Tag Archives: Spirit

10 Spiritual Insights for Dancers

I have wondered a lot lately whether ballet is part of my contract for being here on this earthly plane, something to which I agreed upon prior to birth. Is my contract with dance or ballet in particular? Have I fulfilled my obligations to ballet and is it time to focus on some other way to dance?

I went into meditation this morning and what I’ve written here was my answer. The funny thing is, while investigating how to get greater readership for my blog, I often came across advice to make lists of ten which I immediately shunned as tacky and simplistic. Then this! Well, I’m learning.

I invite you to take what serves you and disregard what doesn’t resonate. I don’t think this is comprehensive. I don’t really trust things that claim to be comprehensive. I wrote this with love for my students, for myself and for the dance goddess, whose love has shattered me. I’m sorry, my darling, that it has taken me so long to embody the one who could write this. Ashe. I love you, still.

1. Technique/Practice. I’m finding lately that in our modern age, the idea of technique (to those who don’t yet have it) is starting to be interpreted as a sort of magical door that once clicked will give you access to the golden room of dance. Students are looking for a shortcut. There is no such thing. Even when given the most detailed explanation, you still have to do the work. I prefer to use the word practice instead of technique. One who has a good technique is in other words one who has practiced consistently with discernment over time.  It is a living, growing changing process of increasing subtlety. You may become well seasoned. You may become masterful, but beware of impeccability. There are no absolutes. We in the West interpret one of the Wabi Sabi aphorisms as “everything is incomplete.” This translation misses the mark. It is closer to describe this precept as “the master is one who embraces an infinite path,” or “a master is one who has practiced the newness over time.”

2. Parallel and Harmonious lines of energy. Generally, when we speak of line in dance, we are referring to the external plastique. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a line of energy that comes through your eyes, through your heart, through your fingertips and through your feet. These lines must move in harmony and awareness of each other or in a conscious disharmony which is sometimes used to make an artistic statement . You may think of these lines of energy as musical notes that ebb and flow, but must be sustained throughout the phrase of movement. You are dancing, channeling, these lines of energy. They come through you from the other world and the lines of energy, especially through your eyes, are rooted to your ancestors.

3. Perfection vs. Imperfection. Perfection is a paradox. We must strive for it, while keeping in mind that it is not the goal. Union with the divine is the goal and that does not require perfect turnout, perfect proportions or a perfect smile. Perfection can lead us forward, but we must not let it lead us astray. Our perceived imperfections are the doorway to our humanity. As a dear friend of mine once said, “Nobody gives a damn about seeing you dance. They want to see themselves through you.” Our humanity, our striving for what is unattainable, our vulnerability, allows others in. Perfection is superficially attractive, but ultimately alienating, sterile and boring.

4. Magic. There are two types of magic: that of the magician and that of the shaman. Both must dance together. The magician’s magic is that of creating an illusion. Drawing the observer’s eye toward what you want them to see. A principal dancer is not one without flaw. She is one who has mastered this art of illusion. Your dancing is not only about you. It is about what you can point to. This requires an active imagination. If you are preoccupied with thoughts of yourself, you will not be able to take the audience very far. You must create a whole world, a whole universe, and then take them there. Often, I will give a step in class and people will start doing it in a headless sort of way without giving a thought to the illusion. They want to do it right, but if you are not creating an illusion, no matter how “right” you do the step, it will not be dancing.

The next kind of magic, shamanic magic, is the magic of change. It has to do with moving energy around, drawing it into you, transmuting it and sending it back out again. Not only do you create the universe with your imagination, you are the universe. The shamanic magic cannot be so easily described. It requires faith. It requires one not to just imagine there, but to actually go there, to burn yourself completely and leave no trace, or, stated differently, to become a vessel to that which burns.

5. Fear. There are two kinds of fear: paranoia and authentic fear. The first kind is to be avoided. It is the fear that says you are not good enough, worthy enough, pretty enough,thin enough etc. It is the kind of fear that the media instills in us through doctored, medicated images of perfection which become exacerbated by a dancer’s natural vanity and obsession with the mirror.

The second fear, authentic fear, is good. Make friends with it. It is the kind of fear that leads us forward. It calls us to become our highest Self and may indicate that we are in the presence of spirit. It is the little voice inside of us that says yes when other external voices say otherwise. Say yes and see what happens. Do not make a problem out of authentic fear. It is not necessary to rid yourself of it prior to a performance. It is only required that you move through it. “If you go forward you die. If you go backwards you die. So go forward and die.”–African proverb.

6. Faith. As my teacher, Ken Ludden said, faith requires action. Faith is doing the thing you know to be true, even when you do not know the outcome, and even when you do. Faith is the essential ingredient that moves us forward in life and in dance. It is what must be present in order to transcend fear.

7. Stillness/Silence. We often think of dancers as people who move beautifully, but what is equally important is the degree to which we can cultivate stillness in movement and in our lives. We have to take a note from musicians who must be as equally aware of the sounds as they are of the silence.  The movement, the sound, is what frames the stillness, the silence. And it is the space in-between that allows our presence to shine.

8. Compassion and Forgiveness. Have compassion for yourself, your teachers, your fellow dancers and everyone. A moment of compassion heals the whole world. Try to free yourself from expectation and learn instead to flow with what is. Compassion will soften the inevitable struggle that is dance. Forgive what might have been when it comes to the big moments in life and the little ones that occur in performance. Forgive your father, forgive the goddess of dance for her fickle, cruel nature, forgive being off your leg in that pique arabesque. Forgiveness is a big part of The Dance. If you can’t recover from a mistake, you can’t dance.

9. Competition. I have heard many people say that there is a good aspect of competition. If there is, feel free to write it here. I haven’t experienced it. Competition disconnects us from our internal voice and makes us reach outward. It makes us un-centered and breeds jealousy. It makes someone a loser and someone else a winner, but that is never the truth. It’s ok to want something that someone else has. It is good to feel inspired by others. But when that wanting leads us away from our own path, we get lost. Our purpose, our medicine, is unique in the world. It is our job to bring it forth, with the help of our community, nature, our ancestors and other invisible forces. Our culture spends a lot of energy cultivating competition instead of focusing directly on helping people manifest their purpose. Competing in a competition may indirectly point you in the right direction, but why not have healing as a starting point? Competition is therefore a primitive and inefficient means of moving forward. Love and nurturing make better flowers.

10. Fun. If I could change one thing about my career, it wouldn’t be to have had more roles, to have made more money, to have better feet, better extension, more turns, or any of that crap. It would have been to have had more fun. Laughter is great medicine for body and soul. It takes many lifetimes to master an art. We have a long way to go. Make fun along the way. It will keep your love for dance ALIVE.


Loving through Anger

I grew up in a family of politicos whose views extended as far left as the eye could see, with the exception of my brother who briefly flirted with Republicanism, mostly out of rebellion towards my mother. Family dinners were a stew of heated debate. Though I sat mostly listening, silently enthralled, I never seemed to develop a political bug. I was an arteest.

I have always hated to watch the news, all doom and gloom. I’m sensitive. But at some point, art becomes political. Spirit becomes political. With all the stuff brewing in the world right now, I just can’t look away.

Funny thing about the news is there is so much obvious stuff that doesn’t get mentioned. Anchors tip-toe around the pink elephant in the news room, exhaling a sigh of relief when it’s time for sports and weather. Today, Hilary Clinton denounced the murder of the four white tourists yachting off the coast of Somalia as a tragedy. While I’m sorry that those people lost their lives, isn’t the real tragedy here, um, Somalia?

I don’t know the whole story of Somalia’s history, but I know the story of colonialism in Africa. My Somalian-born neighbor, Usef from up the street, gave me some gory details that made me sympathetic to the so-called pirates. Not the pirates responsible for the recent murders, but the Somali pirates in general. From his point of view, foreign colonizers and business interests were the real pirates. They started this fight. I’m not that smart, but if I was rich and white, or just rich, or just white, or just anybody come to think of it, now would not be the time to take a private cruise off the coast of Somalia.

And another thing, harumph, the corporations, as they have for decades, are trying to get rid of unions in order to get more power. As if they don’t have enough. Why isn’t the emphasis on taxing the rich instead of taking away a teacher’s friggin’ pension? People argue that high taxes push business away, and no jobs will be created, but those people have a short memory. That’s not how it started. Business left this country out of greed in the first place. Now, not only are they not paying their fair share of taxes, but they are also not creating jobs. And debt is the state workers’ fault? Well, we may not have a dictator to overthrow, but we got some seriously greedy business booty to bust. And they’re not armed. Yet.

Now that I’ve gotten myself all riled up as perhaps you get watching the evening news, it might be a good time to point out that, while I’m angry, I don’t want there to be a violent revolution here. I want there to be a revolution of love and consciousness. And I believe, as I’ve stated before, that, no matter what, everyone gets to grow. I don’t want anyone to be punished, not even corrupt politicians and corporate bosses. Let’s not waste any more time on that. I want us to expand our consciousness towards compassion. I want us to lead with love and consciousness instead of fear. Without that, we will eventually end up right back where we started.

Perhaps, since the time of “civilization,” we’ve suffered from the effects of CFG (competitive, fearful grasping). In politics and business, it’s things as usual. But I have the sense that something is changing. It’s not just that people are fed up. Something is changing in us spiritually. For the first time in history, people are becoming empowered to listen inwardly and develop a spirituality separate from organized religions.

While there is evidence everywhere of many structures falling apart, there is also evidence of things coming together in new ways. For instance, there is a stereotype of people who take yoga as being kinda granola-y. There is a stereotype of people who do hip-hop as being urban, mostly black, youth. But, I see the same demographic of people taking yoga as I do in my Saturday morning hip-hop class. And guess what? The demographic is everybody, all ages, cultures, sexual-orientations and colors. There was a time when that just would not happen, in Boston or anywhere.

Our inner voices are telling us that it’s ok to love what you or others previously held apart. We are listening and trusting that inner voice more and more. Even after over thirty years dancing, it’s still a little scary to show up to a new class. I can only imagine the courage it takes for someone who has never danced before, as is clearly the case for some. When I see a middle-aged, Asian business man for instance, strutting across the dance studio gettin’ his swag on, I think, wow, now that’s my nigga! Somethin’s changin’ y’all. And maybe things like yoga, spirituality and the arts are leading the way…

“What are you doing?” I ask Mr. Octopus.

“Gettin’ my krrrump  on!”

“Oh, I was worried you were having a seizure.”

“Don’t hate!”

He’s right, as usual. It’s ok to get angry. To feel hurt, betrayed, but, God, Spirit, Ancestors, please grant me/us the grace, to, even in the throes of our anger, leave hate and love.

Equal Parts Love and Creativity

A late-morning talk-show hostess gives away a new car to a struggling young couple. On the same show, another woman, also in financial straits, enters a see-through closet structure that has dollar bills blowing around inside. Her task is to grasp as many as she can before the time runs out. She works desperately. The studio audience goes wild.


I would like a fistful of money. I would like a new car (no offense to the Grey Pearl, my beloved 1999 Mazda Protege, held together by strips of hot-pink gaffers tape) but, in spite of the cheering crowds, something doesn’t sit right with me in these TV stunts.

I am reminded of a symbol that often arose in my brief study of Hungarian mysticism with teacher Ken: seeing someone in a vision or a dream driving a car. It seems like a common enough sight, but in the spiritual symbology of Hungarian mysticism, this vision indicates someone who is moving forward on their path without actually being connected to it. In other words, the person is doing something that gives them the feeling or illusion of advancement, such as buying a new car, without anything in their life having to change. It is a superficial gesture that does not move them any closer to the fulfillment of their true purpose.

Seeing these talk-show antics reminded me of the car symbol. They feel superficial and exploitative. The receiver walks away with some stuff and the hostess pats herself on the back for a job well done. Everyone resumes life-as-usual, going through the same drive-thru on their way home from work except that now, they’re in a shiny new car!

All these give-aways made me reflect on what it means to perform acts of real service. Again, I’m going to refer to an experience I had with Ken, who is a full-body channel. This means that he is able to leave his body in order to channel your spirit guide who is then able to speak to you directly. I’m sorry if this is too way out there for some readers. All I can say is try to let go of the means of delivery and just hear the message.

I was told (through my spirit guide) that the highest creation or service combines equal parts love and creativity. The example I was given is that you have to find someone or some people who need a mountain range and then build it. I like the example of a mountain range, as opposed to, I don’t know, a strip mall, because it implies the vastness of our potential and combines the element of nature. You can substitute anything that works for you: Find out who needs a school and then build it. Find out who needs a new mythology and write it. Find out who needs a dance piece and then choreograph it, etc. True service always brings transformation to all involved.

The tv giveaways are lacking in the important elements of service; though they meet a need, they lack love and creativity, unless you count someone hysterically groping for money in a wind-booth as creative. It took some imagination to come up with that, sure. But I wonder, the person who envisioned that contraption, where was their heart? Where was their consciousness? Where was their intention? How would they like to see their own mother grovelling on her hands and knees with her support hose showing?

It’s hard for us to be meticulous about our intentions, especially when so much of what we see in popular culture seems to want to exploit humanity, rather than uplift it. We take the cheap shot and are rewarded for it with money and fame.

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to be mindful of our intentions, simply because we have been taught to do things out of a sense of obligation. We are taught to be “professional.” We are afraid that if we honor our own truth, we will disappoint others, or be judged.

Maybe the above mentioned talk-show host plays the game of the free give-aways with her viewers to satisfy intentions that are not her own so that she can have a show at all in which she addresses other issues that are meaningful to her. For all I know, she may be up to her elbows in acts of true altruism, but there’s no evidence of it here. My point is not to judge her. We have all compromised our integrity to play somebody else’s game.

I wonder what my life would look like if I practiced living from my inner-knowing all the time…what our world would look like…oh, the mountain ranges we could make!

“Maybe you should stop watching so much tv,” contributes Mr. Octopus.

“Ok, except for RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love me some drag!”

“Though you know I don’t support the competitive aspect, I’ll allow that. You need a little fun in your life, Donnie Darko.”


“By the way, how do I look in this wig?”

“Fabulous, Diva! You betta work!”

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