Someone recently told me that a mutual colleague said I was “artistically unfulfilled.” The comment was made as a plain observation, without judgement, and came from someone I deeply admire both personally and artistically. The truth landed as the truth always does, painfully, like a foot falling on my heart.
In the two years since I’ve left Boston Ballet, I’ve worked at teaching and choreographing. Although I’ve done my best to give my all to my students, a gnawing feeling remains. I still long to have the creative flow course through me directly, as its instrument, without being interpreted by others. Perhaps I thought the love I felt for my students would replace my own need to dance. It has not and I hope they do not feel betrayed by this admission. I have loved being in their service and will continue to be.
But, artistic fulfillment…is it even possible? I have my doubts. Everywhere, I am surrounded by painters, writers, film-makers, fashion designers and the rest, struggling to find their voices and to have them heard. It is said that, at the end of his life, Leonard Bernstein felt like a failure. I find that strangely comforting.
However, the implausibility of artistic fulfillment does not get that stupid art-monkey off our backs. The urge to create, to have the mojo flow, may only be temporarily appeased, at best. Semantic arguments aside, my colleague’s comment spurred me on to at least get back into the game. And so, for the first time since my supposed retirement, I went back into the studio to take class.
Ultimately, I have to go, because it’s my prayer, and in the expression of that prayer, in all its love and longing and divine struggling, the question itself dissolves. There is nothing to gain, nowhere to go, only the pleasure of burning oneself completely. The game never ends. It is never won. And if approached sincerely, cannot be lost.