Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When you've lost your way...

Tempest's post ( has resonated with a lot of us in the dance community. Sadly, there's a lot of toxicity that happens that saps the joy out of dancing. And the longer you've done it and the higher level you're at, the worse it gets. But sometimes it's just that (to borrow the metaphor), the beach and the ocean doesn't call to you as much anymore.

Dance used to be so very important and prominent in my life... and it just isn't at the same level anymore. I almost quit a number of times but yet I could never quite stop either. While I could explain all the reasons for it all, that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is about what to do when you're in that funk.

And the funk I'm talking here is not just the one that happens every so often when you are somewhat dissatisfied with your dance and wish for more. I'm talking about the "should I stay or should I go" kind where you're not even sure if you want to keep dancing anymore.

Take a break or slow down

You may have been going full throttle for too long and may need a break or at least to slow down and simply not jump on every event that shows up and perhaps lighten your class schedule (whether you're a teacher or a student). Maybe you need to spend time doing something else for a little bit. And that's fine.

One great piece of advice that I got from Belladonna was something that Artemis had once told her, which is that "dance is a patient mistress... and will always be there for you when you are ready." I can vouch firsthand that she is a relentless one. I danced for 5 years while I was in Quebec and took a 4-year break then started again 11.5 years ago and, as I've said above, I haven't been able to quite stop entirely this time... nor do I think it will happen.

Be choosy of where you spend your energy

It's sort of goes with the break and slow down but be more careful and choosy about where you do spend your energy during this period... and I dare say in the future as well. When you're going full throttle, you're likely not noticing where you are expending energy needlessly/pointlessly. Yet you'll find yourself sometimes completely wiped and won't know why. Strive to pick events that feel good for you, those that you have enjoyed in the past. If something had felt toxic in the past, consider not doing it at all.

Whatever you decide, try not to engage in the wonky energy that can sometimes arise from events. Note that, if you're burned out on things, you actually may be more sensitive and/or have less capacity to handle the electric energy of an event. If needed, physically remove yourself from the event and be a little bit of a hermit. People will understand. I've had to do that and have explained to some close friends why I may have seemed distant and, of course, they all understood. 

Forget about the guilt

Easier said than done... I know that firsthand. But, as you're spending less time on dance, you might feel guilty. You have invested a lot of time and energy and money on this dance and now you're not using your time and energy in the same manner. Was it for naught? Is it really a good idea? What if you lose your skill level? You had worked so hard to get to this point, what if you lose it all?

Well, really, you won't lose it all. Trust me, your brain and body will remember and it will come back quickly. And it's actually sometimes good to take a step back and then charge forward again with a different slate and especially a different state of mind. And, who knows, you might be able to pick up things that you could have improved on or done differently that would have been difficult to change before.

And even if, at the end of the day, you do decide to stop dancing, it still hasn't been for naught: you had fun while you did it, you got a good experience, and, yes, perhaps it is time to move on. You may find yourself dancing again some day or not. Moves can be re-learned and costuming can be re-bought.

Spend time on yourself

Spend time just for yourself, doing what you want, without obligation. Rediscover who you are and what you enjoy. Dance may have been there for a reason, perhaps as a healing mechanism. If you're all healed now, then what? In my case, dance was a way in which I could feel things because I was an emotional zombie. Well now that I'm feeling on a daily basis, now what? You don't have to have the answers to that (see below).

Things to ponder

As I alluded in the previous section, as you're spending time rediscovering yourself, some questions will pop to mind. One question that usually plagues us is "what do I want to do in/with my dance?" And that is a very loaded question and can be anxiety provoking as you're contemplating what to do next. Since you likely won't know the answer to that, it may feel like all the more reason to stop. Because if you don't know, then what's the point, right? Well, maybe you don't need to know exactly.

Earlier this year, I was asking myself that very question and agonizing over the fact that I absolutely had no idea what the answer was when I remembered some questions that Ariellah asked in one (or more?) of her artistic workshops. I forget what the source of those questions was and I forget what the exact questions were but they were easier to answer and not so loaded.

Inspired by that memory, I started asking myself what would a successful performance look and feel like? What do I want to put out there in my dance? What do I enjoy putting out there? What feels good to me? Interestingly enough, the answer to those questions were actually the same as before... perhaps with less pressure, though. It most certainly was refreshing to just focus on that instead of the anguish-provoking existential questions.

Another thought is to think back upon a time when dance was fun for you. Think of a performance that especially felt good and that you were proud of. What happened then? What was it about? Any way to get back to that?

Go where inspiration takes you

One thing that's hard while you're taking a step back is being inspired. It feels like everything is meh. So that will make it hard to create something for even just a low key hafla. It sounds simple but it's actually sometimes hard to do b/c that negative voice inside you will chime in that it's not deep enough but here goes: Go wherever inspiration takes you. Don't question it too much. Just do it. (And I dare say that you should keep doing pretty much all the time.)

Inspiration may hit you in different ways than before. It might be for an event. For a partnership. Or maybe a song is calling to you. Or, heck, my last one has been being inspired and rejuvenated at the prospect of making a new costume. Whatever makes you even remotely excited, just follow that thread and see if you can find other exciting things along the way.

Answering questions

Well meaning people may ask you benignly what is going on with you since they haven't seen you as much (or at all). Know that you don't owe anyone an explanation. You can simply answer that you needed to take a step back from dancing for a bit or however you want to phrase it. But you can keep it at a very high level.

When you get back into things...

(well, should you get back into things)... you may notice that you won't necessarily have the same level of intensity in pursuing things or rather it just may be different. So that will feel odd and perhaps like you're not back "fully". Well, again, it just might be different. It's okay.

I'll put it out there but there's also a bit of a malaise in the belly dance community at the moment. Based on my own observations, the community itself feels different than  2.5 years ago, when I started being more reclusive. So it feels different also partly because things are different in general, not just because I'm different. And, of course, in my case, I've now moved across the country so, hello, more difference.

But the point that I want to make here is that different doesn't mean bad or not as interesting anymore. It just means needing to adjust to what is the reality now. And having perhaps a different outlook on things.