SPEAK: Dance Artists on Dance

By Randee Paufve

November 1, 2007, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Leaving a recent Fullbright grant meeting, encouraged by the advisor’s response to my project idea, her parting words hit like bricks: “you just have to follow your dream.”

I’ve been following my dream for 25 years. I need a job. Fullbright grant is on hold.

I recently sat on a Q&A panel of dance world professionals during a teen contemporary dance intensive. A student asked “what advice do you have for teens considering a dance career”? Taking turns, my colleagues gave excellent advice; “identify your strengths,” “find mentors,” “start a retirement account (and feed it).” Then it came to me. I was stumped. Not for lack of feeling blessed. I’m fricking 46, still dancing, teaching my ass off, making dances, earning my MFA. I love this work.

And I am terrified.
Of poverty, illness, obscurity, stupidity, and rejection.
Of war and monsters, big and small, inside and out.
Of the United States of Depression.

And tired.
Of hyper multi-tasking, pushing, tired of being scared, tired of being….tired.
Fear is a national pastime, and it is exhausting. Keeps us bypassing the present, makes us mean and sad. I’m preaching to the choir here, but we need art, bad. Dance is more important than ever. My teaching work makes clear—people are hungry to move and be moved.

I saw fewer performances last year than usual, but was inspired by the works of William Forsythe, Ohad Naharin, Kate Weare; a cross section of choreographers making emotional, political, generous, intelligent, unapologetic, thrilling, movement-based work. Attentive to questions of heart, work, world, these choreographers model (to me) ways of standing on our own shoulders, and those of our ancestors, weaving our work from past to present, trusting movement, keeping dance potent, urgent, relevant.

Yet knowing too well that this work—our work-—comes too often at such cost.

What am I saying? In Dance asked what’s on my mind. In sum: Fear and Inspiration, Sadness and Elation. Art. Aging. Dancing the Transitions. Our Overextended Selves. Connections. Solitude, Tribe, Love, Sex, Death. Gratitude.