little white tennis raquets

The last time I took Samba with Quenia Ribeiro she was wearing a turquoise unitard decorated with little white tennis rackets.  I LOVED it (both the unitard AND the Samba class).  It was one of the best dance experiences I had ever had.

The class was so fast, so rhythmic, so intricate, and so HARD that I made sure to stand front and center to keep my eyes on the whirling tennis rackets sluicing across the turquoise spandex.

About 20 minutes in, Quenia tapped me on the shoulder and said “I am moving you to the back of the room.  You are messing everyone else up rhythmically.”  

I sheepishly moved to the back row of a packed room, never to lay eyes on those tiny white tennis rackets again.  The room was bursting at the seams, and I couldn’t see through the swarm of bodies.  I spent the next hour and a half with my eyes glued to the backside of the woman in front of me, trying desperately to follow her rotating hips.

And even though I didn't come close to getting anything "right", I was gleeful, elated, inspired, and moved by the vibration and whir of the class.

This past weekend I was in NYC visiting a friend, and I took the same Samba class at the Alvin Ailey School.    I introduced myself to Quenia and told her I had been to her class three years ago, the last time I was in New York.  She peered at me quizzically and said “I don’t remember you.  And I remember everyone who takes my class.”

This time Quenia was in a tie dyed unitard with no back, barely any front, and just itty bitty strings holding the whole thing together.  I placed myself front and centerAGAIN, hoping to keep my eyes on the tie dye.

About 20 minutes in, Quenia tapped me on the shoulder and said “Ah yes, now I remember you.  Please move to the back of the room so the rest of the class doesn't get confused."

I happily found my original spot in the way back of the room.  Flailing and clumsy, totally wrong in every way possible, I found myself in a  state of pure ecstasy, dancing the Samba so terribly, but with so much joy, it just didn’t matter.

After class, I walked along 9th Avenue, humming.

Your dance mission for the week is to sign-up for an art class or art experience that is not part of your daily routine.

Notice how it re-routes the neurons in your brain. Notice how you navigate being a beginner. Notice how it feels not to know.

Notice if, and when, you compare yourself to someone else, or to yourself. Notice what happens when that happens.

Notice your breathing. Notice your jaw. Notice your feet. Notice where your eyes are. 

The Failure Festival is coming up, so this is a great time to flounder, stumble, and lurch your way into a new creative experience.

I can’t wait to hear about your Samba, Printmaking, Poetry, or Voice class.

Post about your experience here: or here

(A little side note for you:  If you post here, which is the blog page on my website and the facebook page for dance missions, then there could be a conversation among everyone who is receiving this email, which I think would be kinda cool.  The personal emails I am getting from people should really be seen by a larger audience, and not just by little ole’ me.  So, maybe that could be part of the art experience that is out of your comfort zone and daily routine?  Posting on this blog in response to this email…hmmm…just a thought).

As Always,

With So Much Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending


Note about where I am at with Natural Disasters and the Improvising Artist, Part II:

I have gotten incredible responses from people about their experience with creativity and adversity.  The project has become bigger then I imagined.

So, I am giving it the time it needs to unfold and find its way back to me. I don’t know yet if that means it will be a week, a month, or a year before I write again aboutNatural Disasters and The Improvising Artist.  

Just know it is underway, and that something outlandish is emerging.

Here is a poem to get keep you and me musing about Natural Disasters and The Improvising Artist that Helen Turner emailed to me:

adversity definitely affects creativity

it can shut it off run it out make it wait and wait and wait

fuel it bite it lick it squeeze pummel love it

it can wash or change it fancy or plain it or never darken my door again

xo Jo