31 May 2016


I think I finally did it. I figured out my 'why' (at least for the time being).

A while back, I wrote a post outlining my quest to figure out why I want to do this performing thing. I ruled out a couple of answers -- the admirable but as-yet-not-completely-true 'for the glory of God' and the too-general 'because I love it' being among them.

But in the past couple of days it's suddenly occurred to me that the reason I dance, the reason I perform, is so I can escape.

I don't know if this was the case when I was a child -- after all, I really didn't have much to escape from (even if I sometimes thought I did). But definitely in my teen years it was that. After I returned from my dance hiatus (which happened to be smack in the middle of my nine-year depression episode), that one hour a week of dance class slowly chipped away at the despair that engulfed me -- so subtly that I didn't notice it for several years. It distracted me enough to lessen the intensity of my own self-hatred, and the venom I directed at myself gradually waned (mind you, dance wasn't the only thing that got me out of that, but it helped start things).

In college, dance was the only thing that brought me back for a second year. And in my second year, being in The Secret Garden was quite literally the only thing that kept me sane as I was trying to stay on top of eight classes, failing what had been my best subject, and watching helplessly as my entire extended family unraveled. I looked forward to rehearsals, costume fittings, hair and makeup, anything that would transport me to this other world and distract me from the unrelenting stress and the fact that I hadn't eaten in two days.

And even in recent weeks -- more than once I've driven to dance in the past couple of weeks and arrived at class determined that once I get out of class I'm going to drive onto an overpass, pull over, get out, and jump onto the highway below. But by the time I actually get out of dance class, the thought doesn't cross my mind. I drive home the way I normally do, without a thought of quite literally jumping off a bridge. Dance class has invariably distracted me enough that this is no longer a rational thought that I seriously entertain (at least for a while).

All this has made me realise that dance (and performing in general) is my escape. This is why, even though I was so exhausted I could hardly stand up through my second year of college, I never missed a dance class. This is why performance season is my favourite time of the year -- the extra rehearsals and shows give me more time to be focused on performing and not whatever is stressing me out at the time. There's so much to remember and execute perfectly that there's no space in my brain for self-hatred. That thought pattern is interrupted and dies on the vine -- at least temporarily; enough that I get a break from it and therefore it's weakened slightly at intervals.

That line from that unwritten poem all those years ago is closer to the truth than I thought -- I dance so you can't see me cry. I dance to block out (or at least cope with) stress and heartache. It's the only thing I've found so far that reliably offers me some relief. And even temporary relief is better than no relief at all. And, logically, the more I perform, the more relief I will get. I do love it. But it seems it's also a bit like a drug.

And, of course, this throws a wrench into my whole nice-sounding 'I got into dance to touch people's lives' philosophy...

25 May 2016


29 February 2016, 11.50pm.

It seems all my inspiration is going. In the past year and a half, in nearly every avenue of creativity I work in, I've found myself making something really brilliant, something that helps me process and deal with something fairly big... and then that's it. There's no more. It's almost like I make something brilliant and that's my last thing. I mean, it's great that I'm ending on a high note, but... why am I ending at all? Life goes on. Isn't there more to process, more to learn? I'm certainly not done yet -- am I?

But it feels that way. Even though I have written another novel after Kyrie, Kyrie was truly my magnum opus. Ghost Of The Heart (the one that came after it) certainly shows promise, but it meant nothing to me. I would have been exactly the same person if I had never written it. For all intents and purposes, Kyrie is the last thing I've written.

In ballet choreography it's the same thing. Just after National Choreography Month, I wrote a heartbreaking duet in which I basically distilled my entire friendship with Brittney, including her death, into one three-minute dance. It was sad and gorgeous and tragic. The characters were the most fleshed out that I've ever created for the stage, and the story was likewise the most cohesive I've ever done -- especially as it was an instrumental piece and I usually tend to rely heavily on lyrics. It was without question the most beautiful dance I've ever written.

But that's it. I have nothing left where that came from. I've tried several times to choreograph a ballet piece since then, and nothing happens. I don't even have much of a desire to choreograph songs anymore. There's just nothing. They're all purely technical exercises now. There's no feeling, no hook to draw the audience or even their creator in, nothing to capture the soul of the viewer and stay with them forever like the music of David Meece and Terry Taylor has with me.

Is this it then? Is this all I'll ever create? Is this my going out with a bang? I've hardly just begun. That ballet dance was the first piece I've done where I really felt I knew what I was doing. Do I only get to have one? Have I peaked so soon?

This is particularly scary because tap choreography is all I have left now. I'm significantly less mature in that (in comparison to ballet and writing) so theoretically I have a larger window of time before I peak and die there too, but... what if I don't have as time there as I think? This in turn has made me more hesitant to choreograph tap even though right now it's all I have left -- I don't want tap to end too. I'd rather quit while I'm ahead and still have something left in me for later than run myself absolutely dry and live the rest of my life emotionally dead. I can't bear that. I need to know I have something left in me.

Is it just the fear of not being able to measure up to the likes of Kyrie and the dance that's made my brain shut down? If so, how do I get over it?

If this really is it, where do I go now? I've spent my life working toward this. Is this really all there is? Is this the end?

14 May 2016

Music Day - War Games

This song is literally my entire life for the past year and a half.

Title: War Games
Artist: Keith Green
Album: Keith Green Live
Year: circa 1975, released 2011
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Hey God
Where were You today?
You didn't answer my prayer
Seems like
I pray and I pray
And lately You are not there...

This is quite a departure from the in-your-face Keith Green of For Him Who Has Ears To Hear and it is many miles away from the joyful psalm-singing Keith Green of Songs Of The Shepherd. The rich emotional vocal style is the same, and the lovely sweeping piano work is the same, but the lyrics are very different, both in topic and in affect. Keith tackles the frustration that comes with being a Christian and seeing your life fall to pieces around you despite allegedly having the all-powerful and all-loving God of the universe on your side. This is one of the very, very few songs recorded by an artist with a Christian worldview that outright asks 'what's the point of being a Christian when I have to depend on myself for everything anyway?' Even Daniel Amos -- who do not shy away from controversial depth and frustration in their lyrics -- never (to my knowledge) come quite this close to that question.

It may be worth noting that this song was apparently written before Keith actually committed himself to Christ, but I find the pain and anger in the lyrics can be quite accurate. Sometimes you do just feel like screaming at God -- maybe it'll get His attention.

01 May 2016

Broken Life

Warning: Christian-ese ahead.

This morning at church, just before the sermon, the thought suddenly came to me out of nowhere -- did God have to strip everything out of me so there was space for Him to fill me up with grace? Did God have to break me to get inside me? He's done that before, though not quite at the level of the past year and a half. I keep saying I want to touch people. And I know (at least cognitively) that only happens when God is in me. Is that what He was trying to do? It darn near backfired. I didn't speak to Him for over a year. I still barely speak to Him.

The sermon had nothing to do with this train of thought, but right at the end of the service, during communion, one of the interns talked about Jesus breaking the bread and saying 'This is My body, broken for you.' And he talked about what this means if we're living our lives like Christ -- it means being broken before God and the people He loves. All using some of the same words I had thought earlier. It was almost creepy.

But things snapped into focus, if only for a moment: I've been trying to figure out my life, trying to get my proverbial ducks in a row (or at least get them in the same pond), trying to be perfect so I can be loved. And suddenly there was a paradigm shift. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said "I boast in my infirmities." We live our lives unashamedly broken. We are broken and almost proud of it. We know are loved and this is why we are okay with being broken. We as Christians tend to try so hard to be salt and light and we wonder how we can best do that and suddenly I realised this is how. By being okay with being imperfect, being comfortable in our own skin. People in general are out to fix themselves, improve themselves, get that facelift and keep up with fashion at all costs... but we're not. It doesn't drive us. This is how we are different. That's all it takes. We try so hard to force being different while being sort of the same (in a knockoff kind of way) but forcing an improvement program for our own brokenness is counter-productive.

I've broken myself for this dance dream, for the love of other people -- anybody and everybody. But have I broken myself for Jesus and the people He loves?