.. helped. I’m serious. It can’t. I even told myself to just stop … this is silly … it’s just a HOBBY. Right? Just a hobby? Well, that’s what I keep telling myself and that’s what I tell other people, but this week I had a long hard chat with myself. Let’s get honest here. It’s not “just a hobby.” It just isn’t.
A couple of months ago I was talked into joining a little health spa … I don’t know what else to call it. It’s not really a workout place, although you can work out there. The median age is about 65, so it’s not really a hang out spot for me. I digress. It has a sauna. Well, three saunas to be exact that have different features from each other. I try to go six days a week. Hit up some machines and the sauna. This week I was alone in a couple of my sauna times and had lots of opportunity to think with no distractions present. Well, I thought this would be a great time to read a book … (it’s a dry sauna) and so I grabbed one off my shelf I’ve been meaning to get back to: “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp. I didn’t get far till I had to put the book down. The questions she asked made me really start to evaluate my perspective on my dancing. The last half year or so I haven’t wanted to think about it much as it would cause me to face some tough choices. Why exactly am I so attached to ballroom dancing? I can go thru the whole list of things everyone talks about … you all have heard them. But I don’t think that’s exactly why.
I only read for 10 minutes and then stared at the bamboo wall for the final 20 minutes of my session. It was so hot. Sweltering hot. Sweat was running off my face so fast and I watched it drip on to the towel on the floor. It was almost so hot I couldn’t think very deeply. I just thought about being hot and sweating. And dance. Always back to the dancing.
Teach is at Blackpool right now. One of his super rich students took him. I had a lesson the night before he left. He actually went to a competition in Florida with another student and when he got back, he turned around and went to England. (What a life!) So, the night before he left for Florida I had a lesson … last one of the night. We are working on my next showcase routine (it’s a foxtrot of sorts). He worked me really hard and I was slightly overwhelmed. He was tired. I could see it in his face. More tired than usual. He has so many students and seems to always be going somewhere with one of them. We sat down after the lesson to note the new choreography he changed for the routine and such. He finished writing and then we sat in a moment of silence. I think we were both very weary in our own ways … work is tiring. Pleasing people/customers is tiring.
And then he says, “I was thinking we should do a competition this fall?” He outlines a timeline and which one he thought I should consider (he always tries to suggest the cheapest USDC comp for me) and how I’ll need to up my lessons and such. We kind of left it hanging … something to discuss when he gets back from Blackpool. It gives me time to really think about dance. To think about what it would mean for me financially, emotionally, physically, etc.
And in the hot steaming room Twyla says to me, “It will cost money. Are your creative efforts worth it to you? Is it something you really want to do? If so, make it your priority. Work around it. Once your basic needs are taken care of, money is there to be used. What better investment than in yourself.”
I stare at the wooden slats … “Yes, but …”
She asks me to write my creative autobiography by answering her questions. The first question stops all the others:
- What is the first creative moment you remember?
My first creative moment. Oh, I remember it … even if it feels so far away. I was very young. Probably around 4-5 years old. Somehow I had seen ballerinas warming up … I don’t know where, probably on PBS. When I was by myself, I tried to replicate what they did using the railing that ran along the steps leading down to our basement. I remember dancing on my toes and being so proud. I guess my parents must have seen me and thought I really liked music and promptly set me up for violin lessons. (My dad later said they should have chosen dance.) And I sat there in the sweltering heat and relived that moment. I can see it very clearly. I remember how I felt.
“But seriously, Twyla, it’s just difficult with my new business and money and time and maybe I’m too old to ever be any good.”
And she says almost right away, “Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”
My conversation lasted off and on with Twyla for a couple days and really “ended” today in the sauna. Meaning, I haven’t finished the book, but I have come to a distinct milestone for me: Dancing is not just a hobby. It’s not something I do when I have some extra money or because I’m bored or I’m looking to make new friends or become a better social dancer. I don’t dance because it makes me feel cool or sounds good, gives me confidence, or even because it’s good for you — physically and mentally. I don’t dance because I’m competitive and want to make a name for myself in the ballroom world. I don’t dance to make money or to impress anyone. I don’t dance because it’s my therapy.
I dance because I’m still that 4-year-old girl trying to move to the beat of the music. I need to create through dance.
As Twyla said while elaborating on why she chose dance over becoming a visual artist, “But even then I knew myself well enough to realize that no matter how much I enjoyed making sketches, the painter’s life was not for me. I didn’t feel it in my bones. I would tell my “story” through movement. Gotta dance.”
Yeah, gotta dance. Some things will have to change.
My teachers and I about a month ago at a studio event. (Teach is on my right. He’s my main partner and instructor.)