What if life were like a musical staff. We would live on the lines mostly. There are five lines. In the old school we used a phrase to remember the names of the notes that lived on those lines. It went this way, EGBDF, Every Good Boy Does Fine.
Now some of us live by that motto and stay on the lines. And we do fine. Except when we realize that we are on the lines and there might be more notes or something beyond and between the lines.
Dance is like anything else in life. We need the lines to define in some way that we are on this earth and that we share something in common with the people around us. So we learn some steps, we become good at them, and we drink coffee to make sure we share a common bond with our fellows.
I was of the ilk to be angry at the lines, so I kept looking behind the lines hoping to find something, I was not sure what. I sought out any way to learn dancing that was not traditional or at least allowed me some room to play. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I slipped off the line and stayed hidden behind the line for quite some time.
Then through the course of many decisions to get back on the line and many attempts to leap from the line, I was surprised to find myself in the spaces between the lines. The space between the lines is never a thing to describe, but I will continue with my experience.
Now in the musical staff, the spaces have only one word to make up their acronym. That word is appropriately, F-A-C-E. Well, I was both happy to find a place between the lines and a bit shocked to realize that all this time I only needed FACE. I was tempted to “about face” and go back to my hiding place behind one of the “doing fine” lines.
But voices inside me kept cajoling and careening me to stay in the “FACE space.” I can not say I was happy to be there at first, because the demands were great to “Face it,” or to “Face me,” neither of which I was prepared or inclined to do.
In addition to these demands, there was the sheer force of energy that would flood my senses. At times I was overwhelmed and carried into new relationships or flights of unorganized creativity. When I would “Face it,” I would sometimes collapse into doing nothing for a time.
In was at this time in my dance life that I began to explore what it would feel like to move however I liked, to explore the emotions of doing the steps and moves that I was learning. I explored what it meant to repeat a movement until I was bored and to see the beauty that would come from me at those moments. I explored what it meant to be with a partner with no expectations except that we move together. On and on I explored Modern Dance improvisation, the “post-modern” visionary dance of Deborah Hay, the melting dance of Contact Improvisation, and balance of group and individual impulse in the dance of Barbara Mettler.
Then I realized that what really terrified me about being in the spaces between the lines was to “Face me.” That is when I stopped dancing for a while. Back behind the lines brother. That was me.
Of course, I would convince myself that I could get back on the lines and attempt another leap, but somehow I would not allow myself to enter the spaces. I would only give a tentative “yes” or the proverbial “later gatter” line.
All of that struggle and anger ended when a storm came; I invited the storm really with my constant pleas for assistance to step out from behind the lines. Anyway, a big wind came and swept me off and away from the line into one space after another. That was a real F-A-C-E.
There I was. I could not help it and was happy that my normal “no’s” did not work any more. There was only “yes” and I was in it and I was moving freely between spaces.
As usual dance was my learning mode and my way of making sense out of all of this. It seemed like riding this storm of energy was a place I could choose the personality, the attitude, the moves that I wanted. That took me many years to say a real “yes” to but it was all there before me. All I had to do was open the “yes” gate and in would come a hundred possibilities ready and willing to join me.
This could have been overwhelming except that dance was the way I chose to try it on and take a look at how it felt, how I would interact with other people, and how I expressed something true about myself.
All of this would have been fine until I realized that to “FACE me,” I had to really be with that “me” and to like that “me.” Whoops. I did not expect to have to face all my inner anger and impatience and self criticism in order to just dance. But that was to be my journey, so I set out to “love myself” in bits and pieces, in short moments of frustration and despair and in long periods of just laying with the love of my life, Ginger.
I have not yet reached a level of excellence that I would have been jealous or competitive, but I can imagine that for dancers who perfect their art that they have that tendency. From other parts of my life, I can see that this enormous energy in the spaces is calling to be expressed and that a person who says “yes” tends to bump into others who have chosen to really go for the spaces as well as the lines.
The best result of these collisions is in professional companies where each dancer is going fully to express themselves and at the same time encourages other dancers to fully express their unique energies.
I have come to the end of my word exploration and will get back to exploring more movement that will clarify who I am and what this energy in me wants to express.