I had to force it at first. I had to get frustrated and sigh and even stomp around a bit, fists clenched and bottom lip sticking out a smidgen past the upper. That’s not the way I like to spend my time in a studio, but I had to go through it for a time. Why? I had Choreographer’s Block.
I had the inspiration to create a new piece about a year ago – a piece about growing up in West Virginia, of my home among the hills. But during that year, I was planning a wedding and starting a new job, and my time and energy were rightfully focused on my best friend becoming my husband. That is what deserved my attention, and so that is where my attention went.
But dance never stops flowing through me. It carves my bones and strengthens my muscles and soothes my soul. I may pause from being quite as active, but it never stops working in me.
After the wedding, my toes started tingling to get back into the studio. I had a slew of stories rolling through my mind that I needed to get out into the body. But when I went to the studio, it wouldn’t come. It was as if there was a disconnect between the story within me and the way my body would interpret it. The movement wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t pure enough.
That’s something about my work as an artist. I strive to be genuine. To be sincere and pure. My biggest goal is to make the viewer feel. It may be happiness or sadness, glee or confusion – it may even be a feeling they can’t quite pinpoint. But as long as they’re feeling, then I’m doing my job as an artist.
Because of this, I need my movement to come naturally. I need it to come from within so that when you see it, you can relate to it. And when the movement wasn’t coming, I got frustrated. *Cue the stomping/lip protrusion*
I had to get back into the mindset, back into my body. I’d been having my mom write me stories of her time growing up on the 200 acre farm. My dad was telling me of his grandfather who traveled from Italy when he was 12, losing his left eye to frostbite during the trip. I revisited these writings and stories. I sat and listened to Waylon and Willie and evoked my own memories.
I had all of the stories, but what I needed was the pure inspiration to return to me. And with patience and stubbornness, it did. I just had to put in the extra oomph to get there.
One day when I went to the studio, I put on the fiddle music that spoke so clearly to me, and I started moving. And I kept moving. And it was right. Phrases were created that I thoroughly enjoyed doing, ones that literally brought a smile to my face as I flowed through them. And when I looked back on these phrases, there were moments etched within them that I could clearly see the stories I’d been studying – the ones I wanted to come naturally. That’s exactly what was happening.
And the movement keeps coming. That’s not to say that it won’t evolve and change, but it is to say that the storyteller is back. And I am thrilled with how these stories will be told.
When I was a younger artist, I’d compare myself to other dancers. It seems as though that’s almost inevitable. Their training, their work, their artistry – was mine not as beautiful as theirs? But as I’ve grown, I’ve let go of the comparison and let it turn into sweet appreciation – for others and for myself. As I look at my creations, I’m happy. I love it. I think it’s beautiful and full and sincere. I think it’s me. And that is what I want to share through this work, and every work I ever do: me.
Porch Swing Melodies is a creation of stories that have already been written, but that are waiting to be told. I hope you’ll listen when it’s time to share.