Posts Tagged ‘Dance’

FAITH IN THE FLOW

September 22, 2014

Clay Sculpture 1 (renewal) 027 (1024x615) (2)

I believe in flow.

Flow has been at the heart of my life as a dancer.

If dance has been like a river flowing

throughout my life,

changing times and an aging body

has caused the river to branch into tributaries

of poetry, clay sculpture, drawing and music.

Singing has had its turn

and painting, too,

to flow around obstacles created by doubt.

Doubt has often loomed heavily,

obscuring the way,

and times of despair have caused drought.

My progress has stalled…

bogged down in the muck;

my heart feels dry and my world

appears colorless for a while.

Clay Sculpture 1 (renewal) 023 (1024x646) (2)

Recently, decorating pottery in the Shearwater annex

has brought flow and color back to my life.

I have found renewal in the clay:

the feel, look, smell of this earthy substance

has grounded my body…

revived my heart.

My right arm –

stalled by extensive and painful surgery –

has grown strong and brave,

and has carried out my purpose

of resuming the flow.

The river of dance –

still present in my seventy-year-old being –

has formed yet another tributary.

Praise heaven and all the angels:

I am able to bring color to my world!

Clay Sculpture 1 (renewal),Green Heron, Ohr 028 (1024x615)

As my confidence has grown in the present flow, I have pondered sculptural shapes: free-form vessels formed by my hands, conducive to my particular style of decorating. Not instead of my work at the annex with my dear women companions, but a possible means of growth…a chance to explore. So clay was purchased – and a small expensive kiln. The latter with considerable fear and trembling. At my age you do not take on such things as blithely as when younger. I approached the clay before the kiln was delivered, as tentatively as someone who had never created clay sculptures before. I wedged the clay, slamming it down repeatedly to soften it…bring it to yielding. I felt my shoulder object, and I wondered what I was doing. I felt old and scared: doubt did its damnedest to stop the meager flow that was trickling forth. My hands kept moving: pushing, pulling, stretching and stroking despite the doubt…despite the twinges of pain. I didn’t last long that first session. I wasn’t encouraged by this beginning. I covered her quickly, a bit embarrassed by my efforts. It took a while to return. When I did, I reminded myself that judgment at this point was foolish; completion was so far off, and decorating and firing were more than half of it. I had begun!

A few days later the kiln was delivered from Dogwood Ceramics via movers I had hired. It rode in the back of a truck thoroughly crated in wood. I was daunted, but the movers dealt with it vehemently. Finally the kiln stood on my screen porch where the old non-functioning one had stood for years. But it did not look right. The box on the front: the computer and electrical unit was pulled out, metal bent, screws pulled loose. There was obvious damage. The kiln, expected to contribute to the flow, is itself an obstacle.  A terrible question looms: Who is responsible? Another: Can I keep faith that the river of dance that is my life will maintain its flow. Of course I can… But I might need a boat.

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FAMILIAL DANCE

June 30, 2014

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Emotions were intense –

and asking for expression –

in the week I began this pot.

As I picked up my pencil,

sorrow still swirled

in the place between my breasts.

No wonder at all

that I fell back on dance…

appealed to the passion of my youthful years

to counteract the heavy ache

of body and mind.

My soul complied…

Familial Dance 5 166 (739x1024) (2)Familial Dance 138 (792x1024) (3)

The child leapt

from the passionate and driven man

that was her father…

leapt into practical, dependable connection

with her mother.

The mother’s love was based on faith.

Her spiritual guidance would be lasting.

Her dancer daughter –

born of opposites –

would not forget the familial dance.

Familial Dance 6 167 (781x1024) (2)Familial Dance 143 (2)The circular and grounding source

must be repeatedly returned to:

for nourishment…

for rest…

for stabilizing.

And equally,

repulsion and rebounding.

I know this now as I renew the bond

with the women of our family…

renewing also the creative drive.

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Even as the body ages and subsides,

the spiritual fire lives on.

So does the dance…

ENTRANCEMENT

March 8, 2014

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On my cousin’s birthday –

walking the trail of a refuge for Sandhill Cranes  –

I found myself entranced by curly grasses.

My sister called them Toothache Grass.

Yet how could anything so fey and free –

so grace-filled and precocious –

be named Toothache Grass?

I fell behind the jovial women I had come with,

surrendering to the dependable intimacy

of taking photographs.

Sandhill Crane Refuge - Curly Grasses and Palmettos 190 (1024x768) (3)

These curly grasses drew me in

to catch the light…

to sense the wind…

to dance against Palmetto and Pine.

Sandhill Crane Refuge - Dance of The Curly Grasses etc 185 (1024x758) (2)

Having found my peers,

how could I leave?

ALL FALL DOWN

February 12, 2014

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Before I fell out of my chair watching Downton Abbey,

I photographed pink clouds rising from a falling sun.

I swirled my hips to Persian music

as my hands made intricate circles above my head.

Before I fell

my dance was telling me stories of my healing body.

Hope bloomed in my mind

the way pink clouds bloom from a falling sun.

I did have a fall as I rose from my chair two Sundays ago, and managed to stay in denial until Friday. Though I felt that things were not right, I managed to function normally until small signals turned into excruciating spasms of pain. No more denial. Back on the pain medication through the weekend to ward off spasms and relax my anxious mind. On Monday my doctor found no broken bones on the x-rays, and surmised from testing my arm and gauging my pain that I could have a tear. Yet, together we decided against an MRI: We both knew that I was not a good candidate for another surgery. We decided that rest, medication and a return to rehab after a week was the best way to go.

So today I find myself surrendered again…to one day at a time as free of expectations as I can be. Well…I may allow myself just one pink cloud of hope

DRAGONFLY SONATA

August 24, 2013

Dragonfly on Ladder 012 (1024x987) (2)A Dragonfly makes silent music

and yet I have heard it for all of my days.

As a dancing child,

I followed its lilting tune…

it’s arabesque of flight.

My imagination

attached pearlescent wings

to the angular blades protruding

from my childish back.

Loud and clear, the whirring duet

we played together

accompanied our dips and rises,

loops and hoverings.

Our landings were a crescendo

that no else could hear.

Dragonfly on Rocks 014 (1024x767) (2)During my middle years,

the Dragonflies’ song was an invitation

to engage in a passionate pas de deux…

et trois, et quatres.

Love is the dance I mean

in its various guises.

Harmonies and disharmonies

were interwoven.

I often wept as we flew.

Entranced by the multitudinous mating dance

accomplished in mid-air,

my lover of the moment –

sharing my bliss –

 heard the melting notes of a cello,

and I fell with him into the wet grass

forgetting the dragonflies.

Dragonfly on Trash Can 015 (1024x791) (3)Now as I listen

for the very last movement

of this long sonata,

the dragonflies seem scarce…

their music not easily heard.

When I see one,

my old heart still rouses

at the longed for opportunity

to join the dance again.

Yet these days

even the dragonfly’s flight

seems more labored than before.

The soaring notes of childhood

are simply not there;

the sensuous drawn out love-dance

is a vague and uncomfortable memory.

Now the weighted silence

of the solitary diva

is profoundly beautiful…

 though dying out.

Paper Doll Dancer

March 24, 2013

Paper Doll DancerThis dancer existed before she existed, from a time when I was doing paper cutouts for my Christmas tree. A plain white  sillouette, she livened my tree along with others in various poses. Lights gave them their glow… and even the illusion of movement.

She has been revived for an exhibit of paper dolls, planned by my friend, Diane Stevenson, to open at the Mary C. Okeefe Center on April 12, 2013. Many artists will participate.

This was a project that I had procrastinated about for some time. I don’t have much confidence as a painter, and I could barely imagine making costumes that would fit. It was something new, and I was much occupied with other things.

Paper Doll Dancer with My Hand 031 (768x1024) (2)When I finally faced the fact that it was now or never.  I took out the sillouette “en arabesque” (she was slightly bent out of shape from being sandwiched with the others between the covers of an old drawing paper pad). I straightened her carefully (She was definitely the one.), and traced her onto a sheet of very good watercolor paper. Then I went and had lunch.

The next day I pushed all my nervous doubts aside, filled a bowl with water, and opened my box of Prang paints. Once settled on my old “kneeling seat”…brush in hand, a strange calm came over me: a sense of belonging right where I was. My heart gave a sigh. I had been here before: Hadn’t I illustrated my “Blue Chair” book a few years back with considerable ease and pleasure. Yes… It had been a while. But the sweet familiarity of wetting the brush and mixing the paints brought me back…gave me courage for the task. Applying the brush to the contours of the young dancer, bringing some color into her pallor, seemed to liven her whole demeanor and – by so doing – enlivened mine. We were both revived by this process. We were one.

Paper Doll Dancer (Blue-green Dancing Dress) (799x1024) (2)For the first costume I kept it simple. A pretty little dancing dress, a small wisp of color and freedom that just might appeal to a young girl for whom dancing freely is the best sort of release.  As for me, I was feeling my way…still not quite secure enough to be more inventive. By the following day, my balletic past had asked to be honored. More detail would be required. By then I was up to the challenge. A tutu!

Paper Doll Tutu 040 (768x1024) (2)Alright…yes, I could draw and paint a tutu, could make it fit the slender torso of my dancer, find a way to make it less confining, less expecting of exactness. Oh! Brilliant idea! I would use the colors of the chakras to soften the rigid shape, add a playful note to a less than playful moment in my memory.  A flower for her hair brings to mind the Don Quixote pas de deux. But no fan, please…

After this I moved on to my liberation, when – thanks to Isadora Duncan, and the birth of my daughter – I left ballet behind me, and eventually discovered Airth: my dance of balance….my long time devotion to oneness with nature through uniting breath and movement.

Paper Doll Dancer, Airth Costume (768x1024) (2)Ahhh…comfort. Ahhh…ease of movement. Ahhh…freedom reflected by the flow of thin muslin…freedom based upon a strong sure torso practiced in the undulation at the core of all natural movement. I am nature, I am human nature. I am convinced that I am free to be me…and teach others the same. I perform and teach in equal measure, and they overlap. Airth was a long run…probably still running, though the outward expression has changed. Has evolved?

It is time to move on. The older woman, with a new kind of freedom in mind, flew to Paris. Her heart woke up in the city of lights; every step seemed a dance. She fell in love…with Paris, returning again and again. The older woman remembered the dream of her younger self, and wrote a novel in which Lily/Leif got to dance at the Paris Opera. L’Opera! I give you the last costume..now. Voila! La Danseuse en Paris.

Paper Doll Paris Outfit 037 (768x1024) (2)

A Reason To Dance

October 10, 2011

One week from today I will – yet again – find myself dancing before my father’s mural’s in the Ocean Springs Community Center. The occasion will be the twentieth anniversary of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. I am dancing not as Leif Anderson, a dancer worthy of being seen, but as Leif Anderson, the daughter of the artist, Walter Anderson. This is a familiar reason to dance. There have been countless such appearances, and I have always risen to the occasion.

This time the rising is slow to happen. I find myself weary of celebrating the parent who was never really there. His rare appearances were of the nervous-making sort, possibly better than no appearances. I have made the most of my memories of my father in my book: DANCING WITH MY FATHER,  and this was a deeply healing experience – even freeing for a while. Yet – six years later – I am  still expected to celebrate his life  more than my own. I am obligated as he never  was by his child’s existence. Love wasn’t enough, I guess.

Because I do believe he loved me, perhaps saw in me some of his own passion for expression even as his quest repeatedly pulled him away to his solitary pursuits. And I have to believe he inspired me to follow my dreams, although it was my ever present mother who so nurtured those dreams – encouraged the flight by grounding it in reality.

She did this for him, as well, made a living that he might live – supported his artmaking that this same art might eventually support so many. Would there be a Walter Anderson Museum of Art without the dependable grounding love that Agnes Grinstead Anderson provided for her husband and their children. 

Perhaps whoever is reading this will understand that I have been questing as I write – questing for a reason to back up my Sunday performance – and I think I may have found it. My purpose (a familiar one, really) is to do my best to restore the balance. I shall begin by celebrating my mother’s essential contribution to the whole.

Years ago I wrote two poems to affirm my parentage. I revived them this year – have been singing them as I walk the dogs or drive around in the car. The interesting thing I have noticed is that the Earth Mother poem can stand alone. It comforts and grounds me as my human mother once did. But the Father Sky poem cannot fly alone; it requires the Earth Mother poem to lift off. It has to begin with her. Bless you, Mama… Daddy and I are eternally grateful for the dance.

Affirmation

October 3, 2011

A dance begins in an open space. At first it is only a whisper of movement, and if one listens and attunes – allowing breath to realize form in a willing body – then dance can be a miracle. Unlimited, the gesture flows, a perfect message of the soul released. The personality rejoices, participating wholly in this liberation.

I am a fortunate woman, retaining the childhood joy of dancing freely. The secrets of my heart pour forth and are transformed by revelation.

For all of my life this has been my way; living has radiated from my urge to dance. I have equated the two more emphatically as the years have passed. Experience tells me that before I step into an actual open space – be it a stage or other prepared arena – I am already dancing, have never stopped. Ideally, I am the open space in which dance lives; it cannot help but manifest. Even my own intermittent doubts and discouragements cannot prevent the stream of living movement. I may seem to distract, to forget, to suffer from a kind of stagnation, but always the muddy detritus disperses and a clear bright force impels itself through my willing body. This is dependable; life is a dance, and dance must find its way.

Often dance finds its way through the written word. My body sits still while the words seek formation in an open space. Words in rhythmic phrases glide into stark relief on a blank white page, and the dance performs its magic through subtle means. Yet communion is as certain as if the body were seen to swirl, to sway, to bend and reach. These gestures also shall be received and responded to, life unto life. As I write, I remind myself that believing ensures creation. I know from experience that every dance – regardless of form – begins in an open space.

The “Limited” Dance

September 20, 2011

For much of last week I was having a problem with my right knee. It would catch occasionally with a slight pain resulting. I paid little attention, attributing it to the vaguaries of aging. But on Sunday it became extremely temperamental, hindering walking. Pain would be sudden and occasionally excruciating. Something seemed to be out of place so that bending or straightening the leg could bring it on, but it was unpredictable; I could be walking mindfully with the dogs when suddenly it would balk – freeze for a moment before grudgingly letting me move forward.

All day I struggled against my sense of limitation, pushed aside my thoughts of the knee replacement surgery that my sister and brother underwent. The dancer in me rebelled against that possibility. Yet the dancer in me also recognized the importance of listening to the body. The dancer and the teacher of the dance has learned to embrace and work with limitations.

At some point in the afternoon the struggle was replaced with the knowlege that if I was alive I could dance. I sat down at the keyboard – set the record – and began to play. It was amazing; my whole being was in my hands, passionately affirming life, feeling, movement. I was pouring forth – allowing the extreme intensity that is usually curbed these days.

After that first piece, I rose, played it back, and sought to dance. At first It felt right, reflective of my experience at the keyboard, but the knee reacted – not ready for the abandon that my soul so craved. I surrendered, making a smoothie and taking the dogs for a ride in the car and a gingerly walk.

But the dance wasn’t over, and when I did return to it, I decided to “limit” movement as far as legs and feet were concerned. I focused all my attention on torso and arms, aware that my core had been sadly neglected of late. I encouraged its total response to the music: terribly, wonderfully aware of the power being released, letting it build, but simultaneously containing it. The result was surprisingly muscular in effect ( I have been feeling flacid and ineffective). Suddenly, my hands were vibrating, fingers trembling with the force of my torso’s activity and strength. I did gradually allow a little more movement. I managed to move to the floor and up again without protest from the knee. I seem actually to have given the knee what it wanted: a consciously active torso – core-strength that it could depend on during the dance of life. Pray God I can sustain this understanding, and continue to work with my limits to expand my dance.

Since that miraculous Sunday, I have felt less hindered by the human processes I face and extremely thankful for the lessons that come my way. I know… It is only two days since that rapturous affirmation of the life-force. I will surely weaken and require another visitation by Grace. Even so, in this moment another image from my past comes to my awareness. I shall post it to remind myself of what is possible.

Recalling Fierceness

September 11, 2011

In a time when clearly expressing my own truth  eludes me, I return to this photograph of my younger self. I see in her the fierce will of a warrior angel. Conviction and determination fuel her passion and drive her dance. No hesitation is allowed; she has no time for second guessing every gesture. How I long to feel again this glorious stance – to embody again the spiritual purpose of my existence!

The writing of this post was interrupted. Yesterday’s outcry was set down but abruptly set aside as I went into mother mode, perhaps too easily for my own good. Yet I trusted what I had written – trusted that last sentence to go forth as a heartfelt prayer. I meant what I wrote, and had the completion of the post to look forward to – today.

So here I am, disappointed that yesterday’s glimpse of focused energy and potential seems to have slipped away. It is almost painful to sit here, hitting the keys with obedience, while something is lacking – braving the truth of the moment whatever the moment contains. Could it be that any attempt to connect with one’s former fiercness can only be shortlived.

I was so young when I danced my Thursday evenings in my studio over Turci’s restaurant in New Orleans. I had my whole life ahead of me, though even then motherhood was the other side of every dance. A particular kind of fierceness was essential  if the dream were to survive the constant claims on my time and energy. I managed it fairly well in those days – lived through the frequent interruptions and turned my own frustrations into a fierce rebound in order to claim the glory of the dance – at least occasionally.

Could it be that at age sixty-seven, I am still programed to the same way of life, yet without the youthful will of my younger self – or the energy? Could it be that after so many years of fighting for opportunities to express the glory of my personal dance, I am simply too tired to remember the stance of the warrior angel?

Dear God, regardless of the years – regardless of my habitual susceptibility to the demands of loved ones, I want to believe again that ferocity is a necessary partner to any successful love-dance. Please help me to recall this truth. Amen…