Each new year offers opportunity to illuminate ideas, instigate new ideologies. A chance to be inspired so we can inspire. Dancers’ Group’s staff brings in 2019 with responses to the question, what is healthy?
Sprinkled throughout this issue are articles centered on this question, including Juliet Paramor’s coverage of ODC’s Healthy Dancers Clinic and its upcoming Day For Dancers’ Health on January 26; Ken Foster considering health in arts leadership; and Sima Belmar’s regular column “In Practice” transforms to share a personal journey towards wellness.
I grew up equating health with success and I’m working to unlearn this notion and numerous beliefs about what constitutes being healthy. As a dancer am I naturally healthy? No. Evolving, and aging, are complex and I work to believe—or is it to trust?—that my aging body is whole, and beautiful, and perfect in this moment. With the start of the new year I recommit to my body—I am not the person I used to be. —Wayne Hazzard, Executive Director
A healthy life is about maintaining balance of all things that can affect a person’s mentality, physicality, emotionality, finances, and spirituality. Each of these selves are connected to one another, therefore causing a perpetual balancing act that we have to perform on the daily. Some are lucky to be able to support and be supported by others whenever they begin to teeter totter. However 2019 pans out, may we all find grounding, support and presence whenever we fall off balance. —Valerie Mendez, Program Assistant
When approached about this opportunity to write about health as a dancer, my mind immediately started exploding with ideas. Where does one start? For me, the subject hit remarkably close to home.
This past summer, my immediate health was challenged by a fall I took during a performance at the Sun Gallery in Hayward. I was presenting a solo work, Terra Femme, about embodying the Earth as a goddess who was being attacked by smog, pollution, nuclear bombs, and other man made weapons to the natural soil.
During one of a series of spins, I fell down onto the wooden platform. Like any true performer, I continued through, as if the fall were a part of the choreography. The actual pain didn’t settle in until days later and even then I was used to my almost lifelong back issues so I wasn’t vigilant.
It was only when I couldn’t sit up straight without having excruciating pain going down the length of my right leg that I finally went to a doctor. They said without a doubt that I was dealing with sciatic nerve pain.
I had never felt anything like this in my life. Having been a fairly safe kid, I never broke any bones growing up so I had nothing to compare the experience to. This debilitating pain kept me up nights and made every day movement insufferable. Having initially no relief and fearful thoughts that I might become addicted to painkillers plagued my mind. It was in those moments I knew that I had to change.
With the help of prescribed medicine, alternating heat and cold packs, natural salves, constant stretching, massage therapy, and an overhaul of diet, over the course of 5 months, I was eventually able to walk, sit and sleep with much less pain.
This incident was definitely a wakeup call for me. I wasn’t listening to my body and it was calling out for help. As the new year approaches, creating new regimes for one’s body and mind may seem cliche but sometimes they are truly necessary.
Going into the next 365 days, there’s an ever-present call to refresh your mind state, grow in character, set personal goals, and yes renew that gym membership. —Andréa Spearman, Program Assistant
In recent years, I have ventured into more nontraditional, Eastern, Indigenous, brujeria-spiritual based healing modalities to address my health-based concerns. This shift has arisen as a result of a severe concussion I experienced in the spring of 2017. My time in the offices of Western doctors had not been particularly helpful, primarily because I felt like there was a lack of embodied understanding and that my full self was not being taken into consideration. Whenever I’ve seen Chinese Medicine specialists, I’ve been asked about my diet, personal life, emotional state, family, metabolism, etc. This is not to say that I don’t think that there are many Western medical advancements that continue to save lives time and time again; I simply wonder if there will ever come a moment when the respective modalities\/ technologies will meet and converge.
I remember calling my mother post-concussion who immediately suggested we pray; this happened after I had performed my own full moon ritual at a friend’s dance studio earlier that same day. I also reached out to Hannah Wasielewski, choreographer and craniosacral therapist, who was giving free craniosacral therapy sessions at the time, which helped tremendously in getting my body back into its deep healing rhythms and potential. The impact of the concussion generated an interesting tension because prior to the moment of injury, movement had always been my medicine/methodology for survival and healing. Because the concussion limited how much and how rigorously I could move, I then had to find another way to channel movement’s healing capacity in order to ground and stabilize the symptoms I was experiencing.
When it comes to issues pertaining to mental and physical health, I have continued to turn to these alternative modalities. Discussions around the ways race / gender / class / citizenship / language intersect with being an artist and how these factors affect access to healthcare need to be had and examined more thoroughly. I wish I could attend to the tuning of my body on a more regular basis, but sometimes am not able to due to lack of funds. So how does one get what one needs when the system in place is inherently designed to keep specific people out and others in? This is an ongoing question that continues to haunt me. One proposition is to create one’s own system. Currently, my system includes being in close dialogue with herbalists and Chinese Energetic forms along with meditation and prayer. Thankfully, the Bay Area continues to be a place where NOTAFLOF, trades, and exchanges exist both within and outside of the performing arts as one remedy in addressing the issue of accessibility to healthcare. —randy reyes, Program Assistant
When I think of health, my mind turns to the word care and the idea of taking care. But, I resist the idea of “self-care.” Admittedly, it’s enticing – in a American Capitalist culture that rewards production, earnings, and acquisition, prioritizing one’s own body and mind sure seems like sage advice. But it sneakily perpetuates another dark aspect of the American idea: that there is an Individual Self and there is an Other, and we are in competition for every resource. I’d prefer to think of my “self” as an inextricable part of community and family. I reject the binary of self and other. Let’s build a culture, not of individualism, but of reciprocal wellbeing. Let’s take care of one another. —Michelle Lynch Reynolds, Program Director
This article appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of In Dance.