You are Someone's Hero
The title of this post is not a mistake. Do you remember being the neophyte who looks to another person doing something you love with awe? Well, now someone is looking at you with the same awe and wonder. I know that we are all critical of ourselves. It is especially true for artists. Everything we do could be better. That is a struggle I understand too well. I would like to propose a reinvention of the thought patterns that bring us to concentrating on how much we have left to do before we are perfect. I would like to suggest that we instead focus on what we are doing to help and pull another person along who is watching us in awe.
I have watched my children develop into wonderful performers. They are still young and naturally, they have much to learn, however, what they have learned is to help those who look up to them. All three have recently noticed that there are other dancers/performers who are looking at them with the same wide eyes that they used to look at others. They are also noticing that some of those that they used to look up to are still in the same place creatively they were when they started looking at them as heroes. Why does this happen? What causes this stagnation? In my opinion, a lack of humility does.
The two dancers you see in this post, I have watched develop as dancers and as people. They are both beautiful humble dancers and gorgeous souls as well. The taller dancer has started teaching the shorter dancer as of late. For years, she has looked at other dancers and admired many things about them while at the same time other dancers looked at her and admired things about her. There is something quite beautiful about mutual admiration among dancers. It is wonderful when it comes from a place of mutual respect and not self deprecation or fishing for complements. We as artists need to learn to take a complement and say "thank you." Notice that I include myself in this as well. There is always someone looking at you and seeing you and what you do as beautiful. Learn to accept it and believe it.
The shorter dancer is a tiny dynamo. She is quite proud of how far she has come and knows how far she has yet to go...and pushes herself to get there. For a long time, she was the one in the classes who is the youngest and smallest. This summer, I decided to give her a chance to be the leader in the class. The chance to feel other dancers look at her with the same starry eyed gaze that she gives the taller dancers. Although she was not the tallest dancer in the room, she was the most experienced. With this experience, she quietly rose to her place as a leader and mentor. She seemed to feel her importance and stepped up to challenge herself to do more while at the same time helping the others in the class to expect more of themselves. She reminded each dancer of what they were capable of and where they could be. She did this not with words, but by quietly encouraging and cheering for other dancers no matter how small their accomplishments. As artists, we need to see that it is about the art we love and practice and not about us. Humility to the art, those who came before, and those who come after is a must when you are an artist. Learn to see that you are one in a long line of others who have come before you and will come after you. Respect the tradition of the craft and encourage others along their way as well.
You are not doing your art in a vacuum. There are changes and new techniques and discoveries every day. While respecting the traditions of the past, never become stagnate and settled where you are. Continue to strive for excellence. Continue to take classes, read about and discuss your craft on a regular basis. This is how we grow as members of the human race and as artists. Try a class in a form of art that you have never tried before. Take a class that is a bit out of your reach. Take a class that is a bit easier than you are used to and push yourself and others in the class to a new found beauty. No matter what, continue to move and learn in your art.
Make your art and life something worth emulating.
Please notice I did not say copy. To emulate, means to equal or excel. We want those who are looking to us as heroes to have something to strive towards and surpass with pride. Notice the ends of this short dancer's hair. There is a lovely red glow to the ends of her brown hair right now. It can not be seen unless it is taken out of the bun. I have noticed many of my female dancers adding a burst of color to the ends of their hair lately. When I asked them why, they all said that they loved my streaks of color in my hair and wanted to do it too. Well, they took my signature style and improved upon it. When their hair is up, they are able to look like a serious dancer. When their hair is down, they are able to dance as colorfully as they wish. Respecting the traditions of ballet and still adding their own take as an individual as well.
If only I had thought of that while I was still at the bare. Shine as an artist friends, and remember, someone is always watching you and wanting to do what you do. Make it something worth doing!