Have you had the experience of saying a word so many times, that it sounds unfamiliar? Have you stood so close to something, that you could no longer identify it? The word loses its meaning; the object becomes a blur, out of focus.
If we only focus on one thing, we likely have a one-dimensional experience. It has now been 3 months that I have been living and dancing at Kibbutz Ga’aton in the north of Israel. Truly, I cannot say enough positive things about the fact that we dance all day, every day. At least 5-7 hours of our work week (Sunday thru Thursday) are spent learning technique and repertoire from Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC). When we are not doing that, we are in rehearsals for our personal works. While this dance journey has been such a rich experience for me, I cannot help but notice that my world has been super studio-saturated. My every-day experience has been dance-dance-dance.
This sounds like an amazing conundrum to have, right? For the most part, it is. However, being too close to anything, even the thing you love most, can leave you with the feeling that something is missing. Your perspective is skewed. The solution is not to add anything else to your regimen. In fact, less may be more. It is about checking in with yourself and attending to all of your unique needs and desires. We must be full beings in order to feel balanced. Cater to your other interests and develop a better understanding of who you are as a person. This will inevitably make you a stronger performer, as well. Notice your body and what is it telling you. No one can be you for you.
That being said, the reality is that in order to gain the tools necessary to be a professional dancer, we need to spend countless hours in the studio working. Technique enables the freedom that we crave to express ourselves through our art. We need to keep on searching and discovering new things, even in the seemingly mundane. For instance, I studied with a wonderful ballet teacher who insisted that each plié and port de bras had potential to tell a story. What makes it interesting for you? We need to find the pleasure in the pre-fixed routine at barre. How do we do this each and every day? If we find our personal joy in it, then it doesn’t feel like work.
The mental aspect is equally as important. We sometimes become overwhelmed with the realities of our profession. Funding for the arts is unfortunately scarce. It is a sad reality that we must hustle and work side-gigs in order to keep afloat in today’s world. This is true. We did not choose to become dancers solely based on the financial aspects of the career. If that were the case, we were seriously disillusioned. However, what if we took that opportunity and made it into something great and worthwhile.
How do we apply what we learn from dancing to our every-day life? Instead of making those pliés a chore, we can use our imagination and create something wonderful and blissful out of something so ordinary. It could be boring or it could be enticing. You take your pick. If we need a side job (most people seem to have to have something else to support themselves), then why not making it something we are actually interested in and enjoy? This is the ideal, but it can be a reality if we know where to look. This is a process, so overnight results should not be the expectation. In fact, leave expectations behind. They lend themselves to disappointment. It is far better to go in with a present and open state of mind. Being receptive and engaged in our experiences make them more promising. A distracted mind lends itself to injury, too. Stay aware and alert. Patience and a mindfulness practice will help.
I also try to remove labels and categories to the best of my ability. This is the only way transformation can happen. It takes time, but we have plenty of it. We cannot measure our worth based on our titles. Just stayed attuned to your unique sense of you, and you can find bliss. This is the next level of artistry. We grow from experience. Instead of being too fixated on the one thing we love most, we can allow ourselves to have an honest experience without preconceived notions of what that experience actually looks like. Take it from the inside out.
– Nika Antuanette
Former Summer Study NYC 2015 Student