Thursday, February 11, 2010
Body & Spirit: What Do Your Ancestors Need from You?
I love thinking about the molecules of oxygen that we breathe and how they've been in and out of the lungs of people like Virginia Woolf and Audrey Hepburn and Isadora Duncan and now they are moving, recycled, in and out of yours and mine.
There's nothing new under the sun, ya know? Including the air we breathe and the stardust of which we are made or the thoughts that we may capture on paper or in paint or in a moment of movement.
There's nothing new, except, of course, that you and I are made of ancient stuff and are unique originals at the same time.
That movement of pen, brush, or leg may look the same as one that took place centuries ago, but it's not exactly the same. Only you could have done that, right then, right there.
And yet the oxygen and the stardust and the thoughts...
In this recycling, we are all connected by invisible threads, lighting our way out of the labyrinth or into the center, whichever direction you happen to be headed at the moment. As we pass in and out of this existence, we drop or pick up these lighted threads, and so we continue the narrative, the building, the making.
I wonder about all of this as I dance. Where does this dance come from and why has it chosen me to use as a vehicle? Why has that story chosen that author? Why has that venture chosen that woman?
In reading Twyla Tharp, I came across an interesting possible explanation, one of an infinite number of possible explanations, but it's floating my boat right now, making me think of these things from a slightly different angel -- and slight is all I ask for.
Tharp is writing of memory and she remembers a story she read in the New York Times in March of 2002. It was about a Cambodian dancer:
"We believe our ancestors are watching us, even if we do not see them," Sina Koy said. "It was because of the spirit of the ancestors inside me that I became a dancer." Not long ago, she visited the ancient temples of Angkor and studied the stone bas-reliefs where dancers bend and turn and float just as they do today on the broad bare stage of the practice hall. Seeing them, Sina Koy understood that nothing had changed. Everything that she does today was done then.
Now when I dance, I am going to ask my feet to ask the earth what it is my Ancestors need or want me to do.
Breathing in all the past dancers, breathing out dance...