Living through Monumental Loss

As performers, we wear our hearts on our sleeves. We put everything out there. We fall in love quickly with everything, because everything serves as inspiration to our gifts. We read in between the lines to try and help ourselves grow as artists. We over analyze, we listen to critiques and sometimes take them personally. We build things up in our minds, to help motivate our focus and drive, and we believe in what we do and who we are.

These are all wonderful qualities. They make us strong. They make us able to do what thousands of people will never be able to do - stand in front of thousands of people and perform.

But these qualities also make us extremely vulnerable.

As artists, our motto has always been: "You have to go there to know there." (Quote from Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.) If we were expected to portray a depressed young girl, we needed to understand what that felt like. If we were to portray an overjoyed, confident go-getter, we needed to live that first, before we could convince someone that we were that.

But making yourself go there, making yourself feel everything, is not always the easiest responsibility. We have to breathe through the lows, and be careful not to get addicted or live only for the highs. It's a balancing act that takes dedication, self-awareness and patience.

We have had many things go wrong. On stage. In life. In relationships. In friendships. In school. At work. No matter how much time we spent preparing, practicing, memorizing... things didn't happen as we had planned.

In these times (they usually happened very quickly, and felt as if all of the oxygen was sucked out of the room) it was the aftermath that shaped us into who we are today. It was the thunder and lightening, the physical pain, the emotional wreckage, the embarrassed ego, the tears, the mental torture. All of those things hit you at once, and then go away, and then creep back to haunt you over and over again.

But you live through it. You learn from it. However, that isn't the part we want to focus on. We want to focus in on that moment when reality slaps you in the face, and everything crumbles, and disintegrates quickly.

Photo by: httpschoengeistig.tumblr.compost21773040696

We want to focus on that moment, because we want to express how important it is to feel that moment, and trust that moment.

As dance teachers, we have seen this scene over and over:

Dancer messes up and a comment is made from another student. Suddenly, the dancer who messed up covers her face with her hand and runs from the studio. Embarrassed. Feeling like a failure. Feeling discouraged. We find her crying in the hallway.

We always listen. Because telling her, "It's going to be OK" and "everything happens for a reason" is not something she's emotionally prepared to handle. Sometimes, people who are in different places in their life from the person suffering is simply not the right person to listen. Sometimes they are.

We let our students feel their pain. We stay quiet. We hug them. We let them know that we're there. But we let them feel the experience, breathe through the moment, because we know they are growing - right there, right now, at that moment in time. Who they are is growing and expanding. It's an activity that causes disruption within and a physical pain. It reminds us of the time in science class when we added vinegar to baking soda and watched it fizzle and writhe in displeasure.

These moments of loss or embarrassment feel caustic. But it's because change it occurring. Our minds are realigning and reconnecting our thought processes. We are becoming stronger.

The next time you feel 10 feet under water and like you've lost all direction, or the next time you are trying to breathe through loss, remember:

1. Take the moment in. "You have to go there to know there." You can now say... you know there.

2. Understand how emotions work. They come and go, like waves. They hit strong and concentrated and then... they pass.

3. Don't be hard on yourself mentally. Mistakes happen, people choke, loss happens. Don't beat yourself up, but allow yourself to feel and grieve.

4. Embrace silence and being alone. Don't be afraid to deal with loss or hurt on your own. Don't be afraid to reach out. Give yourself time and figure out when and what is good for you.

5. Know that, as an artist, this struggle is helping you. You will survive the experience. You will grow into a much stronger, deeply loving and compassionate person.

We don't want our students to fear messing up. We don't want them to not attend a workshop or audition because they are afraid from a past hurtful moment. We want our students to embrace the experience and move forward. Fear nothing. Know that a moment is just a moment.

In the latest performance on Glee, Rachel Berry had been preparing her entire life for this one moment. When it was her moment, she choked. All of her preparation was gone. The incredible loss she felt in that moment was overwhelming (but, to us, familiar). We've been there. We may very well be there again one day. Watch her performance below, after she had already lost her chance for entry into the performance school of her dreams.

Now she has no plan, no hope, nothing. But she isn't afraid to feel and breathe through the moment.

To our students: Never fear a loss. Never underestimate your strength to handle anything.



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