Updated: Oct 25, 2018
“Living in the past is depression. Living in the future is anxiety. Living in the present is peace.”
I’m starting with a quote because it explains a lot about my journey in dance and its ability to help me develop who I am today and in regards to loving myself.
As structured as I want this first post to be, I realized life throws you in all kinds of situations, so please bear with me -- we are learning together. So for a while, I developed a lot of fear within dance even when I found it to be a stress reliever for me throughout college. Most of that fear resonated with failure -- and financial stability, until I realized I could make it work with multiple jobs and staying active in my own community with dance and the arts. The latter could be better, but the fear of not being good enough and comparing myself to other dancers is what brought the majority of those negative thoughts in to play.
I realized how others were succeeding so well, and it hit me that they’ve made the commitment to broaden their skill set. Stemming from that, for myself, for you, and anyone else out there: we have to remind ourselves that we are deserving of that too. Also, we can’t forget how much we have endured, created, and felt in our experiences of growth. We have our own journey, process, and credentials that we’ve created for ourselves. We need to have more patience, and be more kind to ourselves in this journey, because it has a wide variety of things for us to explore.
PROCESS. This artistic route leads many of us to explore and choose what fits our morals, values, interests, etc. It also gives us so much room to the point where many of us seem to get lost. Sometimes this feeling of uncertainty affects our mental health, how we communicate/interact with others, and even how we move. How many of us have beat ourselves over and over again because of thoughts like, “Why am I not getting this 8 count…” vs. “What can I do to understand this 8 count...”? Which one do we relate more with? I know for me, I resonated more with the first one for a while, only because I was too stubborn to recognize what steps I needed to take to get there.
This deals a lot with the idea of wanting fast results, rather than taking action to do the work to get to there. Shortcuts can provide certain advantages and benefits, but the struggle is what grounds you to be a humble being. You have to take action to build your knowledge, and also recognize we all work and process things differently. When you take the time to understand how you do so, you will flourish effectively with the things you do, the people you meet, and everything else you dive into. You will start to do things intuitively and everything will naturally fall into place. You will also begin to create and learn from an authentic and genuine place. You will begin to attract the good. We’re all wired differently, so do expect shifts in your mentality. Your mental health is never consistent, so in your own exploration and journey, you will have to find what kinds of things feed your soul, rather than eat away at your soul. Wow. That actually sounds pretty scary reading out loud, but you will begin to make better choices that feed into a healthy mental state! Again, I’m no expert in the mental health world, but I have been learning and recognizing things that help me to be a better person, to be mentally and emotionally happy.
GOALS. With goals we set for ourselves in dance or life in general, we have to make sure they’re achievable. Make sure you get a reality check before anything else, because when we set standards or expectations that are too high, and we end up falling short, we feel defeated... defeated to the point in which we feel ashamed and disappointed. This is when doubt creeps in and clouds our vision of our potential. We decide to QUIT because it was "too hard” or “unachievable”, when really, the route we should alternatively look into is the one taking baby steps. There's an ease in those small achievements that will feel more natural to help nurture your progress. So don’t let doubt kill your dreams and passions. Recognize that there will be challenges, commitments, sacrifices, and risks you will have to take to make your dream a reality. As corny as that sounds, it’s pretty darn true.
JOURNEY. My journey in dance as a commitment has been wonderful, or more so like a constant push to try something new everyday. There are so many things I would like to cover, because dance has given me more love than anything, but I am bringing up topics that we have seen a countless number of times. In the beginning, I touched upon the fear within dance, but in the process, I have realized the warm feelings and rays of sunshine it brings. It’s about how you carry yourself, to cultivate your experiences and the people you meet in your journey. It’s about that SELF LOVE. Your ability to make others feel good about themselves says a lot about YOU. You give yourself love so that way you can give others the same kind of love. So in that class you always go to train in, take the time to meet someone new, give a compliment, ask questions, ask the choreographer or teacher what you need to work on. Again, set small goals. These kinds of things will allow you to grow as a dancer, a friend, a sister, a brother, a human. Know that this journey is yours, so own the crap out of it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else because everyone’s journey is different, and acknowledge that everyone is always working on themselves with their own insecurities. No one is perfect. We all have our flaws. So love your journey, respect others for their own, and please remember to be kind to yourself.
PNG. Passion Nurtures Growth. So… I’ve taken quite a few classes, workshops, and intensives in my lifetime thus far. They have each given me so much knowledge that I’m extremely grateful for. You know those experiences you can’t quite put into words? Well, I want to take this time (and hopefully I’m not wasting anyone’s time who is reading this) to express how life-changing my experience in the PNG intensive has been. From someone who has graduated from teaching lessons in a school system, I grew to love the structure that PNG has constructed. It’s a safe learning space where everyone is recognized, and the camaraderie that is built within this structure creates a beautiful environment. Rather than going about the day competing against other bodies to get in select groups, we are taught to acknowledge who everyone is as individuals before classes even begin. Not only that, we also get to connect with the choreographers on a level to which we realize that they are also simply human beings who equally love dance as much as we do. Well… there still may be some fangirling (lol) but you all know what I mean. PNG and their no phone policy, fun bonding exercises, dance history lessons, guest speakers, just everything. It’s such an inclusive environment that consists of absolutely no means to alienate anyone. The staff and their ability to come together and really crank hours away to make it all happen shows what a community can do with its amazing leaders. In no way, shape, or form have I ever felt like an outcast. I highly recommend anyone who goes to a PNG intensive to invest and commit to the 2 day option (if available). You gain so much more within dance, friendship, new ideas, ways to train, love, etc.!
PRESENT. No, not the gifts kind, but existing in the now kind. I was able to stay focused and stay true to who I am throughout the intensive. Every now and then, when I would try and get ahead of the game, I would tell myself to be patient and allow it to unfold naturally. That way, when learning, I wouldn’t feel so much anxiety and I'd understand that I have a whole community around to ask questions if I am lost. Of course, there were small moments that I didn’t pick up on, but as long as I kept trying, it was fine with me. I watched others move around me, and realized many were stuck in the same situation. I didn’t get it all perfectly, but I definitely found moments when I was happy and just feeling the musicality. By staying present, I was in tune with what I wanted to achieve and grow the parts of me that were uncomfortable. You can’t be too comfortable with anything because there’s no growth coming out of that. So the struggle is real, and it’s proof that you’re growing and you have to learn to be accepting of it. Growth comes from change, and allowing change to spill into every part of you will enable you to endure, and in turn, love yourself better. Be present and peace will take over.
THANK YOU. So, thank you to PNG and your mission to help others and your community to flourish. I have learned so much in all of your intensives. Each one has taught me to love myself even more and to push that in my community as well. Collectively, we all want to learn and dance, but we have to understand that if there is no bond or connection created within class, there is no growth -- the kind of growth that will inspire others to create from a real and authentic place. We all have to realize that we have to dance for ourselves first, before anyone else, because it brings out a side of you others will really respect. So when you are learning, dig into the parts of you that you’ve never brought to surface, and EXPLORE THE CRAP OUT OF THAT. So in conclusion (I hope I wasn’t too all over the place), to those who are reading this, I wish for you to continue to LOVE: 1) YOURSELF 2) YOUR JOURNEY 3) YOUR PROCESS and 4) YOUR CREATIVITY. Continue to grow and continue to flourish. Also, this post doesn’t have to apply to just dance; you can apply aspects of my experience to all parts in your life. I encourage others to share their stories too, so that way we can all join together in our struggles and learn how to build happiness from them. Make it seem more like home and a sanctuary, rather than a place you want to run away from. So let’s continue to create, be happy, be real, and see that passion does nurture our growth.
Here are some of my favorite moments from the Intensive of dancers in the midwest community <3 (shot by Kunal D. Patel):
I feel pure joy and happiness from these photos, so I couldn’t resist including them.