Ottawa Dancers’ Blogletter – 2018/04/29

Finding Inspiration when life is busy!

I enjoyed my time at the Ottawa Souk.  I had a table and a dress rack that sold not only my second hand dance items, I was trying find new homes for, but I was selling dance items of retired and/or retiring dancers.  There were actually a lot of tables, which dancer items being sold were by dancers that were clearing out their closets.  Some, I know are continuing to dance but there were at least 4 dancers that were either retiring or had retired and were trying to find new homes for their costumes.  When someone decides they no longer want to dance, it always makes me a little sad because I can’t imagine not dancing and because I know I won’t see them any more at dance events.  There are many reasons why someone would choose not to dance anymore, be it the day job requires more attention, continuing education for said day job or for a better job prospect, the want to learn other dance forms, marriage, kids and the list go on, but sometimes a dancer decides they don’t want to dance anymore because they don’t feel inspired anymore.

The loss of inspiration can occur at any time and it has happened to me.  Here is my story and how I now find my inspiration when it eludes me.  When I was a kid, I was hooked on dance the moment my parents sent me to a ballet classes.  I wanted to know everything I could and I persisted, as a kid “persists” until I got try pointe.  I was on the top of the world and then my family moved away and I was not longer close to a dance class.  Of course that didn’t stop me from dancing and luckily music videos were all the rage on MTV at the time.  The living room of my house or my friends’ house, became my dance studio and my inspiration came from the likes of Paula Abdul, Cyndi Lauper and the variety of music videos available.

Throughout my adolescence, dance was in my life sporadically and it wasn’t until I arrived in a belly dance class that my true dance inspiration started blossoming.  Belly dance class wasn’t just about learning how to move your body in certain ways, but it was more learning to connecting with yourself and expressing your emotions through music and movement.  At the beginning of my belly dancing life, I did just follow my teacher’s choices in class, but I took what I learnt and started playing at home with different music and focused on how I was feeling and the connection I felt with the song.  Music and making my own combinations to songs outside of class made me feel like I was creating something and I didn’t worry if it was going to be shared with the world, I just wanted to dance.

Then life happened and I went back to school to finish my degree so it would positively affect my day job.  I was no longer able to take a regular dance class, because I didn’t really know of any other classes being offered at that time; if only I had known about Studio Oasis at that time, well things might be slightly different.  So I had to settle for finding some practice time at home and/or find workshops to continue to learn and reinforce what I know.  You can repeat the same move over and over again but workshops and classes tend to change your perspective and you create your own combinations.

After I finished my degree, I started to attend a class again and eventually began to teach.  Being a teacher was a new challenge because now, I needed to have a plan of what I was going to teach my students and I wanted to inspire them to create and connect with the dance.  Luckily, by the time I was starting to teach, I had developed my love veil work and had many a song that I found that I connected to and the combinations and choreographies were massaged out without months of effort.  Then I started into Bollywood and I had a new dance to share and new inspiration to develop movements and/or expression that improved how I wanted to teach.  At one point, I taught four nights a week until after that session and I loved teaching every single class, and I was working full-time during the day.  After that session, I hit the wall.  It was like writer’s block for dancers.  I was burnt out and my inspiration was gone.  I loved dance and I still wanted to dance but I felt disconnected and uninspired.  I decided, that I needed to recharge myself, as I knew I didn’t want to stop dancing and well I was also performing with Bollywood for Fun so I had group responsibilities.  I stopped teaching for two reasons: 1) I needed to step back and focus on my personal dance growth; 2) I needed to upgrade skills for my day job.

So I went back to being a student for both my day job and dance.  I did drop-ins for dance classes as well as focused on workshops.  The workshops I attended often focus on either technique or something I haven’t tried before in my dance; often folkloric in focus or musicality.  One of best workshops I decided to try was the Aziza Dream Camp.  What better way to feel recharged and focus on a dance you love than leaving the “day to day” behind and going elsewhere to dance and just be in the moment with your dance.  I am very grateful for Aziza for creating this camp because I have attended it five times in the span of four years and each time I came out feeling recharged and inspired.  Another workshop was the Journey through Egypt with Sarah Saheeda whose workshop inspired me to start learning more of the cultural aspects of the dance, I had only had snippets of information from.  Between these two workshops, my path has been set in finding a balance between just having fun with the movements and understanding the connection of the emotions and movement to the music.

So fast forward to today.  I am happily dancing and teaching again.  I chose to start teaching again, because I missed helping people get in touch with the bodies and go from not knowing how to move to being able to move and express themselves.  My life is still very busy and often because it’s so busy I often feel exhausted and uninspired because I just want to sleep and/or not think sometimes.  Also, physically, I have had knee, foot and should injuries, and sometimes other annoying health issues, that begrudgingly interfere with my wanting to dance.  Yes, life will get in the way of dance and/or feeling inspired to move, but moving is good, it’s important because it can change your mood often for the better.  When I feel uninspired or frustrated even with my dance or lack of dancing, here is what helps me get through the lack of inspiration:

  • I will often return to just practicing the basic movement of dance to songs that just make me want to move.  They’re not also belly dance or even Bollywood songs, sometimes they are songs from soundtracks (video game or movies) and sometimes they’re just random songs I found while going down the “recommended rabbit hole” on iTunes; 
  • I will look at what workshops are happening, in town first, and out of town second since budget constraints limits travel a lot;
  • I will do drop-in classes, where available (Studio Oasis, Duniya Studios, Anna and Safiya, and Niki to name most of them) and just dance.;
  • I will look at some of my instructional dvds I’ve purchased over the years, to either work on combinations and/or just watch the performance at the end;
  • I will look at YouTube for videos either of choreographies to inspire my own and/or music that I’m interested in purchasing but want to see a translation or listen to the full version;
  • I will sit and visiting with dance friends and catch with them; sometimes just catching up with dance friends will spark the need to dance;
  • I will clean my house and organize my dance closet; a messy house can way on my mind and remind me of my “to do” list instead of just enjoying life and dancing, and;
  • I will set a dance goal for myself to accomplish; the latest of which is to prepare for a competition in 2019.

It’s okay to feel if you need to take a break from dance.  If it’s not a permanent break and you need inspiration, I hope this blog helps spark some inspirational guidance.  If it’s a permanent break from classes and even the community, know that you will be missed but you’re supported in your decision.  However, I will encourage you to always find some time at home to put on your favourite song, maybe even your favourite hip scarf or costume you never really want to part with, and just dance for yourself.  Wishing you all the best!

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