When I was nine years old, my mother took me to see A Chorus Line, the movie, in the theater. It was a special treat that has stayed with me all of my life. I remember my mom saying something like, "now, there are a lot of things in this movie that you aren't going to understand because it is for adults, but I know how much you like to dance and I think you will really love this movie." I was all in, of course!
Since that special viewing, I have seen this movie countless more times and I know all the words to all of the songs, which I have been known to sing loudly and obnoxiously at times. When I was a little older, and my mom wanted to be hired at our local newspaper, we would drive by and she would sing, "yes, oh yes, I am a writer! . . . let me write for you. Let me try. Let me write for you . . . ." So, obviously this movie held special meaning to me and within my family, but also toward my identity as not a dancer. Oh, I could dream, but I knew very early on that I would never be a dancer, especially not the kind that could audition for something like A Chorus Line! And since I, like my mother, am a writer, this song line is always ever-present and ready to bust out of my subconscious or my mouth.
By now you might have an inkling of why this this blog title echoes this song, but you might be wondering why I changed the word from dancer to artist. After all, I certainly have been able to claim my identity as a dancer! Again, not as a dancer like the ones I emulated and idolized in A Chorus Line, but as a person who loves to move to music, who loves to dance, who loves to create and teach choreography. It took me a long time and a lot of work to recover this part of myself and it is my passion and mission to continue my dance-related self-care practice and to teach dance-based classes and organize events that provide other people with a safer container to find their own love of dance and movement.
I still have trouble calling myself a dancer, and proclaiming it freely. For a long time I had trouble claiming myself as a "real" yoga teacher, a "real" belly dance teacher, and a "real" writer because I did not feel like I could authentically claim this title. When a student or friend says something like, "I'm kind of a writer" or "I want to be a writer," I am quick to reinforce their self-efficacy. But, like so many things, it is more difficult to adhere to my own pep talk.
It is even more difficult for me to proclaim myself an artist, which I am trying to work through. Because what I do when I create and teach a JourneyDance playlist, when I teach a yoga class, when I put together a syllabus, when I write a book or a blog or a website, and when I created The Spiral Goddess Collective–is art. All of these things tap into my creativity and flow out of me as if they have always been there just waiting to be born. One of my favorite quotes is from Ranier Maria Rilke, "You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born." I am always waiting for the future to be born, and when I get tired of waiting, I push my images out into the world. Now I am able to push other artists' images out into the world–whether they call themselves an artists or not!
As Shoshona Currier, Director, Bates Dance Festival writes: “The value of the artists goes beyond the shows they create. Their work resonates throughout society in critical and creative thinking, collaborative work environments, problem-solving, dreaming. Artists change space.” And this is how I think of my art–the arts I describe above. And this is where I circle back to A Chorus Line. When my mom took me to see that movie, she planted a seed for a life-long love of dance (even as fear, shame, and self-doubt tried to separate me from this love). But there was another, more important seed planted by that film that I did not link back until much later in life–a seed of social justice.
In A Chorus Line I was exposed to a kind of diversity that did not exist in my sheltered, middle-class world at that time. The cast of characters auditioning for the chorus line were Black, and Puerto Rican, and gay, and too "old" to be dancers. They were pursuing their dream and pushing back against the barriers that society put in front of them. They were personifying grit, ambition, drive, passion, and hard work. I was all in. My mom was right, much of that film went over my head at nine-years-old, but the important stuff sunk into my heart, my bones, my muscles, my sinew.
The value of the artists I saw on screen, emulations of the artists on the stage, created work that resonated and fostered my creative and critical thinking. It allowed me to dream and, eventually to claim many parts of my identity that have helped me to continue to birth my images into the world. So, yes, oh yes, I am an artist and I am excited to bring this vision of art into downtown Bangor and ARTober through The Spiral Goddess Collective (and some of it in the slideshow above!). I'll be posting more about the art that decorates our Collective space though I do consider the space to be a work of art in and of itself.