Dance, from its earliest roots, was social in nature. As ritual, as entertainment, or as part of a celebration, dance was performed in the community, within tight knit groups such as families, friends and religious practitioners. As a dancer who started out as a student in American Tribal Style, one of the most appealing things to me was the group nature of the dance. The classes and my fellow students felt like a community and gave me the confidence to start performing since we were all doing it together!
As I continued to dance and my style evolved to one more focused on Tribal Fusion¸ my preference for dancing with others remained. A decade later, I am feeling called to the solo realm and my recent move to Portland is accelerating that transition. Still, I remain connected to my groups: The Bijou Project, Kamilia, and most recently Nagamani—oh the joys and pains of successful group dancing! At its best, it can be magic. At its worst—a nightmarish hell where egos battle it out and no one agrees on anything. You see, group dancing involves a constant give and take, sometimes sacrificing flash for conformity or having to give up your brilliant idea because someone else has a better one. Like any relationship, having a successful group takes vision, maturity, commitment, communication and the willingness to let go sometimes.
Over the years I’ve collaborated with duets, trios, quads, and larger groups, but what about the relationships between dancers in a broader dance community? Having recently left my tight-knit community of dancers in Central Oregon and moved to a city ten times the size, how will I transition into this new community? I don’t have an answer for that yet. It’s a bit like moving and starting a new school halfway through the term. Groups are established, no one knows who you are, and everyone already has their own thing going.
There are also the distractions of a new city, or just living in a real city to contend with. There are so many classes to choose from, so many events to attend, so much good food to eat, and my life outside of dance to balance and blend in. It is overwhelming and I am surprised that choosing has been so daunting. Isn’t this why I moved here–to build a career for myself as a massage therapist, to grow as a dancer, to pursue more cultural and spiritual paths? I feel down on myself some days for not having taken advantage of every last drop of dance and live music to date, but deep down I know this is not realistic. I can see now that achieving my goals will take focused intention on my part.
Right before I moved to Portland, a co-worker told me that the three most stressful situations in life are moving, taking a new job, and the loss of a loved one, not necessarily in that order. Since I’m tackling two of the three on that list, dance has slipped a bit in the life/time rankings, but I do want to be a part of the thriving dance community here in Portland. I am thankful for the dancers who have graciously welcomed me into their circles (you know who you are) and I look forward to deepening my participation in the community as time goes on.