How does dance inspire a 4 year old?

StageChicago is a world-class city with world-class dance and since there is nothing as inspiring and spiritually uplifting as watching a dance performance, I went to the Chicago Dancing Festival’s finale which culminated a full week of FREE performances.

I have to say I got much more out of the evening than simply watching and enjoying an inspiring performance on a beautiful night under the stars at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. I got to experience it through the eyes of a 4-year-old boy I never met who just happened to be sitting next to me with his mom.

Chicago Dancing Festival is the ONLY free festival of its kind in the nation. The Festival’s mission is to present a variety of excellent dance, enrich the lives of the people of Chicago and provide increased accessibility to the art form, thereby helping create a new audience.  Its vision is to raise the national and international profile of dance in the city, furthering Chicago as a dance destination.

I do believe Chicago Dancing Festival enriched the lives of many during their week of performances but I’d like to share a story of how the finale, “Celebration of Dance”, enriched and inspired the life of a 4-year-old whose mom could not otherwise afford to take her child to a performance.

It was a gorgeous Saturday evening and my friend Jackie and I walked over to Millennium Park where we knew we’d have to wait in line to secure seats in the pavilion. We were prepared with sandwiches, water and amusement. Yes,  you must have your amusement while waiting in line for a free performance when it seems that all of Chicago wants to see it with you! They started letting people in at 6 so we found what we considered to be perfect seats and settled in. We still had about an hour or so before the show when a woman with her little boy sat next to us.

He was absolutely adorable so me being me, I said hello to the mom first and then the little boy. I asked him his name and with a brilliant smile and sparkly eyes he replied “Gabriel.” As a clairvoyant I can recognize a crystal child and there was no coincidence he and his mom sat next to us. After looking into those big brown, gold flecked eyes I thought, of course his name is Gabriel, and asked him if he was an angel. He giggled and proudly announced “I want to be a policeman!” I guess if you don’t want to be an angel when you grow up a policeman or fireman might be next in the mind of a 4-year-old. 🙂

We talked about policemen and what they do then I asked him if he was excited to watch the dance show. He nodded an emphatic yes. His mom said that she once took him to see a hip hop performance and months later found him doing the steps he saw. She added that she wants to expose him as early as possible to music and dance but can’t afford to take him so she really appreciates being able to bring him to a free professional performance.

Lower lights, que music, turn off all thought and be ready to enter the experience of world-class dance! The performance began with Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s premier of “In the Beginning”. About half way through the performance I looked over at Gabriel who was literally mesmerized. His gleaming eyes were as big as saucers as he (and all of us) watched this stunning, rhythmic, tap piece. For two hours Gabriel watched and listened intently. He didn’t take his eyes off the stage and his face really did look like that of a peaceful angel.

At the end of the show I turned to Gabriel and asked him if he liked the show. He smiled from ear to ear and said yes! His favorites were the tap and Ensemble Espanol’s gorgeous and colorful Bolero. He then proclaimed with enthusiasm “I WANT TO BE A DANCER!” I laughed and asked ‘I thought you wanted to be a policeman?’  To that he replied “nope a dancer”. (To all involved in the arts world who make performances like this possible, I hope you’re reading this!) Now I know this little boy will change his mind several times about what he wants to be when he grows up but in two short hours his spirit was touched. He will forever be touched by the vibration and joy of that performance.

It is so important we inspire our youth and expose them to the arts. Our youth are our future and those same youth are very the future of the arts! The arts are the physical manifestation of our spirits as well as an integral and fundamental part of our growth and expansion as a society. We must expose our youth to inspire them, enliven their spirits, encourage creativity and expand their minds by including music, dance, theater (or for that matter art in all its forms) so they pass along their experiences and do the same for generations to come.

To the Chicago Dancing Festival coordinators, dancers, choreographers, producers, directors and anyone and everyone involved I will say: Thank you! Well done! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

To Gabriel that little angel boy sitting next to me; Become a dancer, policeman or whatever else you want to be and when you grow up, remember how the dance made you feel. Bring your children and grandchildren and share the beauty of music, movement and dance so they too can support and grow the arts for their children. ~Shine Your Light Debbie

©Debra Taitel 2013 All Rights Reserved
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Dance and the Art of Non-Effort

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
A man and a woman performing a modern dance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s nothing I love more than going to see a dance performance.  Watching dancers on stage as they glide across the floor, leaping and landing with seemingly effortless grace is quite simply magical for me and I get swept up in it almost every time. The vibration of the music, smooth movement and the pictures that are created through movement is truly a spiritual experience.

The other night I went to see LehrerDance and was awestruck by the lifts and silent landings of the dancers. The moves were intricate and very difficult yet what I saw and felt at a core level was fluid, graceful, effortless motion. I watched a dancer lifted into the air and she seemed to hang there motionless then came down and landed in silent, slow motion. It literally took my breath away!

These dancers, and I would be remiss if I didn’t credit Jon Lehrer for his fabulous choreography, mastered the art of non-effort. It’s not that there is no effort in what they are doing. Indeed it’s just the opposite. There are hours of grueling physical and mental work to put together a performance like this. The awareness and effort needed to do what they are doing goes beyond what most of us can imagine but part of the magic of the dance is making it look effortless and fun. I’m certainly not a dance critic but I do know what I like to see on the stage. I will add I’m partial to, and have been blessed to see some really good dance performances and this was definitely up there with the best of them.

The beauty of awareness, the ability to create a picture the audience sees and connects with as well as the execution of the movement means resistance does not come into play. Can you imagine if a dancer stopped in the middle of a performance and said it was too hard or it wasn’t worth the effort? Those of us who don’t dance and are working on the mastering the art of non-effort on a spirit connecting with body level can learn a lot from watching a good dance performance. Although the audience can get swept up in the pictures and movement the dancers cannot. They must be acutely aware of their bodies with all muscles engaged and at the same time pull from their inner being and bring it forth. It’s what makes us connect with the dancer and hopefully that part of ourselves that is touched by what we see on stage.

Non-effort doesn’t mean there’s no effort. It means you are neutral to and don’t resist the effort. The art of non-effort is means you connect with the energy of your inner being allowing it to come forward and shine so others are touched and see your creation. Non-effort is about doing difficult, and sometimes the seemingly impossible, seamlessly and without resistance. If there’s no resistance, you do what you have to do by creating spiritually first then taking the steps necessary to do what you need to do to carry out the task.

A choreographer creates a vision and passionately conveys that vision to the dancer. The dancer must see and feel that picture then passionately connect with their inner being to bring the picture to life. It’s about bringing a vision to life and allowing us to see the vulnerable part that is less about the movement and more about the passion. Think about those times when you had a vision of what you wanted to create. You were probably passionate and excited about your vision. Then when you started to create your vision were you in effort or in joy? Was the “work” full of resistance to doing each task or did the time fly by because you knew that each step completed got you closer to your goal?

Yes, we can all learn many lessons from watching a good dance performance. We can learn that it is possible for a vision in the mind to come to life. We can learn that gravity is an illusion and without resistance a body can hang seemingly motionless in the air and then land silently and gracefully. We can learn that effort is a matter of perception and giving up because it’s too hard is not an option when it comes to fulfilling your dreams.~Shine Your Light Debbie

If you’re interested in learning more about LehrerDance CLICK HERE.

©Debra Taitel 2013 All Rights Reserved
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