WHAT BRINGS YOU DEEP JOY? This question was the opening ice-breaker of a board retreat I was recently a part of for Emerging Arts Professionals1. The question caught me off-guard, maybe because it was early on a Sunday and I hadn’t yet finished my cup of coffee; but more likely because I am rarely asked such a soul-bearing question by near-strangers. What brings me deep joy?
In the moment, I fumbled around with an answer about my ongoing practice of becoming a more inspired and skillful home cook. It’s true that cooking is meditative for me, seeing myself improve is joyful, not to mention the fun of sharing my tasty successes with others. But, deep joy?
The question has lingered in my mind for weeks now; its simplicity is a trick.
I find deep joy to be slippery and inconsistent, as what elicits it once may not do so again. That feeling that came over me when in a room filled with my loved ones likely won’t return the next time we’re all together. Perhaps that next time I’ll be tired, craving solitude, even while intellectually wishing for that grateful, joyful sensation. Or, let’s be real: sometimes I feel soul-penetrating joy laughing with my husband, but other times I just want to remind him to fold the laundry. The truth is, for me (but I’d be willing to bet I’m not alone), an experience of joy depends on being able to slow down—mentally and physically—to allow a depth of emotion to be felt.
This slowing is a part of my pre-show ritual, both when I used to perform, and now when I participate in dance as an audience member. Before performances, I will arrive to the space early and find my seat. Those quiet moments before the show are mine to exercise a bit of meditation, and prepare myself to have a deep experience, whether joyful or emotionally ‘-ful’ in some other way. I tend to go to dance events alone, largely because I find myself better able to slow down when I’m not also considering social obligations.
Inside this issue is a window into a dance ecosystem that seemingly knows no bounds—it is as abundant as it is excellent—with many dozens of opportunities to have an experience of extraordinary depth.
December brims with holiday celebrations and this year is no exception. The community calendar features annual regulars like ODC’s The Velveteen Rabbit to the iconic San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker. There’s CubaCaribe’s Christmas in Cuba, Mark Foehringer’s Nutcracker Sweets, Solstice! by UpSwing Aerial Dance Company, and many more.
Beyond the holiday events, this month we will bear witness to several major markings of time. Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose celebrates its 35th anniversary, and Usha Srinivasan spoke with founder and artistic director Mythili Kumar about the company’s history and future. YBCA presents Erasing Time, the first “retrospective” of iconic choreographer and healer, Sara Shelton Mann. Robert Avila writes about this 5-hour durational event. And, the Rotunda Dance Series concludes its 2015 series with a performance curated by Ma–hea Uchiyama to honor the Guna, an indigenous group from Panama. Julie Mushet sheds light on this special event.
“Joy” is a word that seems to be tossed around with great abandon this time of year, found inside cards, belted out in carols, and used in advertisements. But we know: deep joy transcends any season, and is astonishing, even in its slipperiness (in fact, because of it), when we are lucky enough to experience it.
May you be joyful, this holiday season and far beyond.
1. Emerging Arts Professionals is an organization dedicated to empowerment, leadership, and growth of the next generation of those working in the arts sector in the Bay Area. emergingsf.org