Are you in pain?

Is that why you aren’t dancing so much?  

Or is it because you feel:

  • Old
  • Achey
  • Ugly
  • Restricted in your movement
  • Lumpy and/or schlumpy
  • All of the above.


I hear you, I hear you, I hear you.


And you know what, that’s not a good enough excuse.

These things will change your dance of course, especially if you are in pain, but it doesn't mean you have to stop dancing all together.


You can feel all of these things — lord knows I do — and still continue to expand and unfold into your dancing life.


You can be stuck in bed with whatever it is you are stuck in bed with, and you can still be dancing.


So chin up buck-a-roo, it’s not over yet.


True, you may not be doing those barrel turns and back flippy things like you used to — though who knows, you may surprise yourself — and true, you may not be able to do that quick spin combined with a high leg kick anymore, but honestly, who cares?


It’s time to move on from that frame of reference anyway.


Yes, we live in a smooth skinned youth obsessed culture of gloss and perk that doesn’t allow for lumps and bumps, crooked lines, or tufts of hair -- anywhere.


This is all true.


However, if you are reading this newsletter, you obviously are not interested in the status quo.


So why let the status quo of aging stop you from doing what what you love?


Let me say one more thing before we get to practicalities:


This whole ugly thing?


It’s a killer.


It’s a killer of the creative quest you are on because the amount of energy you spend worrying about what you look like takes you away from the truth of the matter.

And that truth is that you need to be following your own imagination, regardless of what you look like on any given day.


You know what someone said in class last week?


She said:  “What a relief it is not to worry about whether or not I look cute in this class.”


You know what someone else said in class right after that?


She said:   “And I feel so ugly and old sometimes, I can’t concentrate on my dancing.”


And this, this is what we need to unpack.


Because who gets to say what is ugly and what is not?

And who gets to say what ugly even means?

If you can, let the ugly thing go.


You have more important things to focus on. I know how hard it is too slough off years of internal messaging about appearance, especially for women.  As someone who has always thought of herself as ugly, I do not say the above lightly.  I get that it is a lifelong practice to stay focused on your creative quest and imaginative unfolding, rather than on what you look like while doing it.


I get it.


But you CAN do this.


You can focus your energy on finding the truth in your expression and sensation, rather than on spending time worrying about if you are ugly or pretty, cute or beautiful, young or old.


Now, if what you are uncovering through your dancing is ugly and gnarled, if itis crooked and hairy, if it has thorns growing out of it’s spine, then, wow, what a magnificent and beautiful dance that is, because it is true for you.


Your being, your essence, and your outward appearance are not ugly, and will never be ugly,  for uncovering, excavating, and understanding an aspect of yourself that has been waiting to be found for a very long time.


Right now, while you are reading this, with whatever aches and pains you are experiencing, and no matter how lumpy you feel, notice your breath.


(Side note:  I feel particularly lumpy today.  My back is aching because I missed my appointment with my body worker person this week, I haven’t showered,  I’m still in my pajamas, I ate a pint of ice cream for breakfast and now my legs are restless and jittery from the bounty of sugar I consumed…..nonetheless, I am able to notice my breath, and so I do).


With each inhale, imagine your body getting a tiny bit bigger.


With each exhale, imagine your body releasing and sinking into the earth.


Now look at your hands.


Continue to notice your breath, imagining getting a tiny bit bigger on the inhale, releasing and sinking into the earth on the exhale, and notice what is happening with your hands.


Sense, see, and follow what is unfolding.


Let the detail and articulation of what is opening up in your hands envelop the rest of your body, with a deep respect for your own timing in the unfolding.


This exercise can be done in bed, the bath, while sitting at the kitchen table, taking the bus to work, or lying on the floor after a long day at the computer.

It comes from a beautiful email I received from Hannah Denison, who lives in Vermont:


“Just saw About Kazuo Ohno at a small space in Burlington.  Japanese man who got enamored of Kazuo and even though he never saw the old master dance, recreated his dances from films that were equally ancient.   In the Q&A he spoke of Kazuo’s fingers and hands and how intricate and compelling they were, how if he just focused on the movement of the hands, the rest of the body followed and expanded.  Also, he spoke about Kazuo’s son who was caring for him when he was close to death, used to lift him out of his chair from behind and stand holding him as he danced his last dances.”


We will all be in some degree of pain at some point.


If we are lucky, we will continue to grow older.


The dance will need to change because of these two things.

That is a beautiful and curious thing, and it should not be discarded:

"Let everything happen to you:  beauty and terror." - Rilke With a wish for you to step into whatever dance is waiting for you, hoping you will open the door.

Warmly, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending