Songs for the Struggling Artist


Just One Song
May 31, 2018, 11:23 pm
Filed under: age, dance, Feldenkrais | Tags: , , , ,

One of my Feldenkrais clients was pretty much house-bound when I met her. She could get around her apartment with a walker but going out was really challenging for her. She used to go out dancing once a week but now she barely moved at all. Mostly she sat in her chair or propped up in her bed.

In addition to our Feldenkrais Functional Integration work together, I saw that I needed to find a way to keep her moving when I wasn’t there. I tried to give her some audio Awareness Through Movement exercises but she couldn’t really hear them so that possibility was out. I needed to help her find pleasurable movement, movement she could do. Since I knew she liked to dance, I recommended she dance in her chair once a day. We found a Beatles song on her phone and did some sit down dancing for a couple of minutes before she got tired. When I left, I gave her a prescription of dancing to one song every day. (We don’t do prescriptions in the Feldenkrais Method so I found it hilarious to use this language for dance.) I was pretty confident that this was going to help her. I know just a little bit of twisting and weight shifting would do her tremendous amount of good. And it did.

Then I realized I should prescribe myself the same thing. I love dancing and it always makes me feel better but I don’t do it as often as I might – usually because I don’t feel like I have the time to commit to a class or an extended dance session. It is very easy for a day to go by without any non-utilitarian movement – despite my firm belief in pleasurable movement as a beneficial practice. Additionally, I have been reeling from movement triggered migraines – so movement has been a bit of a landmine for me in the last couple of years. At their worst, the migraines just want me to lie very still in the dark.

But. One song, I can do. Not in the MIDDLE of a bad migraine obviously. But I can find a way to dance to at least one song once a day. Working with a client with such a limited range of motion has shown me how easy it is to lose flexibility, to lose the ability to experience movement as a pleasurable sensation. But it also shows me how much benefit there is in just moving what you can move. If you can’t move your arms, move your legs. If you can’t stand up, dance sitting down. If you can’t dance sitting up, dance lying down. Even if the only thing you can move is your eyelids, it is worth dancing those around or dancing in your imagination.

When we experience injury or pain or any movement limitations, we often shut down more than we need to. We think if we can’t dance the way we used to we can’t dance at all. But we can always dance something in some way. A finger dance? A nostril dance? I don’t know. But I do know that a little bit of dance goes a long way for the whole body.

In helping my client experience pleasurable movement again, I saw that I also helped her re-establish pathways in the brain that remember how to walk with more ease, to be able to get up off a bench unassisted, to regain balance and so on. When I saw her last week, she joyfully told me how she went out into the world four times that week. Once even, she went out unassisted. I attribute that regaining of independence to the dancing (and to the Feldenkrais, of course.)

I know the aids in the next room think crazy things are going on when they hear me singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” but I’m working on getting her to dance with her arms while lying down, which will eventually allow her to roll herself over. Extra-daily movement like dance helps the brain understand that you want to be able to move in many directions. We have a use it or lose it brain and if we only move in our habitual paths, we lose our capacity to move in other ways. For myself, I wanted to be able to keep moving in many directions, which I do with Feldenkrais but I also knew it was possible that I would enjoy my life more if I followed my own advice and danced to one song a day.

And, of course, once I’ve started dancing, I tend to go on. One song becomes two, two become three for as long as is pleasurable or as long as I have time for. It’s an incredible mood adjuster. There have been many times that I did not want to dance because I was feeling hopeless or angry or sad. I danced anyway because it was only one song, after all – and most of the time I felt better. At least a little bit. I have a little note stuck to my computer that says “One Song” so I don’t forget to do it. Sometimes it’s late at night and I see my little note and realize I still haven’t done it. So I put my headphones in and do a late night boogie before bed.

In our time strapped world it is so hard to find time to enjoy to move our bodies, to listen to music with attention, to “indulge” in non-utilitarian tasks. We can find time for one song, though. And one song can help.

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Need some help choosing a song? This is my dance playlist. Just hit shuffle and go!

This was at a college reunion. There was a DJ and a dance floor. That stuff is super awesome and fun. But I don’t wait for that stuff to find a way to dance.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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You can help me keep dancing

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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A Remedy for What’s-the-Point-itis

Because one of my beloved collaborators loves the work of Monica Bill Barnes, I sought out a performance. As soon as I saw Happy Hour, I, too, was in artistic love. I laughed and cried. I laugh-cried and cry-laughed. It was one of those shows that made me feel as if there might be a reason to go on. I’ve seen it multiple times.

I’m not going to lie; there are some days in this artist’s life in which I get a bad case of What’s-the-Point-itis. When the labor and heartbreak of making theatre just doesn’t seem equal to the reward. For me, seeing Monica Bill Barnes and Company perform is a great cure for that feeling of wondering what the point is. Good art is the point.

Monica Bill Barnes’ latest show (One Night Only) was no exception in this way – but it also brought to the surface a new “-itis” that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with at first. I learned in this show that Monica Bill Barnes and I are the same age. I learned that we share a lifelong commitment to our respective art forms. And in learning about the cost of that commitment to the dancers during the show, I learned about the cost of my own.

This may be a spoiler (DANCE SPOILER ALERT – skip ahead if you’re going to this show and would prefer not to know what’s going to happen -) but towards the end of the show, the two dancers listen to a list of injuries they have sustained over their lifetimes in dance, as we watch them continue to dance. There is a concrete cost to dedicating your life to dance and as I listened to it, I cried my face off.

Partly I cried out of admiration for the performer/creators who are facing the accumulation of that cost (for my benefit as an audience member) and for whom there is a finite amount of time to continue to dance the way they want. But I think I also cried for all the things my own dedication to my art has cost me. I can’t list them for you, not by year or by category – but watching this show made it very clear to me that all these years of dedication to art have taken a toll. Is the toll physical? Maybe not directly – but as everything that happens to us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, happens through the body, I don’t see how it couldn’t be. There is a cost to this kind of dedication. I knew there would be costs and I made my choice to pay that cost willingly a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have scars.

Watching an artist (who is my peer in age and commitment) honor the injuries, the pain and the cost along the way helps me honor my own. Seeing the sacrifices of a life dedicated to art laid bare, I can see my own dedication, my own sacrifices and how hard the road has been but also why it was worth it.

Seeing the cost, I also understand the point. The point is that we keep dancing, we keep writing, we keep creating, we keep producing, we keep performing, we keep making things because art is important to our humanity and each encounter with it, whether in the audience or on the stage, has the opportunity to teach us something about ourselves.

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One Night Only is still running for another couple of weeks, click here for info. And Happy Hour comes back soon, too, I think.

photo of Happy Hour by Grant Halverson (I lifted it from MBB&Co’s Website.)

You can also be a remedy for What’s-the-Point-itis by

Becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here. And I usually sing at the end, if you want to hear that.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. If you liked the blog and want to support it but aren’t quite ready for patronage on Patreon, You can tip me a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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