We just passed through the turning of the Jewish New Year, as well as the Autumnal Equinox. I start the new school year today. Seems to be a good time for setting intentions.
My New Year’s resolution for year 5771 is to edit. I’m going to focus my resolution on editing my performance work, but I think it’s really a project that will spread out over all aspects of my life.
Editing is usually not easy for me. I like to say “Yes!” to things, which in some cases is a wonderful approach (if I may say so myself) and in some cases leads to too much stuff, chaos, overwhelm, messiness and a difficulty with letting go. Like most of us, I think my strengths are inseparable from my weaknesses, and it’s this particular weakness that I want to challenge this year.
I’ve worked for many years to strengthen my ability to say “No,” to not take on too much, to throw out what isn’t working, to simplify. And I’m making progress on this front, slowly but surely. But I’m up against many years of habit and conditioning and probably even DNA in this struggle. I think that this year I’m ready for a more dramatic leap.
And this is where my performance practice and my spiritual practice fuse. I’m going to work on what I need to change in my life, through my creative work. I feel more confident about my ability to try out a radical change of approach in my art, than I do with my personality. I’m going to conduct a bold experiment as my New Year’s resolution, within the laboratory of the pieces I’m working on this year.
I often find that I access a more “enlightened” part of myself when I’m choreographing and directing. Things that are hard in my ordinary life, come much more easily and intuitively in rehearsal and performance. When I’m making art, I have a much clearer sense of larger perspective, of working towards something that’s bigger than just me. I thrive on the crisis mode that is part of putting together any live performance. No matter where we’re at in our process, the “show must go on,” and so I have to be present. I have to show up. I have to let go.
When I’m in my “day to day” mode, I can easily get wrapped up in insecurity, indecision, or regret. I’m working to hold a larger perspective here too, but it doesn’t come as naturally for me yet. Sometimes I’ve thought of this seeming split in my personality as a problem. Either I’m being disingenuous in one area of my life, or I have some kind of psychological disorder. But more and more I’m seeing it as the different parts of myself teaching each other.
I’ve noticed that a little clarity, can lead to more clarity. So rather than berating myself for not being able to hold the same states of mind in my art-making and other selves, I can celebrate and take advantage of whatever clarity I do find, anywhere.
Now, editing is something that is still a big challenge for me in my art. But I feel heartened by the fact that I at least “sense the possibility” of editing in this area. I can sense the first steps of such a transformation, and feel encouragement from within to take those steps. My intuition tells me, that whatever I learn from my experiments with editing my performance creations, will be vitally relevant to the rest of my life.
So, I begin. My first idea is to share with my performance ensemble my resolution and to let them know I’m going to be taking some big risks with simplifying our creations. I don’t want to limit what we do in rehearsal. I still want to do hours upon hours of improvisation, composition, and interdisciplinary experiments of all kinds. The difference for this year, is I want to let go of the compulsion to use all of what we come up with, or even all that I like of what we come up with, in our performances.
I want to attempt to only include the material that feels necessary to be shared. I’ve seen that there are many different ways of defining “necessary,” so I want to limit what we put onstage to what feels necessary for the truth of the piece itself, not the inner processes of the creators/performers. This will not be easy.
I believe deeply in performance being healing and meaningful for everyone involved. This often leads me to leaving parts of my pieces intact that might not serve the full piece aesthetically, but that I feel are important to my collaborators for various reasons.
I’m going to have to continue to challenge my desire to have everyone in my projects be happy and approving of my choices. I’m going to have to challenge my desire to include everything and everyone–to try to represent the diversity I so love, at every turn. I’m going to have to challenge my desire to have every great idea our ensemble brings forth (and there are always tons of them) realized onstage.
For many people, this might seem like a piece o’ cake. In some ways, it’s part of the “ABC’s” of choreography. But my artistic path has been about rejecting as many models laid on from the outside as possible. I’ve tried to only take on the practices that I’ve found to be helpful through actually experimenting with them in rehearsal, and to let go of what handed down to me solely because of tradition.
So I’ve been forging my own path, and experiencing both the positive and negative aspects of having the deeper aspects of my personality define my work. And once again I’ve come up against a limitation I want to address. I feel good about approaching this from a sense of wanting to find what works most skillfully, rather than try to fit into how I think it’s “supposed” to be.
I’m sure it will be quite an interesting wrestling match between this new intention and my current artistic momentum. I’m sure I’ll write about it often through this blog.
I wish everyone reading a joyous ad clarifying 5771!