Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Life's Ambition is to be a Poor Starving Artist

There are a lot of preconceived notions about dancers of any kind, let alone those who dare to study it in college. There are a lot of people who talk about those notions, making fun of them or doing their best to correct them.

And a lot of people do it incorrectly.

I'm not going to name names or point fingers, but there are a lot of artists who assume everyone else has the same goals as they do. This has been on my mind lately, and just gets louder and louder in my head the more I think about it and dance through life.

I remember when I was a senior in high school I went to the dentist and the nurse asked me what I was going to study in college. I said dance. She said, and I quote, "Oh so you're going to be on Dancing With The Stars? You should do that."


Not that there aren't good dancers on that show (although I wouldn't know -- I've never seen it), but I'm not going to scrimp and save and starve and slave for four years in college just to go on some reality dance competition money crazed TV show. Sorry.

There are a lot of actual dancers who dream of being on Broadway or the Rockettes or something similar. They sometimes assume that this is "the ideal end for every dancer." Which it's not. Broadway is not my Valhalla, sorry. The people who dream of Broadway are the dancers who are also into musical theater and deal with so much drama on a day to day basis that performing it onstage is no big deal.

Okay so if I don't want to be on TV or Broadway, then I must want to be a teacher, right? Walk around with tiny ballerinas in pink tutus teaching them how to make their heels kiss in first position.

Been there, done that. No way do I want to do that for the rest of my life. Little dancers are adorable, and they absolutely benefit from creative movement classes (cause trust me, they aren't dancing when they're four years old), but I don't benefit from their creative movement classes. That sparks no fire in my soul.

Well okay, there's like, dance companies, right? But those are mainly ballet, right? What kind of dance do you do again? Ballet and what? Contemporary?

First of all dance companies come in all shapes and forms. And yes, I'm a major bunhead, but modern is the hot thing these days. And yes, there are plenty of modern dance companies. And yes, I could do that if I really really wanted. I've been told I have the talent for it, but honestly I don't have the drive. I'm far too lazy, far too weak, and rapidly losing the enjoyment of performing for an audience.

So if you hate teaching and you hate performing and you think you aren't built to dance, why the heck are you scrimping and saving and starving and slaving for four years doing just that?

I ask myself that far too often. I consider changing my major basically every semester, but then admit that I'm too far gone to turn back. There's a reason I've been dancing since I was three years old (excuse me, "moving creatively"), even if I don't know exactly what that reason is anymore.

In high school I lived for performance season, but in high school I had something to perform for. Briarwood Ballet is part of a church, and every day in class we were taught to praise with our dancing. Our performances were especially for worship. We always told a story that was important to me on a personal basis, even if my only role was to play "springtime" or a "village maiden." I was still part of something.

Now I just spend more time sitting in a dressing room with a bunch of girls who gossip and laugh and talk about things I don't understand. So often I feel no connection to the performance, or the dance, or my role, or whatever. And if I dare to find some sort of meaning, dancers around me destroy it with their complaining or joking or teasing of the dance itself.

I mean, I'm guilty of this I'm sure. Dancers love complaining. Heck, humans love complaining. I'm real good at it.

But anyway. It's just very hard for me to connect with a dance when everyone else is so disconnected.

Anyway, that's what kept me going through high school. Things change, I guess. These days depression is so big and so dark that it has encompassed even art.

And yet, I'm still doing it. I'm still fighting as hard as I can. Why?

Because art is important. Because when I was kid, that was one of the few things I could cling to and claim as my own. When I had absolutely no words, I could still say things with dance. Even if that's not necessarily true anymore, I'm willing to bet that there are kids out there just like me who have no voice but have so much to say. No, I don't want to be a teacher. But I want to study dance, to make it more accessible, more understood.

Back when I was engaged to a well-off man, I'd decided to not start making small independent Dance for Film pieces with whatever dancers happened to be passing through my area. "Art for art's sake."

But then my life turned around and I decided I needed to support myself (which is not a bad thing at all). But I didn't want to perform, didn't want to teach, didn't want to prostitute my dancing to the highest bidder. I just wanted to make art. I wanted to say something to whoever would listen. But how do you make a living off that?

This is what we affectionately call, "A Starving Artist."

My plan is to go to grad school and study interdisciplinary arts. Art for art's sake. Just keep going to school until I can be a fancy professor teaching passionate young college students, which means I'll also get to do whatever artistic endeavors I so desire (within reason). I will scrimp and save and starve and slave so that I may create art for art's sake.

Because art is important. It was important to my broken little girl self who didn't know what to do with her poor broken little body. To my awkward and anxious teenage self who didn't know how to say what was going on inside. To my sad and downtrodden college self who just wants to fuck around with art to see what happens and how far you can go and what all you can do and how much you can say and just what exactly hasn't been done yet.

And it's important to those drama divas who want to go on Broadway and those talented dancers who want to perform in companies and those cheerful movers who want to teach tiny dancers. Art is important because it can do so much.