* NEW FILM SHORT *
~ Melissa's Greeting ~
Dear Dancing Friends,
I recently opened a workshop with the question … “Who is in the midst of a significant life change?” Everyone in the room stepped forward. Every single person in attendance was experiencing some kind of a significant life shift. A new job or no job at all. Children being born. Grown children in the midst of their own huge developmental leaps. People dying. Marriages. Divorces. Natural Disasters. Moves. Completions. Beginnings.
Here we are, 2012!
Indeed, we are all being invited to grow through enormous change, amidst an outwardly unstable and challenging climate … all around the world. How do we meet these shifts with grace and focus? Where is our ground in the face of so much change? How do we work collaboratively to lift one another up, rather than elevate a few at the expense of others?
These are some of the questions that we continue to wrestle with in our creative work, individually and collectively. Often, we journey into the dance to find our answers.
We ground ourselves by being present with our senses and through the tracking of our internal sensations. We find common ground through universal human experiences ~ the movement of our limbs, the oxygen we share through our lungs, and the pulsing of our ever-awakening love. We take our fears, our outrage, our grief, our compassion, our jealousy, our desire, and our joy into the dance, befriending the whole range of our heart’s truths. We lubricate the tender places with sweat and song as our hearts break open to consciously meet the vast needs of these times. We move through our emotions onto the sacred ground of our unique souls. How can I help? Where can my creativity bring comfort and sanity to the aching and confused places in this world? What is the medicine that wants to be cultivated and offered through me at this time? We look around the room and find others who are called to serve in kindred ways. We learn each other’s languages. We build bridges.
We then bring our guidance out from the depths of the dance, making our offerings on the front lines of our ordinary lives.
Yes and No.
This past year, I too have been invited to navigate through many significant life changes, really lovely ones! My youngest child graduated from high school and successfully launched into college. Welcome “empty nest.” I turned 50 years old. Welcome “midlife.” And, I got married. Welcome Mark Gerzon!
The dance has been, yet again, one of my greatest allies every step of this journey. I danced through all of the tears as 27 years of single parenting overtly came to a close, and my “baby” left home. I danced in wild abandon with dozens of women as I turned the corner into this new decade, welcoming the second half of my life. Quietly in my living room, I danced through waves of terror of being a bride. And I danced in joyous surrender during my glorious wedding celebration with Mark.
Yet the dance was not only about the actual outer movements. The dance has also been about constant inner movement … the deep breaths late at night when I could not imagine what it would be like when I walked down the aisle … the prayers sounded as I felt into my child living alone in Los Angeles … the quiet tending to the full bodied rushes that flowed through me as I stood in front of my beloved at the altar.
Dancing has become a way of Being …
Alive. With the pain. With the sweetness. In connection. Deeply breathing. Attuned to self and others. Close to the ground. In rhythm. Fluid. Spontaneous. In Communion. Listening. Awake.
“So what,” you may say. “How is this relevant?”
How can the dance support us during these times of economic, educational, environmental and political break down?
And I respond.
Dance can offer us the resilience and perspective to meet the outer challenges by significantly uplifting our inner reality. As we journey around the wheel of life, there will inevitably be very difficult life changes, not just the delightful ones. Dance can literally help us transform this inner darkness into light. We can befriend the hidden and hurting places, welcome them with interest and permission, allowing them to emerge and evolve. The dance can thus become a place where we are able to fully experience, explore, and express our deepest truths.
A dedicated dance practice can also awaken our will forces so that we can transform our ideas into action. Upon the sacred ceremonial ground of our dances, we can access our visions. We can also gather the precise details about how to actualize these inspirations. Above all, we can then mobilize the energy to manifest these dreams into the world.
With discipline, dance can become our ally as we navigate through all of life’s transitions. No one can ever take it away. Dance is free. It is a dependable doorway to our freedom.
And yes, without food on the table for our children, the dance can only help so much. So, we need to bring our dances onto the streets and into the practical realities of life. We need to courageously sit with the really hard questions, together, allowing ourselves to move from idea into action.
At the onset of a significantly new life cycle, my personal practice has been key in helping me address these burning questions with authenticity. I am listening for guidance about the precise nature of my next dance steps. Like all of us, I am paying close attention to the urgent calls from the world and how that interfaces with my soul’s gifts. Specifically, I am looking at the ways that this can combine with Mark’s community of peace practitioners to radically support the shifts urgently needed at this time in human evolution. I am asking, what work is ripe and ready to be passed along to the next generation of gifted leaders? What is seeking to be born through me now?
Answers are coming ~
We are attending to our changes in three significant ways.
First of all, we are engaged in what I would call a life review, a time of considering where we have been over the twenty-seven years that we have been dancing in community. Please see the section below for reflections about how this dance biography is shaping our destiny.
As a result of looking within, we are ready to share another piece of our story with the world. Please enjoy our film short about our summer youth camps, hot off the press.
And finally, we are breathing in, in order to breath out, in more sustainable ways in the near future. This is a time of a slight contraction in our offerings to the world, thus five-day camps this summer rather than the five-week or two week sessions. Through this process of turning inward, we are pruning and re-visioning.
Threshold Dancing® ~
As we pause to see what we have developed over the past three decades of teaching and growing healthy community, we’ve come to realize that our work is all about Threshold Dancing!
Whether it was during an hour-long seasonal dance journey, through the white-waters of adolescence, or crossing the complex seas of a shocking loss, through our community dance journeys, we have been learning to navigate through all kinds of transitions with grace, focus, and freedom.Our work has underscored the importance of not only marking and bush-whacking through the overt turning points in a person or community’s life, but also has focused on helping people develop the tools and capacities they will need to journey all the way through life’s changes so that they fully land in their new territories. We have developed extensive curricula, utilizing the arts of body, heart, and soul, supporting folks as they traverse through life’s cycles.
Regardless of race, gender, class, culture, or religion, there are natural life cycle transitions, the obvious ones that we all talk about ~ birth, adolescence, death. They are the big ones, the universal ones, the “normal” ones. There are many subtler life transitions in between, the first day of kindergarten, a new job, the onset of menopause, which we care a great deal about exploring too.
Be they through the normal development of a human’s life, through an unforeseen crisis, or in the ebb and flow of nature’s rhythms, we live and breathe transitions all the time. The work we do together in our dance community focuses on how we can navigate our way through these life changes consciously so that we can complete them and potently harvest the medicine that is inherent in all of them. We are born. We will die. And in between, we will experience numerous complete shifts in identity through the rigorous process of growing through life. Yet, how can we meet and mark each one of these changes in ways that awaken us to our greatest potential, individually and collectively? What is the precise body-centered curriculum that will support us all as we pass through these narrow passageways, before, during and after?
These are the underlying questions that will continue to guide us into our next era as Threshold Dancers, as a community of youth and adults dedicated to cultural renewal. We hope you will join us.
For starters, please enjoy our annual newsletter ...
Creating Waves ~
In the sections of this newsletter that follow, we will share with you glimpses of ways we have been tending to these community questions over the past year.
The opening section, Navigating the Edge from Center, shares some simple reminders for how we all can care for ourselves and one another during these changing times. The next section of our newsletter, Surfers Sharing, gifts us with the inspired poetics from three diverse young leaders in our extended community. From there, we offer an Alumni Feature, sharing in detail one seasoned surfer’s story of hope, from struggle to service. This section is followed by Elder Honoring, excerpts from an interview with one of my greatest teachers, a powerfully inspired elder in our national rites of passage community. Parent’s Perspectives, offers a view of how the work with young people is growing to include more involvement from entire families. I am often asked how this work can reach out to a wider circle. SomaSource® In the World, provides examples of how individuals are translating these practices into remedies for all kinds of people in diverse settings. We also include Alumni Updates, a glimpse into the personal and professional developments of our youth becoming adults in the Middle East. Our Edge creates a picture of some of our organizational history and future. Please meet some key players in our administrational team. And our final section, The Horizon, offers a view into what is unfolding in the future via classes, study groups, camps, etc.
In closing to this welcome, I would like to deeply honor and thank the many people who have worked with devotion and excellence to create this annual newsletter. First and foremost, I bow to all of the people ~ youth, parents, elders, and seasoned leaders ~ whose words and images are included. This remains the manna of our work together. The creativity that we generate together really does create a wave of good energy. Thank you. In our office, Tara King, Taliza Mizrahi, Ramon Parish, and Martha Maloney have generously helped to gather data and edit text. Joining me in writing for this newsletter have been many different authors. You will meet them in the pages that follow. Our photographers, Kat Shea, Britt Basel, Hagen Caldwell, Sarkis Renjilian-Burgy, Rei Dishon, and Yair Wahle all have helped bring beauty to all of these words. And above all, Dayna Schueth, our web Goddess has taken all of our creative input and woven together another newsletter filled with beauty and soul. It is such a joy to work collaboratively with each of you inspired beauties. Thank you mates!
And thank you, community of readers. We deeply appreciate your ongoing interest in and enthusiasm for this work.
As we journey through the chaos of these time, may we work together to cultivate peace where there is conflict, a culture of sharing where there is greed, and safety where there is violation. May we liberate the creative spirit to find healthy and inclusive ways through the apparent de-construction.
You can't cure trauma when violence is ongoing, so the primary effort must be working for peace.
~ Leymah Gbowee (Mighty Be Our Powers)
Design by Dayna Schueth/Solua Designs