This is the third video in the creative collaboration series that my friend Marsha and I are working on (you can see the first 2 here and here).
When Marsha sent me this piece, I had to smile. It took me back more than a decade.
Long, long ago, when we were teenagers (I think…I’m bad with chronology), Marsha and I were both training intensively in our chosen art forms. She practiced increasingly complex and beautiful pieces of music on the piano, and I practiced increasingly complex and beautiful steps in ballet class.
And when we hung out at her house, we had a ritual of going into the play room where the piano was. She would play through her pieces, and I would stand in the small rectangle of open space behind her and dance. I’ve lost a lot of memories from my childhood, but this one remains a treasured favourite.
Marsha went home over Easter weekend, and she recorded this piece on the very same piano she used to play on when we’d dance and play together. And this video is my response.
I call this piece “Muscle Memory” because I started out with the idea of doing a very “balletic” dance (and you can see how the dance begins and ends that way). I wanted to see if I could still capture the essence and feeling of the dances I used to do in the play room, having not taken a ballet class in 8 years.
I think I managed it…but it wasn’t very comfortable (physically as well as emotionally—the inside of my right knee did NOT enjoy my attempts at turnout). And I couldn’t sustain it for the whole piece. I still like the end result, though. It’s more Meg-now than Meg-then, but it still, I hope, pays homage to the young girls in the play room.
Thank you, Marsha, for a beautiful piece, and for the great memories. <3
My oldest friend and I have been in creative partnership for almost three years.
She proposed it when Xander was about 8 months old, as a way to finally get our novels written. We agreed to write at least 5 pages a week, and to email each other each Sunday with our latest installments. We would be accountability buddies, a support system, rainbow-pompom-ed cheerleaders.
And it worked SO well. I have over 200 pages of my novel written. That’s the most I’ve ever written about any single thing, ever.
As time passed, the partnership shifted. I put my novel on the back burner to focus on this blog. She continued with her novel, finished her first draft, and proceeded to major edits. We kept writing each other every Sunday, with updates on our progress. I would send her notes about the posts, plans, and projects I’d worked on over the week, and she would send me her latest installment of edits. (If you’re looking for a way to get your creative work done, I can’t recommend this kind of partnership enough).
She finished her novel. And then she wrote to me with a new suggestion, one that lit me up and made me bounce in my seat going “YES! YES YES YES!!!”
So, here it is: every 4 weeks, she’s going to send me an original piece of music. And two weeks after I get it, I’ll post a video of myself dancing to it.
Regular videos? With entirely original music? Yes, Please.
I love love love love love this idea. And here’s the first installment:
I’m immensely grateful for this partnership and everything it’s brought me. Thank you so much, Marsha. I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings!
Well, here we are, the last day and the last video of the Delicious Body Dance-a-thon.
I just need to take a second and really let that sink in.
One month. Twelve videos.
AND I DID IT.
When I started out with this project, I was absolutely terrified. I was so afraid to let go and dance on film. Over and over and over again.
But I posted that first video, and then the second and then the third…and I slowly, haltingly realized that this sharing didn’t make me feel small and scared and not-good-enough. It made me feel bigger, more powerful, and more willing to take risks with my dance.
I feel like you can see that progression from the first video to this last one. It makes me so happy.
In ballet school, I was taught that I would never be good enough. That I would never be perfect, and that perfect was all that mattered. I was taught a lot of other terrible, damaging things too. But this project helped me move through that baggage and let it go. Because there are no scales to measure self-worth, and no way to compare your soul’s unique expression. No matter what they’ve told you. No matter how hard it is to believe.
…I feel like this piece is the perfect one to end on.
Thank you so much for witnessing this journey. Thank you to commenters and lurkers alike. Your support and appreciation radiated through the past month, and I will never forget it. <3
Has anyone called you beautiful today?
Have you seen the exploding stars in your smile, or are they already
black holes when greeted by a mirror?
Are you tall enough to reach your reflection,
or do the crushing boot heels keep you too close to the ground to reach?
Did they tell you that your face is impossible?
Did they tell you not to sing?
Did they tell you that you belong as close to the ground as you can get?
Did you believe them?
Did they rock and lull you with distractions,
or did they stone you into silence so that you no longer
spoke of your greatness?
Has anyone told you that you are a sleeping giant?
That you could rumble the earth all the way open if you wake up and stand?
Are you trapped inside a nightmare laced with villagers and ropes?
Have they named you ‘monster’?
Do you see the torches coming?
Are you yet to discover the might in your fingers?
Are you still buried in the slumber?
Has anyone told you of your majestic glory?
Have you heard whispers of possibility in your breath?
Have you reveled in the power of your sweetest dreams?
Do your teeth have welts?
Have they called your prison ‘cocoon’?
Are you ready to break out?
Are they so afraid of you that you have become
afraid of yourself?
Have they called you clumsy?
Have your legs gone numb in the box they’ve crammed you into?
Can you still wiggle your toes?
Do they mock your wings?
Do they echo the name ‘freak’ in their flapping?
Are you clinging, desperate to a branch?
Are your feathers atrophied?
Have you hardened into stone?
Do they treat you like an artifact?
Has your size become an idle exhibit
now that you are no longer a threat?
Are you still a threat?
Are you history, or are you making it still?
Has anyone told you today that you are still breathing?
That you can melt stones into water with a touch?
That the sun and moon are sheepish at the sight of you?
That the struggle free is what strengthens your wings
to carry you forward?
I offer you every mirror.
Your reflection is in love with you,
This video is what happens when you really want to make a dance video, but your husband is sick in bed. Please pay no attention to the adorable toddler playing with an iPad in the background.
I love this song. I love this song. I love love love this song. And that posed a major problem: when I thought about filming it, I became very concerned that my actual movement wouldn’t accurately reflect the dance in my head. I listened to the music again and again, and I kept thinking, “Maybe I should wait and try this one when I’m in better shape. Take a few months to, you know, work out, so I’m good enough to do it.”
…it made me wonder if that one thought wasn’t largely responsible for my lack-of-dancing over the past too-many-years…the pain of “not good enough” and putting off creativity until I felt worthy of it…
Here’s the thing: a dance (or book or painting or poem or piece of music) in your head may be perfect and magical in its amazingness. It may feel good to take that thought out and polish it and marvel at its sheer awesomeness. It may feel scary as hell to even attempt to make it real. But the truth is that until that idea is brought out into the world, made real in all of its inevitable imperfection…it’s just thoughts. It has no life of its own.
I struggled with this piece. I struggled with the dancing and the editing and the child-minding. And it’s not an accurate reflection of what was in my brain when i envisioned it.
But you know what? It’s here. It’s out here in the world. You can experience it along with me.
And that makes it bigger and better than my perfect thoughts. It’s unique in its real-ness, both like and unlike my vision, with a life of its own. I am so proud of it.
I didn’t meant to take as long as I did between videos. But giving myself permission to rest and not pressure myself made me realize just how strung out and stressed and self-crtical I had been feeling. Letting go of that made me feel like a 50 lb weight had been lifted from my chest…and I knew that I needed more than a day to enjoy it.
So I let myself rest. I watched movies. I read books (not even useful, informative books! Trashy books! It was AWESOME!). I stretched. I played with Xander (and realized how little I’d been connecting with him in the previous few weeks, even though we’re together 24/7). I didn’t even LOOK at the blog (so please forgive me if your comments went unanswered…I appreciated ALL of them).
And then one day I knew I was ready to dance again. But I wanted to try a video without music…just like my first one. I wanted to let my body dance however it needed to in order to get back into the swing of things. So I set a timer and I danced in silence.
It’s not a perfect video. My inner critic and I duked it out several times. There are moments where you can see my focus slip. My inner dance critic had a field day. But now that I watch it again…I wouldn’t change a thing. This is me at a moment when I decided to keep moving in spite of that inner critic, to share what my body has to express, regardless of how “good” it is (oh, that hateful voice inside). And that makes it perfect and beautiful all on its own.
Are you struggling to push through resistance? Are you being really insanely hard on yourself? How would it feel to let that pressure go, to rest peacefully, and to pick things back up once it feels right? How much of the weight you’re carrying is your own self-criticism?