Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dancing for Jesus, et al

When we think of prayer, do you we think of movement? When we think of healing, do we think of self-discovery? When we think of dance, do we think of ourselves? These questions are the most important part of my facilitation process when I work with people who are just beginning to realize their physical and artistic powers. So many of us come to a dance class or movement-based activity with preconceived notions of what dance is or is not; of how qualified/talented/entitled or not we are to even use our bodies to dance; or of where dance should or should not take place. All this mental mayhem makes a body dull! Beautiful people of the world, I implore you to try the Joyistic approach to body experimentation/dance/movement: JUST DANCE!

Again, you ask me, "Binah, what does that mean for me? I'm NOT a dancer like you!" And there, right there in your CHOICE to negate the very truth of your innately dancing being is the first, and most enormous obstacle that YOU have to shift in order to begin to experience your dancing self and, what I like to call, your "original dance technique." You've heard of Horton or Dunham or Balanchine. These were all real people, human beings like you and me who trusted their bodies enough to play and develop a form of movement that they felt inspired to share with the world. We possess the same potentials, you, me, everybody.

We each have unique ways in which our bodies move. How will we ever discover OUR technique or style if we don't dance and play with our movement? This is a big question that I want you to pause and ponder. You might be wondering: Why do I need to find my original dance technique? And that's fine. Keep dancing with yourself. Soon you will admit that there is a joy, an elation, an ecstasy like no other that you experience only when you dance! You will admit that there is a clarity and a healing that comes to you only when you dance. You will discover a new power source that is only stimulated when you dance. This, this is the critical factor of why making time to dance with your body is so essential to your life. There are things and experiences and insights that you need and can only access through YOUR DANCE.

Enhancing your life with daily dance rituals, big, small, private, or otherwise will open you up to a newfound confidence about yourself, your body, your ideas, your world. You will be happier and healthier. Life will be all-around more fun if you commit to dancing through it all. Trust me, I'm dancing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The 4th Anniversary of Freedom

Four years ago today, I did a wild thing...or so I thought. I went to work early, called my boss (who was coming in late) and reminded her it was my 90-day review. I then proceeded to spend the entire morning writing and editing a very nice and gracious resignation letter. I smiled as I handed it over to her and told her I would be leaving and heading to Brooklyn for my second summer with Urban Bush Women's Summer Dance Institute. I had no plans, no other job, and not a doubt in my mind that if I worked there one more day, I would surely die. She was pissed and I felt great. I never cried after work again.

The weeks leading up to my decision to leave were tumultuous. I was growing increasingly agitated at the job, and felt worried that I would never have adequate time to develop my dance career. I was overwhelmed, doing the job of 3 people, managing a staff of people who were really like peers, and who didn't take me seriously because the boss walked all over me, and very unhappy. I cried every day after work, feeling so awful for wasting yet another day sorting out papers I could care less about, for a woman who didn't seem to find anything right with me, and who shoved pork ribs in my face because my vegetarianness unnerved her.

The Sunday before I turned in my letter, I stumbled upon a Deepak Chopra talk in Crystal City at the IONS conference. I didn't know who he was; I didn't know he was about to help me see the light like never before. He talked for four hours, and I think tears streamed down my face for 80% of the time. He led us through a series of activities, but the one that was the catalyst of my liberation day was called "Finding your Soul Profile". (If you google him or "soul profile" you can do it too.) So basically, you answer seven questions, and the answers culminate into what is your "Soul Profile." Whenever at a crossroads in your life, you consult your soul profile. You ask the question: is this decision in alignment with my soul profile?" If the answer is "YES", then "success is inevitable." If the answer is "NO" then you'll continue to experience disturbances, unhappiness, and other unfortunate things.

My question at the time was, "Do I stay at this job or go to Brooklyn and get recharged at the creative arts' retreat?" I knew I wouldn't be able to "take-off" work with such short notice. And I knew if I missed the Urban Bush Women, I would regret it deeply. So, I completed my soul profile and asked if remaining at the job I hated was in alignment with my life at the time. The answer was of course, a resounding NO! And I cried from the liberation and relief of knowing that the only way to joy was to leave that place and journey on into new adventures.

Fear...yeah, I was scared. But the way the soul profile works, as long as what you're doing is in alignment with your soul profile, then you will prosper, you will succeed, you will find peace in your decisions. It doesn't matter if you don't know how it's all going to work out, all you have to do is put your faith in motion and the rest falls into place. Since leaving that job, I've been consulting the soul profile process at least once a year, checking in with myself. It works every time.

So, long story short (or you can read the blog history to fill in a lot of the blanks), I quit the office gig, stumbled into some wild, some nice, some not-so-nice dance teaching gigs in DC charter schools, became a figure (nude) model for art classes, went to India with all my savings, lived at home with my family in DC, raised money to go to Bali, volunteered in New Orleans, taught and modeled some more, launched "Open Space Activation" Dance, ran my own summer community dance program in DC, started dancing with women in recovery from drug abuse, began presenting more of my dance projects in the community, became a founding mother of The Saartjie Project, debuted JOYISM! and on and on til now where I am in the heat of an intense summer of youth dance work.

I did not always have a plan, more than two digits in the bank account, or optimism. I did not always believe in myself during this challenging, soul-searching, beautiful four year opening to my independence, but I did always bump into someone or get an email of encouragement or support right at the moment I was gonna back away from my dream and go back to the "safety" of another type of job. How amazing it is now to look back over this journey and taste the sweet relief of freedom everyday. To wake up knowing that I'm pouring my energy into what I believe in is a blessing and I am grateful. I am also happy to share my story with others on the verge of their artistic life liberation. We are all plants growing at our own frequencies. Everyone walks their path at their pace. We reflect things back to each other when we need to. If you are moved to love yourself more and shift into your joy...then do it! What are you waiting for?

(Photos by Elen Awalom 2009)

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

So much has happened since I last posted in preparation for JOYISM!'s May 1st debut. In a snapshot, I fell on my head two hours after the fabulous show, had a late night soiree with the hospital, resisted rest and recovery for a few weeks, went to Minneapolis for a great conference with The Saartjie Project, started a new, fascinating dance teaching job with a bunch of little children at a private school's camp, and now, for the next big stretch of leap into more Joyistic living, I'm facilitating a dance and leadership program for teenage girls.

Mind you, I'm still learning to rest well, eat well, and organize my life. The simple building blocks of health still evade me some days: food, sleep, and water are not always my top priority. So as I mastermind my way through a maze of possibilities for what programs to put together for my youth, my world is spinning and staring me straight in the face at the same time.

Last week on my way home after an exhausting day at camp, a group of teenage girls cursed me out on the green line train. They were offended by the smell of the food I was carrying and made an awful scene in front of a quiet train of iPoders and book reading commuters. Embarrassing...yeah. But more than that, I was in shock. I just didn't understand the intensity of their verbal attack. I thought, perhaps if I'd had some applications to my dance program, they might have been able to shift their aggressive articulation into some positive art-making. Who knows, maybe one of them might of been my star pupil.

So since then, I've been reflecting on the cosmic slap of that incident. Hmmm, I pondered, this is my constituency I'm reaching out to. These are the young women I'm attracting to me. What in the world have I gotten myself into! What is their world, what do they want? And then the other part of my brain is like, "teenage girls" are not a monolithic group of people. They're diverse in every way and now I have the awesome task of putting together a movement-based curriculum that will appeal to everyone who comes.

I am excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I am humbled and extremely confident in my abilities to do this, to turn these girls on to infinite possibilities of what their lives can be. When I explain the program to other women, they nod in agreement, wishing there'd been some safe, open, stimulated space for them when they were coming of age and learning the ways of rejecting and critiquing their bodies, talents, voices. Here in the program, I'll be facilitating a series of movement workshops, with occasional guest speakers, that encourage a radically different approach to life than the limiting options of mass media and contemporary culture.

How about looking at our bodies as the source of our power, and not objects subjected to other people's power? What happens when we believe enough in our own stories, in our own form of expression that we don't depend on other people's songs and dances to validate our lives? What happens when we create intimate, safe spaces for sharing and creating art with other young women exploring the same complexities of the coming-of-age journey?

All this and more coming to a summer program near you! out world, the dance is on!