Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dance: At the Ocean's Edge

Sunset (Diamond) Beach, North Cape May, NJ
When I am able to visit my beloved Atlantic Ocean (and the temperature allows), I love to take off my shoes and immerse my feet and ankles in the shorebreak. As each little wave comes up to my legs and swirls around them, my feet disappear into the sand, becoming one with the beach and redefining the shape of each wave as it flows and ebbs. Sometimes I will advance forward and immerse my whole being in the water, and other times I will stay transfixed by the breakers, taking it all in.

I grew up with the ocean, and no matter where I travel, the Atlantic is an integral part of my being. I don't have to be submerged or swimming to enjoy the ocean fully.  I can fill my soul by watching the waves, feeling it touch just a part of me.  I can breathe in the salty air and enjoy viewing surfers and swimmers go the extra mile.  When I'm hundreds or thousands of miles away from the sea, I can still feel it inside me, hear the surf tumbling, the sparkle of the sun or the moon upon its surface. No matter what changes have gone on in me, in my life, the ocean has always there been there, waiting.

In that liminal space between land and sea, I find a similar existence with dance.

I find so many of my friends who found the dance about the same time I did, have been struggling with the question of what does the dance mean for them? When is it time to let go and move on? All those years, emotions, and finances invested in the pursuit of the dance...is it a sunk cost? Are we different now, will it ever be the same? Is the spark cooling until it extinguishes, or will it flare again? Something else is requiring my attention or fueling my inspiration, so is there an end?

If we keep with the ocean as our metaphor for dance: sometimes there's too many people at the same beach, and they're too loud/rude/obnoxious/polluting and spoil your experience. Or maybe there's no one else there, and you don't want to swim alone.  Sometimes you just really want to hike in the desert or go to the woods.  Sometimes you're tired of sand in your shoes and the salty air drying out your skin - or you get waterlogged and need to dry off. Or you had a scary experience - a near drowning - and you need time to heal and recover.

Here's the thing about the ocean (and dance) - it's all OK. You can take a break, you find a different ocean, you could chose not to visit it at all. You can sell the beach house AND still come back to visit. Basically, there doesn't need to be any ultimatums. You don't have to make any hard and fast choices. You don't need to announce to anyone your intentions. You don't need to tell the ocean (the ocean doesn't care, it's the ocean...ok, well maybe the ocean spirits will care.)  To those that you visit and swim in the ocean with, you can simply say, "I don't feel like being in the ocean right now, I need some time away" and leave it at that.

All relationships change, and that includes the relationships we have with certain activities. For many of us, finding dance was/is about finding ourselves in some way - control over our physical being, emotional and spiritual health, and something to immerse ourselves in. It is/was a safe place, an outlet, an opportunity, relief from a difficult situation, a means for expression. Then it got/gets us past that point, we grow and change, and our relationship needs to be redefined, reconsidered, renewed. It's natural and most importantly, to be expected. It may mean not teaching or performing, or participating in certain events. It may mean the style of dance will change, or a break all together.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things. There is no need to feel guilty or obligated. (Staying attached to something because you feel obligated or guilty is about the worse thing you can do for you/them.) Follow your inspiration, follow your heart, and happiness will follow you.

You don't have to say to the ocean, "I am breaking up with you forever." The ocean knows forever. You, on the other hand, do not. You never know what path could lead you back there.

Even if your toes aren't touching the ocean, it's still there inside you.