Exhaustion is a coveted state.
We crave to be tired.
After all, it takes some doing to outdo yourself. When you arrive where you’ve done more to be more, ‘tired’ is the impostor concealing a good feeling.
Under that naked layer of fatigue and possible frustration lies a cloaked sense of accomplishment for coming through. It doesn’t come easy. You’ve got to walk a long way to reach that point. And then you’re done. For the day. For the time being.
To be ‘exhausted’ is a privilege we don’t often acknowledge for what it is. Just that: a privilege.
To be able to push through pain, to be uncomfortable, to be reluctant in your body and compliant in your mind.
Because it feels so good when you stop. Because when your head hits the pillow that night, you’ve earned it – the sleep, the rest; you have a good enough reason to crash. Not that you’ve ever needed one. It just feels better than on other nights.
But, to wake up the next morning and put yourself through that merciless grind all over again takes more of one muscle than most – your heart.
When it beats for Art, you will pick the pain. Almost every time. Over and over again.
Dancers are perennially exhausted beings. The privilege of exhaustion extends furthest to them. Nothing is too much. Nothing, therefore, is also enough. They are misunderstood as obsessed until one day, the curtain is raised and the sour grapes and the cynics and the skeptics stop and stare and are stunned into silence by what they see.
You’re looking at a fire. Only to realize it’s burning inside you. For better or for worse.
We are pushed to extremes that we don’t initially understand ourselves and then one day, we’re the ones pushing ourselves, voluntarily, to those extremes.
Because that’s what it takes.
Because you don’t simply lift an arm, you raise it to the heavens. Until the gesture looks divine enough, you can’t call it a day. And then when you finally do, you come back the next morning and chase that divinity all over again.
We dance. And in order to dance for hours on end, to look the part, to survive arduous rehearsals, we do a lot more than dance.
This morning, I woke up exhausted. Not rested. Exhausted. Pain didn’t feel like a privilege. It felt just like what it was: painful. And voices – unto now discarded, unheeded, unneeded – questioned and judged and eroded my resolve: Why must you push yourself the way you do? You’re addicted. Too much of anything is not a good thing. Find a balance. You will breakdown and burnout.
People seem to know it all: your body, your mind, your limit.
What they will almost always fail to know: your resolve, your passion, your sky your limit.
Dancers are diverse beings. I know dancers who surf before they get into their first technique class for the day. It builds your core like the rocks their waves lash against. I know others who swim after a horrific day dancing their fundamentals and old and new routines to ease soreness that better be gone by tomorrow. Yoga wakes up muscles that you never thought existed and makes the blood rush to them and through them like nothing else, healing mind and body. Running builds stamina and speed and keeps a dancer that healthy lean. Gymnastics makes the upside down as effortless as the upright. Along with gymnasiums that make the leaps and bounds and tumbles and turns and wheels and holds and fancy flights happen because weights that weigh you down are the springs that ensure you soar; the supports that ensure you glide.
So, here’s what dancers need to have and have to be:
An Endurance that makes them Persevere; that makes them Relentless.
Balance, Flexibility and Geometry; Lines that stretch straight and clean to go to great lengths.
Agile. Athletic. Bouncy. Strong. Lean. Light and Lovely.
Grace – a tranquil smile to make it all look effortless.
We fill in the brief for athletes across multiple disciplines.
Our sport begins where their training ends.
And nothing we do will ever be enough.
So, on mornings like today, I could press ‘pause’.
The voices though will have to ‘stop’. Because ‘The extreme workout regimen of a professional dancer’ is really just a kid at play all day and ‘Balance’ is not necessarily a word that energizes. In a dancer’s vocabulary it only means ‘holding on’ a little longer. Promise. On that one day that’s on its way, you’ll see it was worth it. And the only thing that will ‘Burnout’ is doubt.
In a bit, I’ll have to press ‘play’ and press on because the spotlight doesn’t wait, the stage calls and before the curtain falls, we have a story to tell, a shock to deliver, a fire to light.
You’re right. Dance isn’t a sport. It’s more.
Much much more.
A privilege of pain that helps us sleep at night and awakens an audience from its slumber.
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