I have a dance student. I’ll call her…Sally. What’s wrong with the name Sally? Too old fashioned? Ok. How about Salangeliqua. Salangeliqua has a pretty solid foundation in dance and, I think, could be a dancer if she wanted. The only problem is, she kinda doesn’t wanna. I say kinda, because there’s another part of her that does. She’s at war with herself but refuses to acknowledge that fact. She prefers, rather, to text during rehearsals. Normally, I would never stand for such behavior, but in her case I make an exception. I’m taking the Queen of Cups or, you could call it the Willy Wonka approach toward wayward youth. You’re allowed to be naughty, but then you have to suffer the consequences.
Salangeliqua likes certain aspects of dancing such as class, performing, and generally feeling special, while dreading others: the tedium of rehearsals, etc. I can’t be sure but suspect that she’s also waiting for Prince Charming to show up on a white horse.
It’s not entirely her fault, I suppose. As women, not only are we taught by popular culture that we can have it all, but that The All will appear to us in an ideal form and be captured on film for an adoring public. We are tempted to live life in the fab lane a la Kimora Lee Simmons, and are expected to look good doing it. It has become shameful to put on baby weight. To have wrinkles. To wear last season’s jeans. To slow down.
Pardon me for contending with the gods of media, but, gosh darnit, I don’t think one can have it all. I think from time to time, we may be blessed with getting the essence of something we want, in an unexpected way, dressed in unexpected wrappings. To boot, the essence of that wanting generally comes after sacrifice. Furthermore, harumph, the essence comes with challenges and responsibility.
I’m not mainly concerned with whether or not Salangie ever becomes a dancer. She seems hell-bent on pursuing a foggy notion of business, and for all I know, that may be where she belongs, although her academics are poor. What I care about is that she comes to see the world through the eyes of her heart. That she understand the difference between a passion that has expressed itself through repeated action and an idea, especially an idea she got off tv.
One of the great things that dancing, or any art form teaches is the practice of letting go of the idea for the reality of what you have in that moment. It has to be practiced because there is usually resistance towards letting go of the ideal. I remember sometimes in class, a dancer would hesitate before going across the floor. The music would continue playing in the empty space and my teacher would shout, “What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?”
Another teacher friend of mine recently commented that we dance because it makes us feel beautiful. I never thought about it that way, but it’s true. I would take it a step further, into the impersonal realm, and say that dancing brings us into the presence of Beauty. And not the kind you see in Vogue Magazine. It’s another kind of beauty. An authentic beauty that transcends the stink of sweat, dirt and messed up hair. Some of my best moments were after I passed through the wringer of a tough rehearsal. While there are many things that may bring one into the presence of Beauty externally, art, a baby’s laughter, an horizon, there are not that many things that one does of oneself to make them feel that way. In other words, unless you’re the next Leonardo Da Vinci, you gotta play the hand you’re dealt. Even if it is “just” dance.
From a certain spiritual perspective, perhaps that light can be found everywhere, through the simplest gesture. But how can we learn the mastery of that if we have not even developed the mastery of what is natural to us? I mean, if we haven’t learned to play our strengths, our talents, how do we graduate to other higher forms of mastery, the mastery of life?
I’m sure Sally isn’t thinking on that level. She just wants to get from here to MTV Cribs as quickly as possible and the miracle of tv makes it all seem tangible: if that mediocre character can be rich, why can’t I? Good question. If she wants to pursue dancing, however, I’ll have to be honest. In terms of money, dancing probably won’t provide you with a magnum lifestyle. Pre-op penile implant is more like it. But for what it lacks in size it makes up for in…connection. And that’s a hard sell.