wabi-sabi

 

There is a Japanese theory called Wabi-sabi, where things are considered most beautiful when they have a flaw or are broken. A vase with a chip in it or a plate with a crack do not necessarily need to be thrown away, but they can be appreciated as objects that wear badges of time well spent and of being a well loved, used and enjoyed item. So is the dancer’s broken toe or pulled muscle Wabi-sabi? The blisters on their feet… Is that a beautiful sign of authenticity, use, love and being of service? Totally Wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is saying that imperfection adds to beauty. It is a concept that seems so opposite from everything being told to us in the world today. Maybe that is why I like it so much. But it is so true. Nothing can actually be perfect. What perfect even means would be different for everyone.  For example, I like a small, old house with a porch. My daughter likes box houses with giant windows. My son would say condo or farm. There is no right or wrong. Every one of us sees perfection through different eyes. But we are also all very much the same. No body is unbreakable. No dancer does not stumble and fall. I prefer an old scuffed up teapot to a new shiny one. I like objects that have character. Same with dancers. It is hard to apply Wabi-sabi to ballet in particular. It is all about precision. However, I can see the character and authenticity…the naturalness and raw quality when they are at the barre. The dancer may be striving for strong, physical exactness but they are wearing shabby leg warmers, ripped tights and shoes with holes to do it. They are letting their Wabi-sabi shine through.

The dancers we love to watch the most, have spirit and emotion. Emotions are messy and genuine. Wabi-sabi. We see the heart break, the joy, the fear or the confusion. That extra dimension of naturalness and authenticity creates the balance with the pretty perfection and endears us to it more deeply. We all like things that are a little damaged. Like people…no one gets through life without a scar or two. A bruise, a chip, a fall or a break.

Wabi-sabi teaches us to embrace the imperfect. It teaches us to see the beauty of the cracked, broken or fleeting. In the dance studio or out in the real world it would serve all of us well to appreciate and see a little more of the beauty in our flaws and imperfections. Which aren’t really flaws at all…

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never too late…

 

Is it really never too late to start again? Does that saying make sense? I believe that it does and in the dance studio I see it lived out all the time.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s a good one too.

If you set out to try something new or accomplish a goal and it doesn’t go how you planned, do you just throw in the towel and give up? No. You don’t.

If your dance routine isn’t received well or your pirouettes are off balance, do you just stop doing them?

Of course not.

You always have the chance to start over and try again. It is never too late. Call a do-over and get back to work. Take it from the top and begin again. Clean up your choreography. Practice that routine more. Extra training on the skills needed for perfect pirouettes. Analyze, review, research, learn, work and after you have done that, start again.

I teach adults. Many of them were away from a dance studio for ten years or more. They settled into careers and families and then decided it was time to start again. Coming back to dance can be challenging but a dancer’s muscle memory is pretty strong. A dancer’s soul memory is also powerful stuff. Coming back and starting over after having kids or just being away is one thing. Coming back after injury can be a very trying experience. Maintaining flexibility and staying in shape with physical limitations can be tricky. Keeping up your stamina and not getting discouraged is all part of a difficult process. And it is a process that requires immense dedication and patience. Coming back after absence or injury may also mean you have to learn how to train in new ways and do things differently this time. For myself, I remember after having had my first baby I went to a Mommy and Baby fitness class. I went at it with the energy and force that I would have always used before and then proceeded to almost die. Haa! The instructor even came over to me and told me to take it easy and that my body needed a little more time after having been off giving life before I could go all out dancified again.

The adults I am privileged to see in class, who are all brave and awesome for starting again, know that this time around they will do things differently. They are also dancing with different intentions and with different goals. This time they came to the dance studio with a new purpose and they are starting again to do something they love and to do it for themselves.

Start over. Start again. Try again. Never give up.

Keep getting dancified….but if you have to stop, remember…it is never too late to start again.

 

bye bye Summer

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The turning of the leaves. The adding of the sweaters. Back to school and work and making lunches. Back to drop-off and pick up. Goodbye tank tops. Hello school bags. We went to the beach. We went to the amusement park. We went to a baseball game. We did skateboarding, climbing, walking, trampolining, laser tagging and swimming. We saw movies and friends and farm animals and flowers. We ate frozen yogurt and frozen lemonade.

What I learned this Summer was how nice it is to NOT follow a routine. To wake up when you want to, decide how you want to spend the day and then go out and find adventure. Even your own routine city locations can be re-discovered and explored. A Summer break from routine allowed for relaxation and creative thinking. When your time isn’t automatically filled for you, there is much contemplation to be done about what to do.

What to do?

Whatever you want. Imagine that.

A true break from routine.

A great Summer was had.

In dance class it is always routine. Same plies. Same pirouettes. The dance choreography is even called the “routine”.

However, in class and in performance, there always comes a time when a dancer has to improvise.

Summer of improv. Time to take your bow.

Looking forward to an awesome and dancified school year…

“success will ensue…”

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I just read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. In it, he makes this statement, “Don’t aim at success  – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…”

I thought that was a great way of saying it.

Do what you love and success will come.

Just do what you feel good about and you will be happy.

But is this true?

Could this be true in the dance world?

It takes a lot of hard work to see success as a professional dancer. You need to set specific goals and achieve them. A dance career will not just show up if you are not well trained…but…we have all seen that the most successful dancers are not always the technically superior dancers. The dancers with heart and passion are the world’s favourite to watch. I definitely do not receive as much enjoyment from watching the dancer with the highest extension or most turns as I do from watching the dancer that is bursting with energy and it is visible how much they love what they are doing.

If you are good at what you do, chances are it will be seen, and you will be rewarded with success. If you live your life with purpose and meaning then happiness will be there too. You don’t have to climb a mountain to find it. No gurus necessary. Find your own passion and go with it.

I don’t think you could be a dancer if you didn’t feel you HAD to be a dancer. The amount of hours involved in professional training and the blood, sweat and tears…you would not do it if it was not a love. Certain career choices are logical and voluntary, while others are a calling or a way of life. Viktor thinks we should all find our own way of life and our own meaning.

“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue…”

Do what you love and the success and happiness will follow.

For doing what you love, I already consider you successful.

“…all you need is just a little patience”

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Patience in dance. Patience in life.

Dancing has taught me many different things. Not only the obvious physical skills, but life lessons as well.

Today I will be extolling the virtues of how dance class can be a lesson in patience.

First, let me clarify that I think there is a difference between waiting and patience. Waiting your turn. Waiting for the music to start. Waiting for the next choreography to be given are all qualities needed for a dance student. Patience is the mindful act of knowing that some things just can not happen immediately. You require patience when just waiting would be ineffective. Some things need time and practice. Some things will only happen for you when the time is right.

I could be talking about pirouettes or I could be talking about many aspects of our lives.

Let’s talk pirouettes and go from there. (if any of you don’t know what a pirouette is, look at above picture…it is a turn or spin done on one leg) When you first start learning a pirouette you have to first learn what is called the “preparation”. You learn the correct positioning for your feet and arms that will ready you for the big spin. You also have to have learned something called “spotting”. You focus your eyes on a certain spot to ensure the revolution makes it back around to the front and it prevents dizziness. If you have a grasp on how to prepare and how to spot…time to try a pirouette. Wait…you also need balance. You need to be turning in the right direction. You need to not fall over. You need to point the toe of the foot that is not on the ground. You need to be on a full releve…there is a whole list of requirements associated with doing just one quick pirouette. It is similar to the checklist a pilot must go through before take-off. (ok. obviously not as critical but I’m making a point here…relax)

Can you possibly learn all of those things in one class? No.

Can you possibly master all of those preps and positions in ten classes? The answer is still, most likely, no.

Somewhere along the way you will get frustrated. You might want to stop practicing your pirouettes altogether. Maybe you go the other route and refuse to stop practicing ever. Neither option is the way to get there. Not working on it at all obviously will improve nothing and accomplish nothing. Pushing too hard can have some pretty lousy results. It does not create quality work to dance angry and overwork can lead to injury. Working hard is great and imperative to success but sometimes you have to stop…(can’t believe I am going to write this…yuck) beating a dead….can’t say horse…too sad. Beating a dead you-know-what? (not good. no one should be beating anything) Or it’s like banging your head against the wall. Or like, oh! Like the definition of crazy where you keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. (better?)

Pirouettes, like life, can go kinda badly if you don’t work at it enough OR if you push too hard.

Balance is key.

Have patience. Look at the pirouette from a different perspective. Try something new. Take another approach. Rome wasn’t built in a day! (another corny saying…sorry)

Have patience. Your mind needs to be ready to accept all of the instructions. Your body needs to be able to execute all of the positions. When your mind knows what to do and your body knows what to do, then your soul can jump in and dance and turn to the music. The patience pays off and you have your pirouette. It did not happen overnight. No instant gratification here. Some things can not be rushed. Most of these things are usually the ones that are more than worth the wait.

There is no instant success in dance or in life. There is hard work, training, passion, commitment and…here it comes…the big finale…the big message…

wait for it…(HAAAAA!)

…patience.