Monday, November 17, 2008

cold feet diaries

no, i did not leave anyone at the aisle.
i did however, dance on the frigid mall betweeen the capitol and the monument on a brisk november sunday. i am so proud of myself, for pushing myself to go out and dance in spite of the cold and the wind. it was a blessed time, keeping myself warm in the winds of change. people passed by. rodrigo from portugal asked could he take my picture, and i said sure. he says he'll email when he gets back home. he caught me in the perfect sunlight that pours out between passing clouds. he captured moments otherwise swallowed up in the memory of time. he grabbed my dancing body with his camera, and so did some others, but they did not ask my permission.

i was wearing my special five-finger shoes one of my sponsors got me. so i wasn't barefoot, but my feet were cold by the end of my 75 minutes of OSA. and i was so happy, so excited that i had danced, that i didn't realize my feet were numb until i walked away and into the national gallery of art to warm up and put my other socks and shoes on.

whenever i go into the national gallery of art it's like returning to the scene of a crime. over 18 months ago, the OSA project as I've been presenting it to the world was birthed there, in the East Building. i was with a dear friend, Celeste, and we danced for two hours, without interruption. crowds of people passing by stopped to explore our movement with there eyes, including a group of 40+ middle schoolers. it was one of my favorite OSAs of all times. it was upon leaving (we were putting our shoes and coats on), that a gallery guard came over to us and said (and I quote) "you can't be doing no ballet in here"--and from there I was fired up to liberate all public spaces with movement.

i thought it was all so ironic, that all the guards had watched us dance for two hours. that they had repositioned themselves around the gallery so that even on their breaks they could watch us. i thought after all that, when we were finished, no less, a guard comes to tell us to "stop". how can you stop movement? would you be any more successful containing the ocean? and which ocean could you contain as all of them are connected and flow into each other, and if not into each other then to some gulf or river or something. see, the movement too is just as elusive. it is not something to be captured, rather something to allow to flow through you because it is bigger than you and me and everyone else. the dance is so big that any request to "stop" doing it is absurd to me. would you ask god to stop loving, would you ask mothers to stop giving birth, would you tell the clouds to only send down one drop of rain? the dance too is too big to control, and why would we want to? it's much more fulfilling to be a participant in the movement, than to attempt to be its obstacle. such efforts are a waste of life force energy. come now, my dear living beings...let's dance!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Wishing Womb and other dreams

I am writing and dancing in my head all the time. "The Wishing Womb" is a segment of the I am the Mother Project that I'm sharing at an audition in a couple of weeks. This is really major because I don't audition for anything. I don't believe in competition when it comes to artistic expression. I believe everyone's creative contribution is valid and welcome, and who is anyone to judge? So all that said, I'm pushing myself to audition because it is an area outside of my comfort zone...and one never knows what might happen...right? Also, planning, organizing, choreographing, and all that jazz—not my first mode of action. A lot of my movement is born in the moment and I don't spend a lot of energy trying to archive it or remember it for later. I trust more movement will come and it always does.

Of course, sometimes I do want to remember the dances I do, and because I don't often take the initiative, I thought an audition adventure would be a good exercise for me in doing the things I never really do.

So now what? Here I am at the fertile portal of infinite possibilities and I find myself thinking and envisioning the dance, but not actually doing it. I find excuses like eager children on an Easter egg hunt. I’m tired. I’m cold. I’m thirsty, I’m hungry (my favorite reason)—and on and on, until another day has drifted by and I’ve still not worked on the dance. And what is “working on the dance” really mean to me? It’s a developing concept. I really am still learning about me and how I create. Some people write it down. Some draw pictures. Me…I talk to myself, I sing, I run in circles, I make believe the world is really an intergalactic galaxy with lots of other beings that want to dance with me. As you can see there’s no systematic approach to my creativity. It’s like wandering through a forest and then happening upon a clearing in the woods. And there, in that space, I can begin.

Sometimes I’m drawn to the clearing space by a dream. I awoke this morning reflecting on a series of interesting dreams I’d had. One was about running into an close friend of mine from my studies in Ghana, Clara Yaa Nsiah Asantewaa. She was walking on U Street in DC and telling me how she was working off the record as a babysitter. She told me she was homeless and I gave her all my info and told her to come and stay with me if she wanted. And then, in another dream, I was sitting with these little girls and one of them asked me: “How many people are you?” And I thought, what a profoundly deep question, coming from a child. But should I be surprised, the children are the smartest of our lot.

So anyway, I answer her that I was a teacher this morning, and now I’m going to be an actress, and that tomorrow I’d be a model, and then a dancer. And then I told them to dream really big, and that they can imagine the world in any way they want to, and to not think there’s anything too silly or too farfetched about their dreams. As I went off on my passionate sermon of dreams, I realized in that delicate conscious “observer” space, that I was talking to my inner child. I was telling myself to dream big, to not feel inhibited by anyone or anything.

I woke up to a buzzing cell phone; it was LaDiosa calling to update me on her life in the past 24 hours. We hadn’t talked the day before because I get no cell phone reception on lovers lane. The first thing I said to her was an account of all of my dreams, especially the part about the little girls. LaDiosa agreed that it was really special that they’d asked me “How many people are you?”

It reminds me of the character Lissie in Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar, because she narrates all the different people that she has been. And then it made me think of my creative journey with the I am the Mother Project. Sometimes when I’m dancing, I’ll start to “tune in” to one of the mothers. I might start singing a song and realize it captures the spirit of one of my great-grandmothers, or I’ll be doing a gesture and feels it’s connected to the movement vocabulary of another aunt. It’s a fluid process. At times it seems as effective as trying to hold a piece of the ocean with your hands. The creative opening is so delicate and fragile, and just as you can only hold water for a second, sometimes the creative “ah hah!” moment seems just as fleeting.

Whatever way I interpret its origins, I have to ride these moments to fullest when they come. I have faith in the ever-abundant creativity, of course. But there are times when the dance seems stuck or delayed, like a faucet that spits out gurgles of water. Imagine being thirsty for your dance or your song or whatever and grabbing onto whatever little bit of inspiration floated past you. That is how I’ve been feeling lately. It’s interesting, no judgment, just observing. Wondering what vision the next dream will bring.