A Statement of Purpose

As I head into 2009, I have been reflecting on my progress as a dancer, artist, and human being.

I pride myself on the fact that I have “made it”, so to speak, on my own, and through the generosity of friends and contacts who saw something in me and my art worth promoting.

I have struggled to be myself, my own dancer, blazing my own path without schmoozing, kissing anyone’s ass, or trying to copy anyone else’s style or look. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been tempted to ask to be part of a festival or show when I thought I might have been overlooked, to join something that would bring me greater visibility in the dance community, or to change my costuming or music just to be noticed… but to do might have meant working with people who I find unsavory, sacrificing a part of my individuality, and ultimately violating my sense of integrity and my fundamental instinctual need to create to honest art.

I never compromised my art to be more well-known. I never once sold out.

I believe that I am doing this the hard way. I am not a member of a famous dance troupe. I don’t have a gimmick. I choose music that moves me tremendously but often annoys the crap out of other people. I have not tried to rub shoulders with famous dancers just to be noticed. I am not a squeaky wheel. I have worked dance and art in between a full-time job, a loving husband, and my family. I have damaged my body, fighting exhaustion and rehabilitating from injuries. I have cracked my emotional calm over and over again, facing the darkest parts of my psyche, my frustrations, my expectations, and most of all my fear. I haven’t expected opportunities to be handed to me. I do not expect favors. I am unflinchingly alone in my artistic journey, and I am fiercely proud of it.

I have chosen to quietly perfect my technique, to focus on training and conditioning, to build on my artistic convictions, and to be me at all costs.

When I decided to pay less attention to the opportunities that others had, and more attention to my own progress as an artist, that’s when the opportunities started knocking at my door. WorldDanceNewYork asked me to produce a DVD. Marta Vizueta recommended me to teach at DC’s largest non-profit dance studio, Joy of Motion, and they hired me. Saphira asked me to join the faculty at her studio, Saffron Dance in Arlington, Virginia, which after only two years of business has already won “Best New Business” and “Best Place to Work Out” awards for the city of Arlington. Festival promoters around the world have asked me to teach, to perform, and to be a part of their events. And a few years before that, several of my fellow dancers suggested me to WorldDanceNewYork to appear on the first Gothic Bellydance DVD.

I never asked for any of it. But I am so thankful for every producer, dancer, artist, and friend who has offered me a gig, a teaching position, a performance slot, a positive DVD review, a fan e-mail, or a compliment. I have discovered that true gratitude goes a long way, and that, at least in the dance world, karma happens. And I believe that the dancers who stay true to themselves, and who stay humble throughout their careers are the ones who ultimately succeed.

Being true to yourself isn’t easy. It’s perhaps the hardest thing an artist can do. But the rewards are worth the struggle.

This is my statement of purpose… to remain true to my convictions, to never compromise my art to make myself more appealing or popular, to continue to grow and learn and seek knowledge from my mentors and colleagues both in and out of the dance world, and to be an example for dancers who are seeking their own artistic path.

If you had to, right this moment, right your own statement of purpose for 2009, on what would you focus?

 

Comments: 6

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This is very inspiring for me now :-) You are an example for me, and surely for many others. Thanks for sharing and reminding me to stay myself.

 

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Wow! Thanks for mentioning your website and blog in class on Wednesday. You and I have similar personality traits (which I suspected based on your teaching style). In my professional life I haven’t historically had a problem sticking to my convictions (although it hasn’t always been easy). However, I feel like my fear frequently hold me back in many areas of my life and that’s one of the things I’d like to work through in 2009. Now that I’ve posted it on your blog for all the world to see, I’ll have to follow through on it!!

 

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    Thanks Jennifer!

    Fear is my biggest enemy. It takes a lot of courage to get over fear of failure, rejection, or just plain looking silly. I’ve found when I go all in and say, “screw fear! I’m doing this thing!”, that’s when I reap the biggest rewards and find the most satisfaction in what I’m doing.

     

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You have been a great inspiration to me this far, and now I admire you even more. Integrity is so valuable and far too easily sold out for a piece of something one wants. Thanks for posting this. You will help me keeping on the right track with this.

 

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Thank you for this post. Where do I begin to respond? Almost all of it really addresses where I am as a dancer right now.
The section in which you discuss not hob knobbing and making noise really resonated with me.
I have slowly become friends with those I value as people and dancers, but I have no need to schmooze online or at events. I pretty much go online to promote my dance and then I run off to practice or perform. :)
I also love that you wrote about balancing your life. This is one of my biggest challenges and I work hard every day to keep myself in check.
Then there is the fear issue. I think most of us have it. I know I sometimes wish I would do a piece that ‘s cool according to this group or that, and I have to fight it. It would be so easy for me to jump on this bandwagon or that, but it just wouldn’t be… me.
Thanks for reminding all of us we need to express our most authentic selves in this dance. That individual expression is what makes it art.

 

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Thank you for being such a huge inspiration!
I’m the only one in my town who bellydances and strives to become a proffessional. Since I then practise ALOT, I’m considered a “bellydance-geek”, “nerd” or whatever you want to call it, which is a little frustrating… no one believes that it is possible to support oneself only on being a dancer, teaching and performing.
I constantly have to remind myself that I have to work hard and keep myself on track, not let anyones negativity put me down.
Sure people think i’m a talented dancer and that I have good possebilities of making it in the future, but it just isn’t an option here, to step outside the norm, and be something other than just the avarage Swede… a bellydancer…
You remind me that I have to keep believing in myself and nurture the one quality about myself that is uniqe from everyone I know… a strong driving force!
/the swede<3

 

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