dance but most likely will never see the light of day. There was one portion one night which I couldn’t get through and I quite literally broke down in front of my students while trying to teach them the steps. I am blessed with amazing students that follow me on my wild dance journeys where I step off the beaten path. These same students showed me such compassion and kindness that night. My professionalism took a beating, but my humanity was uplifted.
You know, there are times in your life when you must figure out who you are all over again. Your old identity, your old labels, your old purposes have gone by the wayside, and you have to figure it all out all over again. This also happens in your dance journey. You sit there and don’t know who you are as a dancer, as a person. You want to be honest in your dance, but you don’t have that truth to hold on to and guide you. So, what happens? You begin to freeze. It is a necessary but crappy place to be. It is painful, it is scary, and it hurts. And this is where I am right now after so much success, struggling with figuring out what style, what costume, what do I want to share with the audience. More importantly, who the hell am I now? As I said, it is a very uncomfortable place to be in as an artist.
So, what do you do when faced with that blanket of fog instead of that creative space you usually inhabit? My son, the one struggling and fighting it out with his book, reminded me of the answer. We were messaging back and forth, and he shared this song with me that he is using for his motivation. I love it. It is called ‘Such a Loser’ by Garfunkel and Oates. You will understand when you hear the words. Here is the link:
So, I will put one foot in front of the other and am going to reach for something greater and if I fail, I will fail spectacularly.
“It is better to be a loser than a spectator”
-Garfunkel and Oates-
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Karen Elizabeth aka Na'ema of Aaliyah Dance
I began oriental dance when I was 15. I love everything about it. It made me who I am today.