Last night I was privileged to participate in an extraordinary dance performance as one of the dancers. Now let it be said, I am NOT a dancer but I am an actress and willing to learn and this was not a ballet. It was, quite simply, one of the most challenging, empowering and remarkable performing arts experiences I have had.

‘Prima Spira’ is the creation of a young woman at Prescott College. She took the roles of writer, choreographer, director and also both danced and sang in it. Lest she sound like an egomaniac, know that she also opened it to the group who assembled to bring the idea to the stage. Thus she was also collaborator, teacher, member of a team and a real person with fears, frustrations, hopes and vision.

The team that finally stuck over a period of 4-5 weeks of development, consisted of 8 dancers, a costumer, violinist, a hoop-dancer, an acrobat, lighting person, a little girl and me, 50+. All female.

The final scenes of the story brought  all the dancers onto the stage, slowly moving toward each other, under soft red-blue-yellow lights to some of the most beautiful music I have heard. As if we were underwater reeds, fish or sea nymphs, all from our different places on the stage, we moved, sleep-like, into one slowly falling, melding of soft bodies.

Lying on the floor, each of us on one and supporting another, our eyes closed, hearing the breath, feeling the rise and fall of oneself and another. Smelling the work of these bodies, aware of the pressure of hip-bone or foot, ribcage or thigh, the finger tips of a hand held lightly. Not knowing where one body begins, or another ends, even the boundaries of ones own shape blended to others.  It was perhaps the most non-sexual, sensual experience one could ever have. A oneness like no other.

Arising out of all the work and effort of the preceding weeks, culminating in only 2 public performances, we arrived at this perfect place in the journey unfolding on stage, and our journey with the creation and performance of it. We came together in a literal ONE for a minute or so of rest. When the final gentle, soft ‘a cappella’ song ended, our mass slowly awoke, stretching upward, separating and parting gently, beautifully waving out of the ground and slowly, almost footlessly, leaving the space.

Backstage the joy of the work/play achieved beamed from all faces and the final mad dance curtain call was the precisely perfect opposite and balance to the slow, soft end scenes of the story-dance we had just completed.

In an era where this sort of engagement is not the norm I was profoundly grateful to be a member of this ensemble. And beyond that, the depth of compassion, support, honesty and courage each and every member of this group lived was enormously encouraging. I did not hear any of the fabled ‘girl bitchiness’; I didn’t notice any prima donnas, nor experience any discrimination with these young women.

In my Book Personal Magic I write:

 ‘We live in an age where friends are found and made on the net, and many of our interactions, dialogue and socializing occurs through a medium that precludes direct human touch, sound and visuals. Personal Magic becomes more valuable as well as possibly more elusive.’

Remember, I define Personal Magic as:

‘Personal Magic is the uniqueness that you, and only you, bring into the world. It is the tangible expression of your connection through your Soul to the Great Spirit, Creator, Higher Power, God, whatever language you wish to use, by which we are all connected. It can be directly accessed through the creative endeavor.’

‘Prima Spira’, the performance, was a mirror-opposite to the digital experience. This group used their bodies – touch; worked with breath and sound; engaged minds and hearts in direct conversation to raise concerns and solve problems. Each person had to work through their own fears and doubts, in a piece of work that dove deeply into the depths of what it is to be human. Finally, we had to give that in real time to a live audience.

Dancers who really embody their characters’ intention and the needs, ultimately have to trust their creative instinct – that connection to something bigger than their bodies, deeper than their minds. It is that Spirit from which all the movement ultimately arises and moves through us. This performance gave each of us the opportunity to really Do and Feel that connection.

From the little girl to the lighting girl, the hoop-dancer to the extraordinary costumer who turned us into trees, mermaids, skeletons, mythological beings like Coyote, Kali and La Llorona and even the Scales of Justice. The violinist who improvised with the recorded sound, the woman who brought her makeup magic to augment the costumes – and this middle aged woman who had never danced like this in private, let alone in public.

And the dancers, the creator herself among us, changing in and out of costumes, silently backstage reminding each other of moves and counts, high-fiving and hugging. All of us brought our unique personal magic to the live performance and each of us were enhanced by sharing that – in real time, together, literally body to body.

May you find a living, breathing community with whom you can create, share and grow. You may not think of yourself as an artistic person, any more than I think of myself as a dancer. You may think you are too old or not old enough – try it anyway. Ultimately, allow yourself the joy of physical ‘here and now space’, interpersonal creativity and work and play. Dance with another – or a group of them!

(PS. the music is ‘The Night Knows Nothing at All’ by ‘Six Organs of Adventure’.)

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