Archive for May, 2011

A Legacy Of Wings – And Beyond

May 26, 2011

A Legacy O Wings

I have a vase presented to me by my mother after my father died. Drawn upon its gracefully curving surface is a very young child with wings. They are tiny bud-like things, insufficient for flying, but promising. Mama claimed that after my birth, Daddy painted the vase in celebration of my arrival. I cherish this very personal legacy and continue to be challenged by his long ago faith in my future flight.

Wings come in many forms, and flight can be subtle or dramatic: inherent in one’s nature or aspired to for various and mysterious reasons. As a child, observing my father’s regard for birds, I sought to emulate their flight through dancing. This may have brought a fleeting smile to his lips, before he dashed off in search of real birds, real wings: the greatest inspiration for his particular mode of flying. My mother’s smiles, though forced at times, lasted longer and were dependable over the years that followed. So I continued to dance, continued to believe in the wings my father, inadvertently perhaps, implanted in his baby daughter’s heart.

 

With the passing of time, the original source of my wings and my means of flying has become obscured by my own necessity. Maturity calls for a certain distancing from parental influence. Compelled to realize my personal flight path, I have needed to escape the relentless flapping of my father’s artistic genius. His wings, so obviously those of a giant: be it bird or angel, have caused a considerable stir, displaced a considerable amount of air. Caught in a downdraft, one might flounder; doubts diminish one’s tenuous hold on winged endeavors. The cooing support of my faithful mother has long been silent; the soaring achieved through dance been slowed or stilled as I found other ways to fly.

 

Remarkable to discover that wings in repose can assume new power. New feathers can sprout as the old ones wither and fall. Imagine feathers slowly creating new wings, new wings inclined toward new ways of expressing flight. These wings, innately patient in themselves, teach patience to the willing individual, even as she soars into untried areas of creativity.

 

Recognizing the source of these new wings as spiritual, and possibly less fleeting than a father’s admiration or a mother’s love for her daughter’s dance, I trust their flight. I brave the stillness required to let words wing their way onto the page, or I calmly watch the line of ink dart forth from my brush. Forgetting my father’s flight, away and beyond his daughter’s reach, I sculpt my own clay angels, firing them into glowing aspects of a woman’s journey. My hands, discovering yet another way to fly, now flutter freely over the keys, releasing a brave new music that, in turn, releases a brave new dance in me. I have come to believe that a legacy, even of wings, must evolve to continue flying.

The above was read as an introduction to my presentation on Sunday at The Ogden Museum. It was followed by a mixture of dance and sung poems. It was all well-received by an empathetic audience, but for me the best part was the reading and the hearing of these words – knowing, as I read, the truth of what I had written almost two years ago. My own understanding of my need to evolve – to move beyond my heritage, as marvelous as it may be was my gift to myself and allowed me to brave the performing aspect of my offering. Yes, I did sing, hopeful that the singing was part of this dancer’s need to evolve. It may be, yet for me the singing did not quite fly. Perhaps my singing life is a private sort of a flight, or perhaps I rushed my own process into the world before it was ready. The beauty of evolution is that if one is truly in the moment, one may not know it is happening.

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Words On The Wing

May 16, 2011

The title of this post is the title of a series of poems written a couple of years ago as I was recovering from surgery, but I find that it applies very well to where I find myself right now. I am preparing for my part in a program at The Ogden Museum in New Orleans to take place one week from today on May 22. The program is in conjunction with an exhibit featuring Walter Anderson’s art and my part is called A Legacy of Wings. I shall perform several of the poems, all of which have been inspired by birds and/or flight. One of the poems begins “I have always been drawn to things that fly.” This is not too surprising a statement for a woman who has danced her way through life, nor for the daughter of an artist whose favorite subject matter for painting was birds. But writing these poems – seeing them as a means of letting my words take flight – was extraordinarily liberating. I have integrated these poems into other performances: reciting and dancing my way to completion, but this time the words may fly farther. Emboldened by recent voice lessons, I intend to sing the poems.

This drawing illustrates one of the poems that I hope to sing. It was inspired by the collision of an Indigo Bunting with one of the highly reflective windows of my house. It is emotionally and vocally challenging but is probably the deepest and most meaningful to me.

Narcissus And The Angel

Stunned to stillness

yet my heart still beats a delicate tom-tom in my breast,

breath and blood still do their lively dance.

How could it be that I lay still as death

indigo blue of feathers staining spring-green grasses?

Wings are limp

yet I fly toward myself.

Repeatedly the bird I fly to meet

flies toward me blinding me with beauty.

One moment rapt with gladness flying fast.

Now I lay motionless

still seeing and responding to enticement.

The merriment of my own species carries on

as I lie here suspended in my folly.

Now something moves

approaching heavily yet carefully.

Earth shifts beneath my body.

Merry singing has gone silent.

A colossal presence.

Voice speaking softly.

I do not recognize the sounds;

the tone bespeaks the language of the heart.

So when I sense my smallness cradled

close to a rhythmic beat so like my own

I feel the promise of persistent life

and I am trusting.

It is a soothing transport through familiar air

a setting down upon a surface that is tree

yet not quite tree.

Once more alone

not quite alone

I am calm and safely basking

in the warmth of sun.

Never have I felt more patient

never more surprised

to feel a stirring greater than

the stir of feathers in a breeze.

Then sudden rush of life’s return!

Then swift ascent above the trees!

And flying with me is the one I flew to meet.

After the Tango

May 1, 2011

The week has been fraught with unusual demands: Daily rehearsals with my ballroom dancing class – and, finally, a performance of the Tango at the Mary C. O’keefe Cultural Center. Who would have thought?

There have certainly been doubts all through the process. My mind did frequently rebel against this venture into unaccustomed arenas of “dance”. My body also rebeled at times; the stamina required was fierce, the shoes a punishment for this barefoot dancer. In a way, I was back in Ballet days, wearing the blister-producing point shoes and obeying the choreographic whims of my teacher. Even the desire to please was present in my determination to master the alien rhythms, steps, combinations and transitions – not to mention partnering and Latin style. Yet, to some extent I did master this cha cha infused tango, even going so far as to enjoy losing myself in this alternate means of expression. When I wasn’t succumbing to frustrations over losing one partner and then another, I actually had fun. At dress rehearsal I discovered that I would be partnered by my teacher. The petite and attractive K would don male attire: black shirt and slacks, red tie, a fedora and boots. Above her upper lip a mustache would complete the effect. K was a marvelous lead – and she wasn’t afraid to meet my eye.

So now the tango is behind me, our performance having garnered applause and enthusiastic bravos. It is time for the dance called rest. And for this dance, I am once more gifted with the best sort of partner. Sunny cat yields to the moment with a natural grace that I am more than ready to emulate. In the absence of Music and Star – who have been in doggy camp since Monday – Sunny is basking in the dog-free ambience, loving the tired dancer role I inhabit on this Sunday. Me, too, dear old cat. Me, too…