Sunday, December 25, 2011

Terpsichore's Whisper

Terpsichore - [turp-sik-uh-ree] the muse of the dance, Gk. Terpsikhore, lit. “enjoyment of dance,” from terpein “to delight” + khoros “dance, chorus”

If I think back over the past year or so I’m not sure I could pinpoint the moment that I first acknowledged what was happening.  There had been signs along the way of course.  I’d begun to use a bit less care than usual in putting on stage make up because the excitement of the transformation that usually accompanied it simply wasn’t there. I remember beginning to work on a new piece and the idea of making an entirely new costume just seemed like too much of a bother.  And there were the times when after hours of listening to song after song I finally just settled for a bit of music because I’d committed to performing at a show and I had to pick something to dance to even if it didn’t speak to me the way music used to.

And finally there was that moment, actually there were many of these moments, when after all of the planning and the practice that leads up to a performance, I found myself standing backstage waiting for the lights to come up so I could make my entrance and instead of the expected excitement and usual nervous jitters I felt nothing…and all I could think of was that I couldn’t wait for the show to be over.  And when, after it finally was, people congratulated me on a job well done or they told me that they loved a particular performance I resisted the urge to walk away because though I said the words of thanks, and told them how I was happy that they’d enjoyed the show, inside I felt like a bit of a fraud.

Looking at that statement it might seem that I am being a bit melodramatic; after all I’m not someone who is well known outside of the local dance community.  I’m not a full-time performer who makes her living on the stage.  If I disappeared forever no one is going to make a documentary about the great legacy that was lost because I’d not had the forethought to pass my ideas and talents on to some young protégé (How’s THAT for melodramatic?).  But however small or great my contributions to the dance world might be, I’d always felt that what I brought to the stage was something that came from a place of honest inspiration. 

Every piece I’d done whether it was something silly about the feeling one gets as a child when seeing the first snow fall of winter or a more serious piece about struggling with the darkness of depression or just something fun, like belly dancing to a bluegrass song just to see if I could, my heart was fully in it.  Even in the darker pieces there was a joy that I felt in being on that stage and in sharing the story that I was there to tell through dance.  The experience filled me to the point of overflowing and I felt that what spilled over was a gift that I willingly gave to the audience. 

So, while it might sound melodramatic, it is true that lately I have I felt like what audiences had seen was not my best work, not because I’d had a bad performance or I’d worked any less hard physically in creating the show.  In fact during this entire time I worked harder than I ever had before, thinking that if I just practiced more, challenged myself more, and pushed myself more that I’d regain what it was that I had lost.   I didn’t feel like a sham because I’d not put in the hours prior to performing, but because I’d stepped on that stage to present a piece that was not filled with that same spirit.

I am a firm believer in the idea that the show must go on.  I’ve no illusions about every performance being one that is perfect or that the every audience will love.  There will always be times that getting on that stage will be a struggle; the previous performance I may have tripped on my costume, or the DJ presses play and the music that comes out of the speakers isn’t the version I expected, or I have a cold that I’m fighting off, or I’m just too damn tired, or I just had my heart broken, but I always manage to get on that stage anyway and, until recently, most of the time once I am there all of that falls away.   I will always do what I have committed to doing which is why, even when my heart has not been in it, I’ve managed to somehow get myself up on that stage anyway, but, with a few exceptions, unlike those other times when I might just be overtired or hungry or sick, the feeling doesn’t pass and I feel a bit like I’m a puppet pulling my own strings, going through the motions of the performance.

This is where I find myself today.  And this is why I’ve not posted to the blog in over a week.  Most of my writing over the past several days has been centered on this issue because writing has always been one of the ways that I work things out.   The loss of connection to inspiration can be a very personal and sometimes painful experience and it is often one that is worked out in solitude.

My thoughts have gone from one extreme (ceasing performing all together until I figure this out) to another (dropping all other creative pursuits except for dance until I figure this thing out) and I’ve not yet found an answer.  I do know I don’t want to stop dancing.  I also know that I have experienced fallow times in other creative pursuits, including writing, and that with time even the most barren of creative times have always had an end.

So I guess  the closest thing to a conclusion that I have come to is that this isn’t something I can bring to an end solely through the force of my own will.   I perhaps have a bit of soul searching to do, taking the time to seek out and reconnect with the reasons that I began performing in the first place, but in the end, I must to be patient and willing to wait this out.  I hope that it will not be too long before I once again hear Terpsichore’s whisper. 

1 comment:

  1. Dancing seems to be your calling, at least at this point in your life. Speaking from my own experience, there are times when the sound of the call has faded into the distance or has not been there at all. Inspiration seems to have deserted me. I've felt this in my work-a-day work and in my deep spiritual work, and my tendency - much like what you express - is sometimes to just give it up, turn out the lights, and go home.

    But the inspiration of the muse comes back and I feel restored. Often during these fallow times the creative forces in my life are working in the background in my deep often inaccessible parts in ways I had not imagined. When the muses are ready to speak, they will return.