Monthly Archives: August 2011

Queen of Tides

Everything as far as I can tell–

“Which is not that farrr,” says Mr. Octopus.

“You know, why don’t you just help me for once? Let me get through this!”

“Fine. Have at it Einstein.”

Ahem, everything seems to move in tides.  I see tides all in and around me, in blood, water, clouds, wind, sand. Between planets and lovers. One of the most obvious examples is the ocean. Many find observing the ocean’s movement to be relaxing. It brings us into a kind of swaying-making meditation, reminding us, consciously or otherwise, of our own tides, our natural rhythms, the tides that we followed unquestioningly as a child.

If you observe the ocean’s tide for a long time, long enough to watch it move distinctly in or out, you will see that there are tides within tides. Some people use the word cycle to describe this pattern. The tides of the ocean influence the tides of our blood, the tides of fish, the tides of the moon and vice versa and etc. The tides of one person’s energy level expressed in the tide of sleeping and waking may influence others. Ever catch a yawn?

I try to pay attention to my own tides and those of others. I’ve observed, when working closely with a class I’m teaching, that our energy pools together and forms its own tide. I can often gauge the students’ energy levels off my own: when I’m exhausted, they usually are too. I try very hard to work with these tides of energy instead of against them. I think a lot of damage is done teaching ballet because people take the idea of discipline to an extreme. Teachers teach young people to ignore their natural rhythms. This usually results in injury.

Having said that, I don’t know if there is a way to completely avoid injury in the practice of ballet or life. I think the goal is to work with the pain. Ballet can be useful in teaching us to learn the limitations of ourselves through having a relationship with pain. A certain amount of pain can be a good thing. It keeps you in touch with your edge. After all these years of dancing, I crave a certain level of pain in my muscles. I like to feel them jump, taught. I am suspicious of too much comfort. Even in writing this blog, I often tickle the parts of me that hurt. I think we find answers in our pain. Pain can lead us in the right direction. I find it disconcerting that a modern culture that teaches us to go against our tides, especially through the use of technology, also teaches us to avoid pain at all costs.

Our tides are connected to nature regardless of what the modern world impresses upon us. The pace of modern life discourages us from honoring our natural rhythms. For instance, women are taught that their cycles are problematic, shameful, unclean, cursed and to be avoided if possible. There are even contraceptives that can stop a woman’s flow for months at a time. The commercials boast that there is no known medical reason for a woman to have periods. Ha! The bloody arrogance! Through the indigenous wisdom taught by Sobonfu Some, I was able to turn the tide on how I view my own periods. Now I look forward to that time of the month.

I mean talk about go-with-the-flow!

“One more pun and I-will-kill-you,” says Mr. Octopus.


We may appear to succeed in overriding our natural tides momentarily, in the short run, but this resistance only strengthens the big tide and the queen will have her way. We have to learn to see ourselves in the big tide too. I try to teach this to young dancers experiencing injury for the first time, but it’s a tough sell. They don’t want to see the big picture or take the time away from their studies to decipher the often cryptic language of the soul. They want ballerina-dom to be the big plastic picture of their life, period, with no messy strands of reality hanging off the sides like a tattered slip peeking out beneath the hem of a ball gown. Ah well. It took me a long time to realize that the ugly makes the pretty compelling. That indispensable rhythm, the dance between shadow and light.

Perhaps we can imagine all tides, which are simply movements of energy, as being woven together into a kind of grand fabric. The ends of the grand fabric reach towards and away from each other, like a circle constantly being drawn. I think a lot of people think of God as the hand that draws the circle, but maybe the circle is drawing itself and there is no separation. I doubt that one can stand outside of the circle in order to observe it. Maybe it can’t be observed, only experienced. We may however glimpse it through observing a part of it, for the whole is in each. While we can’t see this infinite tide of death and rebirth here with these eyes I like to think it exists. I like to be with the question. I like to think I am a part of it.


i wonder if in some other lifetime

i was a slave

i wonder if i was a girl-slave

around the corner

in this here America

i wonder if i was a mixed-girl-slave

who had some of the same questions,

those liminal questions,

that i have now.

i wonder if i resisted

i wonder whose whip was worse: the master’s or the mistress’

when she found out who the father was

did i even try not to cry

or did i wail so hard, so long,

so hard so long

that the screams of childbirth

sounded like a lullabye in comparison

in this here and now,

there are places on my back that make me jump at the touch.

three hundred year-old places

where my skin remembers


and when i was untied,



did my brothers pick me up

and carry me back to what home

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