I was thinking about my New Year’s list of things to welcome in and I found myself inwardly saying ‘well, THIS has all been said before’, closely followed by a sigh and maybe even an eye-roll. It’s sometimes what I’ve said to myself before teaching, writing, speaking and creating. Someone has said it, thought it, created it, spoken it and done it before now and before me. I’ve even said it before. And it’s true. So if we’re all just repeating ourselves, what’s the point?
Then I had a thought as I was cleaning the bathroom (often when things strike me!!)… OF COURSE it has been said before and done before. This is how it WORKS. The gold is hiding right in front of us, right where we least expect it and in the repetition that we find so annoying. We have to CHOOSE it again and again, over and over, more than once. MANY, MANY times. This is what repetition is, it’s choosing again. It’s reminding ourselves and the world around us of what we’re working towards. It turns wishes into action, actions into habits and habits into results. And there’s no hot-wiring a way around it.
At the end of 2019 I spoke with some dancers about what we wanted to create for ourselves in 2020. A whole bunch of thoughts and dreams were thrown into the circle. I then asked how each dancer would TAKE ACTION towards the new things we each wanted to welcome into our own dance experience. This is where the conversation stalled for a minute. Now I make a habit of reminding pre-professional dancers that you cannot simply decide to be a dancer on January 1 and expect it to carry you through the year. You will have to choose it again as you walk into class on a Tuesday at 10.15am and again on a random Thursday as you yawn and walk into your 8.30am fitness session. You are going to have to make a million little choices that feed into the big one. And so it goes… you are going to have to CHOOSE anything, in this same way, many times over before it becomes true for you. And when it comes to thinking that someone else has said it or done it before – that was their journey, and this is yours. If it’s true for them already, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be true for you. Plus, it looks, sounds and feels different on all us (just like a pair of jeans would!!).
Back to my dancers and their circle of hopes and dreams for the New Year… I had a dancer jump in and say ‘but does that mean I HAVE to stretch EVERY DAY to become as flexible as I want’. To which I answered, ‘Nope, of course not’. And it’s true. You don’t have to do or repeat any of it. But then, as I said to the dancer in question and also to myself in the bathroom mirror as I contemplated New Year’s intentions, it depends on how much you want to see change.
We usually start a year with the feeling of a fresh, clean slate. As if the choices we make can be new because it's a NEW year. That's totally as true as we want it to be ;) And we ALL get caught up in the craziness that is the dancelife year. It's easy to forget all about any intentions you had for this year being different.
So this is OUR half-time list. A half-yearly chance to check in and reality check. In our dance house we do this to STAY ON TRACK. To stay as clear as possible and let go of any habits/ behaviors that are holding us back or that need a refresh.
1. WRITE DOWN 6 things that you want to leave behind in the first half of the year (eg. comparing yourself to others, overthinking, self-doubt etc).
2. WRITE DOWN 6 things that you want to focus on between now and December (eg. things to improve on, being more positive about your skills/strengths, specific goals).
3. MAKE or update a playlist of songs to keep you on track - your I CAN DO IT soundtrack. Your anthems. No matter how old you are... we're musical people i.e. music makes us feel things and we can make that useful!
4. STRETCH - your body AND that 'monkey mind'. Whether this is a break time in your dance year or the most intense part of the season. YOUR BODY - get warm first then remind your body who it is and what it is capable of. YOUR MIND - change your routine, go see something new, take a different class, REMIND yourself of the enthusiasm you have for dance (and that sometimes gets lost under the pressures and TO DO list)
5. CLEAN OUT your dance bag or hand bag. I get it, this doesn't sound very exciting (but sometimes the most practical things don't!!). But this is about REPACKING the way you might for a vacation or your first day at dance. It's about getting rid of the wrappers, the pen lids and crumpled up pieces of paper - and treating it all quite literally with the excitement that we do for something we're REALLY ready for and pumped to dive into. Because it's dance and if we MEAN it then it's worth the effort.
6. WALK into the studio next time like it's the FIRST TIME you're taking class. EVER. Again, no matter how old you are and whether or not you're the teacher or student! When we forget how AWESOME it is to do what we do, the magic fades. We start to take it for granted. We forget how LUCKY we are to HAVE and DO this.
Aaaaannnddd... OVER TO YOU! With love and light as always Xx
What I often find when teaching class is that I have to take a moment to invite dancers to bring their whole selves into the studio space. Not just the physical version of them that has a kick-butt tendu or a killer right leg extension. Whole self. All of you.
This even happens at open class level, which is where you often take class once you’ve graduated from your home studio [the one that part-raised you, helped grow you and gave you your foundation and so much more ;)] The temptation is to turn up in the best physical way. Which is awesome. Every ounce of body training, engagement, alignment and precision will be there. But there’s more. Your dance skill set has more to it than execution.
When you walk into a studio what I find most constructive is to leave your 'judgy' stories, labels, self-sabotage skills, expectations and insecurities at the door and take the rest of you right on in. Because when you dance I want to see YOU. Not your body making shapes because I’m telling it to.
Here’s the thing. When you show up and focus just on the physicality it looks just like that. The cross the floor work can seem wooden and the combination a series of arms, legs, rotation, contractions etc… lacking that extra something. Funnily enough, when I gently point this out to dancers, that they may be concentrating too hard on physically nailing even the simple walks across the floor, so concerned to 'get it right' and put their body to work - they usually smile. And exhale. All of a sudden they've really arrived now they've let go of the vice grip.
That extra something? It’s you. Your animation, your expression, your emotion, your story, your experience, your vulnerability, your unique take and interpretation, your magic. And we want to see it. Because dance is so much more than just what your body does.