The Times, They Are A’Changing…

A good friend of mine and brilliant photographer Nichelle Lawrence relayed a great analogy that she had read about to me the other day. Life, she told me, is like a swing — in order to swing super high, you need to work really hard — and on the same token, you have to be willing to swing back just as far. To extend the analogy, I feel like there are some times in my life where I have been swinging back and forth really high and other times I’m tracing circles in the dirt with my toes.

Currently, I am the kid on the playground that is pumping her legs so hard that I think I might finally go over the top bar of the swing (I’ll leave the swing set analogy now, I promise). Recently, I’ve been making some really difficult choices and have been making some important life decisions, and I’ve been vacillating back and forth between being really happy and really lost.

At my audition at Raqs LA in April, Miles mentioned that he thought I should pursue cabaret as opposed to tribal. I have to say, I was crushed. I have pursued tribal exclusively for four years, and I have never felt like I could express what I wanted to say with my body through cabaret. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. Part of me strongly believes that the universe sends you signs, and maybe this is a sign that I need to be more well-rounded and focus on the beauty and grace of cabaret. Another part of me feels like I’m artistically whoring myself out — am I really pursuing well-roundedness or am I catering to the expectations of others? Who am I REALLY as a dancer, and what am I really after?

All of this has been weighing on my mind for the past few months. A little over a week ago, I flew out to work at Raqs America in Washington, D.C., and I decided to only focus on cabaret at my audition. The first night was amazing — I went to an amazing art exhibit with Ebony, Bozenka, Ansuya, and Kami (check out Artomatic if you’re ever in D.C.). The next day, I got ready for two back-to back, 8am to 7pm days of selling merch. On Saturday, I danced cabaret on the open stage… and it was the worst I have ever performed in my life. I felt really weak (I didn’t get a chance to eat a lot and I was on my feet all day) and I almost fell over. Of course, I had invited Bozenka, Kami, PJ, Miles, and others to see my open stage time (serves me right, I jinxed myself). While I got some very nice feedback from Miles and Brandon Johnson, a local bellydance appreciator from the D.C. area, I felt terrible — you know the feeling when you know you haven’t performed your best. The audition went all right — I was told to take some ballet classes, but Miles and Sonia were very positive.

The main thing I realized throughout the weekend was that while I love touring, I love the people I work with, I love traveling, I love being immersed in everything bellydance… the merchandise job was no longer a good fit for me. The job was HARD physically and emotionally — lots of heavy lifting made me worry about injury and the long hours and complete exhaustion made it difficult to focus on my training. I am SO grateful for the opportunity and I don’t regret a thing — but it’s time for me to make time for my training so I can maybe someday realize my dream of joining BDSS. Miles was very supportive when I told him and was extremely considerate. I have learned a lot from Miles from a business aspect and I am grateful for how wonderful he and everyone I worked with treated me.

So here I am, back in Columbia. I quit a job that many people would kill for, I have no job prospects here, I have very little money, and I’m wondering what the hell to pursue dance-wise. But in spite of all of that, I feel like I made the right decision and I’m happy. I feel like I can now focus on becoming the best dancer I can be, and I am focusing on my art.

Stay tuned — Asharah workshop writeup from this weekend is on its way.