Existential Art Crisis…

I had an existential artist moment.

I had all these great insights into how I’m going to approach this new choreography I’m working on in a really multi-layered approach — journaling, researching old videos to drill moves and combinations I thought were interesting, recording multiple improvisational videos to the same song to start establishing patterns, designing my practice to train for this specific piece.

Then I went through my practice video log.

When I started really critically studying my videos, I saw myself in a completely different light than I have in the past. I have always been horribly self-critical and have never fully liked any video of myself I have made, but this was different. I could not get past the fact that… I look amateurish. I’m not graceful. My arms are a wreck. What’s most important, almost all my pieces are completely emotionally vacant. God, after getting so excited about this new piece, I suffered the most severe bout of ego-death I’ve ever experienced.

For the first time EVER in my life, I questioned whether I was meant to be a dancer. What purpose does it serve?

I had a moment where I thought, “Maybe I’m never going to get to the point where I can create something significant, no matter how hard I try.”

I know, this sounds completely overdramatic. But you know what, it WAS pretty darn dramatic to me. I felt rattled in a sense that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. The phrase “shaken to the core” had new meaning.

I don’t know what it means.

I hope it means that I am about to move forward significantly as an artist. I think it means that if I want to create something really meaningful, I need to start choreographing pieces as opposed to just improvising. I need to work harder. I can’t give up.

This week is devoted to relearning how I approach dance. It’s time for a complete overhaul. Stay tuned.

New Year’s Resolutions v. Old Year’s Reflections

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Every year I set three or four completely unreasonable expectations for myself (“I will never eat chocolate again”; “I’m going to go to the gym every day”; “…I suppose I could limit my Taco Bell visits to once every two days?”), and each year I last three days or so before I mess up and then say, “To hell with it!” (Cut to Megan, sitting depressed on her futon, chasing a Crunchwrap Supreme with an entire box of Fannie Mae).

Furthermore, resolutions have an inherently negative nature — “What’s wrong with you THIS year? What do you want to fix?” No, thanks. I have resolved to be done with negativity (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Goals are great, I’m not knocking that — I just feel like our culture takes an inherently positive thing — self-improvement — and interprets it all wrong. Besides resolutions seeming to always have a negative flavor to them, it always seems like there’s a lot of talk, and little action. And it makes sense why SO many resolutions fail and why so many people don’t act on their resolutions. Many resolutions go against months — and sometimes years — of habitual behavior to the contrary. Getting into a daily exercise routine, for example, after two years of limited activity is a DRASTIC departure from your old habits, and therefore can be very difficult.

Please don’t walk away with the idea that I am saying, “Don’t make resolutions, because you’re going to fail.” I’m saying that maybe the problem is in HOW we set New Year’s resolutions.

So I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions this year.

Instead, I’m going to do some Old Year’s reflections. Instead of resolutions, I am going to analyze 2009 in its entirety, see what I’ve learned, and see what I want to bring into 2010 and what should just stay with 2009.

Want to try? Here’s what I’m doing:

1) CREATE A YEAR IN REVIEW

I found it enormously helpful last year to write down, month by month, what happened in my year. Old calendars, datebooks, etc. are helpful in remembering. Besides being kind of fun — I tend to forget some things I’ve done — sometimes you can spot patterns when looking at your year as a whole. Here’s my 2009:

January: Working at the Columbia Tribune, one of my favorite jobs ever. Was a flamenco dancer in the MLK breakfast in town! Found out I got the job as the Bellydance Superstars merchandiser.

February/March: Touring the US with BDSS. Completely changed my life. Drove a Penske truck across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delware, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. THEN I had to drive the truck from Detroit to L.A.

April: Flew to California to get Level II certified in the Suhaila format — also life-changing. It was physically and emotionally one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Worked and auditioned for BDSS at Raqs LA.

May: Went to Japan and Canada with BDSS!

June: Worked Raqs America in Washington, D.C. for BDSS… decided I needed to be focusing on training, and decided to leave the merchandise post. It was a hard decision — the BDSS gang is an awesome bunch. Asharah workshop!

July: A lotta sitting around.

August: Got second place in the Pro Tribal Soloist category at the MAQAM bellydance competiton in Chicago. Started Odissi lessons!

September: Eco Art Fest in Columbia, started teaching classes in Jefferson City.

October: Burlesque show in Kirksville with Lola van Ella, St. Louis Burlesque fest, AMY SIGIL WORKSHOP! GREAT month.

November: Artica fundraiser show — Love and Loss in One Act. Went to Florida to visit my grandpa. Planned trip for January to study with AMY SIGIL!

December: Training, training, training, creating, training… preparing for Amy Sigil and 2010.

2) ANALYZE

I still remember it — in December 2008, I became convinced that “2009 was going to be my year” — that something amazing would happen. And looking back… I had a heck of a year. A lot of positive growth, a lot of travel, a lot of new opportunities and new acquaintances.

I learned some hard lessons. I’ve learned living life on the road and touring is an experience that you can try to explain to someone, but it’s hard to understand how simultaneously awesome and difficult it is unless you’ve done it yourself. I learned that people sometimes represent someone they’re not. I’ve learned how it feels to be physically and emotionally drained — and how powerful you feel when you overcome it. I’ve learned that the more I connect with the universe and the more good energy I put out, the more good the universe sends my way. I’ve learned that experiences aren’t “good” or “bad”, necessarily — they are an opportunity to grow and learn. I’ve learned that the best judge of my self-worth is myself.

3) TAKE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED… AND APPLY IT.

  • I’ve learned that I really love traveling. I would definitely tour again, if given the opportunity. I hope in 2010 I get more opportunities to do so — and I should pursue those opportunities.
  • Through all of my adventures in 2009, I have had some really important people in my life to help me through it. I’ve learned I am very empathetic, and I absorb people’s energies. Therefore, in 2010, I want to invest time in my relationships that manifest good energy — people that care about me and people that I would do anything for. I’m done with toxic people. I’m so fortunate to have so many caring, wonderful people in my life, and I want to give my time and energy to them.
  • The highlights of my 2009 are mostly centered around (surprise, surprise) dancing. I feel happiest when I am dancing. I want to earn more opportunities to pursue what I love in 2010 by training hard, nourishing my body to feel good and healthy, and by constantly focusing on creating positive energy.

4) GIVE THANKS FOR WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.

I am so fortunate to get to do what I love so frequently. I’m grateful that I have had so many people help me through tough times — thank you. I’m grateful I got to travel and see a larger scope of the world. I’m grateful that I have been released from commitments that could have prevented me from pursuing my future. I’m grateful for a wonderful, supportive family. I’m grateful for Amy Sigil, Asharah, and everyone in BDSS, since they have changed the way I am pursuing belly dance. I’m grateful that people are reading my blog 🙂

Happy almost New Year, everyone. 2010 is going to be one hell of a year.

EPL: A Little Update!

I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I would liked to recently, but it’s a good thing. I have been working hard on my goal of creating, and I have made several strides:

1) Inspiration board is up. I finally finished my inspiration board, and oddly enough, a few things on it have come to pass!

2) Focusing on different forms of inspiration, not just belly dance. Since I no longer have access to regular belly dance classes, I have lately been focusing on other dance forms. My ballet, modern dance, and Odissi classes ended for the semester, but I have been working hard on working out every day and working on exercises I picked up in those classes. I also have been trying to research modern and contemporary dance videos lately, some of which I’ve been trying to post here.

3) Reading! I get in this bad habit of rereading books that I’ve read a billion times before. I have been trying to branch out and read more books specifically on subjects that help inform my dance.

4) Learning my creative habits. I have noticed I tend to be more productive in particular types of situations. I have learned I can’t really choreograph at home or anywhere where I can find an excuse to surf the internet. I tend to get a lot more accomplished if I pack up all my crap and go SOMEWHERE to work – usually the Stephens College dance studio (big thank you to the Stephens College dance department!)

5) Building a creative training plan. I sat down one day and made two lists – my physical training plans and my creative training plan. On my creative plan: books I want to finish, research I want to complete, exhibits and shows I want to visit.