This weekend I have enjoyed the honor of returning to my alma mater to create a dance for first year college students. The students are lovely. We are enjoying an opportunity to get to know each other as movers and as people and the dancers are enjoying a new (to them) process for creating dance and creating a culture.
The honor, though, is the luxury of time in the space I poured myself into many years ago. To return to the environment that opened my eyes to the artistry of dance, strength of character, and gave me opportunities to take risks and truly be seen. I hear the echoes of wisdom doled by sage mentors and I am flooded with fondness for friends and memories made there.
My lens is not totally rose-tinted. I equally recall the struggles and challenges, the drama and the sacrifices yet I acknowledge the resulting sense of group and the profound sense of belonging I felt there.
It hits me now that it is precisely that feeling I have been searching for, professionally, ever since.
WMU was where I found my “flow” as theorized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- where interest, rigor, and appropriate challenge result in joy, the kind of joy when time is lost and sense of self is found. An optimal experience.
This piece explores the notion of seeing and being seen. We are sifting through the landscape of being a “first year”- eager to demonstrate and impress, bridled with the change of status from leader to low man, feeling invisible and being hungry for acknowledgement.
We have talked about being “under construction” in technique class, as technical skills are built or rebuilt, and the longing to “just dance” which really means reconnecting with the dancer- selves we knew and understood. There is no going back, though. That is the sneaky thing about growth.
Being in a new teaching position, in spite of my substantial experience, I can relate to the “first year” experience. I am living it. Being new is exhausting, even in the best of environments. Reputation means little after the initial invitation to do whatever it is you want to do, until you can establish your reputation all over again in a new place, with new circumstances, new people. Character. I think it takes character to build character. I think it takes character to help others build character. This will be a big topic in my classes at the high school this week.
Yesterday we ended rehearsal with four questions,
What have you seen today?
What have you allowed to be seen today?
What are you reluctant to share?
When do you feel seen (acknowledged, valued, appreciated)?
Some of these are as tricky for me to answer, I think, as they are for the students and equally as important.
We decided yesterday, we are searching for fulfillment. That is defined differently for each of us, but one commonality kept coming through- we want to change people’s perspectives. We want to move people.
We’ll be back at it at 1pm.