I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely practicing what I preach. As an educator, I seek to help students find the joy in challenge, the excitement in pushing past comfortable, and the play in solving problems. Through this, I aim to encourage individual expression and support diversity within dance and the movement arts. My class and choreography asks: “Who are you? Where do you want to go? How can we get there?” As a dancer, I’ve responded best to teachers and choreographers who work within this model: who celebrate the things that make me distinctly me, while pushing me to expand my capabilities and perspectives.
As a choreographer, I reach for this same approach, with both myself and and collaborators. But often it stops there - with a reach. There have been brief moments of grasping, or even holding close, but mostly the authenticity of this idea remains just past my fingers, as I stretch out my arm while turning my head away. I find myself instead looking toward my colleagues' successes or the paths of the world’s most renowned creators, somehow convincing myself that what they have is what I’m lacking. That what they’ve achieved and the works they’ve created are the only ways to be valid. Look like them. Move like them. Do like them. This leads to self-imposed feelings of “less-than” and places me in a constant state of “what am I doing wrong?”
Not only does living in this state put me in direct contradiction with some of the practices I most value sharing with students, but it dangerously masks my ability to see all that I’m doing right. This long yet overshadowed list of personal successes should be the starting point. Navigating our own artistry should be the acknowledgement of where our assets and interests intersect with opportunities for growth and expression. How have my distinct experiences made me uniquely capable of sharing and creating, in ways no other artist could? Rather than ask, “how do I become more like them?” I should be asking, “how do I let them see who I’ve become?”
So if I were my own teacher, what would I say? Start with “Who are you?” - a question I’ve spent most of the past few years exploring - which then brings us to “Where do you want to go?” This question feels harder to answer, but I do have some ideas of where I don’t want to go. The funny thing is some of the bench-marks I find myself envying are paradoxically achievements I have no genuine interest in pursuing. Not to say they aren’t worth praise, just perhaps not authentically aligned with my own journey. So then, “How can we get there?” I have no idea, but I’m committed to finding the play in solving this problem.