When I set off on a course to make a piece of art, a piece of something, really, I can get stuck in the dance in the head, i.e. the ideas for the piece rather than the piece itself and what it wants to be. With dance, I believe you have to make and make and make a lot in order to know your dance and what it wants to be. This translates to other things, too, for me. I have to write and write and write a lot to find the story. Cook a lot and try different recipes to know what I like.
I have to try and fail and try again, regardless of my bruised ego or my deflated sense of self.
This philosophy was the premise of my choreography workshop at GIA. I worked with 10 young, beautiful women on making dances each day. We moved from solo work into duet forms and ended with trio work. We even made a final group dance featuring a compilation of some of the dances generated over the two weeks.
One person did the math for me and said we'd end up with 100 dances by the end of the two weeks. And while that number seemed big, I thought little of it. Because in some ways what we were each really doing was making one big dance for ourselves.
The point was to commit to form. To decide each day to make choices that would lead to some semblance of a beginning, middle and end. Some say this leads to meaning in a dance, beginning, middle and end being a traditional form. It's a very recognizable structure. It's how a lot of us perceive time.
But there are other forms out there. There are as many dances as there are dancers.
As I walked to class each morning, surrounded by the green mountains and sweet air, I looked to nature to remind me of how many different forms there can be. Each leaf on a tree eventually amounts to a tree. Each blade of grass a field. The tree, the field, suggest different structures and different meanings.
What if we became less precious with our one leaf or blade of grass? What if we relinquished ourselves to the larger body of work unfolding, and then let ourselves get lost in the making and playing part of it all. This is the place where I wanted to bring these women. And you must know - some of them had never taken a dance class before. We were all united by our common love of movement and dancing. I wanted us all to explore and generate, rest and reflect, but always, always come back to the motor of making and fluidity of form.
Some days were easy and fun. Some days were hard. But we kept going.
The "we" factor was essential. It's one thing when I'm working alone and trying to keep my sense of motoring up and running. When I have others in the room with me, all working in their own ways but then showing and talking to others about what they're working on, it creates a sense of security and responsibility.
That creates a felt sense of engagement, exploration and community. By the end of our time together, we had more than 100 dances. We had this supportive, expressive, inspired community. We had a real sense of abundance, and not so much in all the dances we had made, but in what was possible for us and our making after GIA.
Parker Palmer wrote in his musings on the season of summer (from a book I do not have the name of, but if you do, let me know!):
"Here is a summertime truth: abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance - community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed."
I like to think we found something of what Palmer speaks of in our 10 Dances, 10 Days class. I like to think we were transformed because we were sustained by the whole of something. I like to think we forever changed our personal definition of abundance.
But these are just thoughts in my head. I will never know.
And that's a cool place to be when it comes to being places and making from your place.