Dancer rehab through the years
During my early years of training, and owning my first studio in Boston in the mid seventies, I learned about what happens to people when professional dance chews them up and spits them out.
Professional dance is made up of years of striving and struggling, conforming one’s body to other people’s movement vocabulary, always comparing oneself to others, always competing to become the perfect snowflake in someone else’s dream, the most badass bad girl in someone else’s drama, the most plastic ballroom dancer, or the most pulsating unclothed salsa dancer. In many cases, the price of a role has been sleeping with the choreographer, sometimes others in the company, and doing drugs.
For dancers who start young, many will face the heartbreak of their body’s development, height, weight, and shape, precluding them from their chosen goal in dance.
Even if some success is attained, it is never enough.
As Mary Baker Eddy said in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.536, when referring to the dualistic fulfillments of mortal life, “Their supposed joys are cheats. Their narrow limits belittle their gratifications, and hedge about their achievements with thorns.”
My early teachers, and then the dancers who taught in my studio were soloists from major Modern Dance and Ballet companies.
Most of the ones who had achieved soloist status lived lives of unhealthy relationships, drugs, alcohol, AIDS, and went on to unwanted related or spin off careers, and too many of them died of AIDS, overdose or suicide.
The constant comparing oneself to others, and always competing to fit into someone else’s box, can leave dancers without a clue about who they really are.
Returning to that original impulse that made them dance in the beginning seems to be unattainable.
Lester Horton had it right when he added improvisation to his classes, starting with the primary movements that all babies do, rolling, lifting the head, crawling….
That is one piece of returning to the original impulse.
The deeper return however, is to find again that movement of the Creator that is before the heartbeat and the breath, and is, in and beyond the heartbeat and breath, expressed as movement.
For the dancers I knew who escaped New York and retreated to Boston, I provided a studio where they could start teaching, a place to start their own companies and create their own dances.
For others I was able to provide detailed recommendations for jobs or schools, as well as a line in their resumes.
For some I provided their first experience on stage, as well as on-going performance opportunities.
Most importantly, I knew the value of having a place where they could be themselves without needing to prove anything to anyone other than themselves.
As years passed and new projects came up, I did other kinds of dancer rehab. I developed and taught corrective exercises, healing meditations, and introspective group work. I made recommendations of teachers who would benefit individuals as people and dancers, and I always provided a space where they could be authentic and focus inward.
In my own dance I have had a less dramatic but similar rehabilitation from the dance world,and also deep healing from life experiences and injuries.
A girl who had gotten her start in one of my community programs at age 6, and had later been disappointed, after years of training, by a major ballet company and dance college, said to her mother while watching a video of me dancing Jazz…”I just love to watch Sara dance, she just dances for herself and the music”.
There are many systems of authentic and intuitive dance. Some are not securely based in a knowledge of the body’s need for balanced and careful development. That is a danger, but most are a healing experience for their participants. Continuum is one very well developed and effective technique.
Contemplative dance and movement now have a valued place in the mental health and medical communities.
My own teaching, dancing, and directing, have grown out of my recognition that the essence of dance in it’s true and pure form, is the expression of each individual’s communion with God, their spiritual center, their authentic selves, their constant oneness with the source of their lives and being. It is in every class, practice, or performance, a call back to God , and to living in and emoting the qualities of God which each person possesses.
That truth is accessible to everyone, and is the property of everyone to whatever degree that they choose to explore it.
The greatest dancer on earth is the one who, with years of training or no training at all, listens to, before and through each movement, what is true and authentic for them at that very moment.
The greatest dancer is the one who listens to and moves from the heart and soul sincerely.
The greatest performance on earth is the one that, executed from years of training and skill, or from no training at all, comes from the heart and soul and reaches the heart and soul of human or unseen audiences, in empty rooms, in front of cameras, or on stages of any kind.
Any movement that comes from the true heart, makes all of heaven sigh.
On this website I will be posting videos of guided meditations and basic exercises which can help to reconnect you with your original impulse to move, and to unravel some of the programming of life and past technique that might not be authentic for you.
After making a solid foundation of returning to your movement source, it would be helpful to find an empty studio space for three to five hours.
Armed with your favorite music, poetry, visual images or ideas, facing that empty room alone and staying with it sincerely can guide you back to yourself, to where you are now. That is your blank canvas on which you can carefully and loving draw and paint yourself anew, just for you.
When people see someone move right from the heart and soul, it encourages and inspires them to do the same in thought word, and action.