Monday, May 21, 2012

Pursue Your Passion

A few weeks ago I saw the Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I was very much captivated by the exhibit, but it wasn't just the artwork. It was also the story behind the art. It was the tale of an artist's pursuit of a dream above all else. As a fellow artist, it was a tale that spoke to my heart.

Paul Gauguin was a stockbroker in Victorian-area Paris. Disillusioned with the corporate world and European civilization, he sailed for French-Polynesia in 1891 for an initial extended stay. By 1895, he left France again, this time never to return. Fascinated and intrigued by the exotic beauty and raw primitiveness of the native Polynesians and their land, Gauguin embarked on the pursuit that would consume the rest of his life: capturing his elusive paradise on canvas.  Thus he began his life's work as a legendary Post-Impressionist painter and master of bold, vibrant color.

Three of my favorite paintings from the exhibit are included below. However, I must say the conversion into pixels doesn't do them justice.

Les ancĂȘtres de Tahamaha, 1893

Private collection, 1897

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1898

Gauguin's actual experience in Polynesia didn't mirror the fantasy realm he captured in his paintings. His life was marred by a broken marriage, children in early graves, syphilis, alcoholism, and being an outcast in society. But then again, we don't follow our dreams because they promise us money and a comfortable life, do we? While occasionally those things are a by-product, the more common term we hear bandied about is "starving artist".

Gauguin died penniless at age 54. He painted because he had to.

What is it that you have to do? What does your heart tell you you must do when it's the dead of night and you finally allow yourself to listen? What feeds you? What nourishes your soul ? What do your organs and the marrow in your bones cry out for you to do?

Heed the longings of your heart. Pursue your passion.

Photo Credits:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop lead by the award-winning dancer, Ruby Beh, on how to practice. Whether it be belly dance or any other talent or skill, we all know we need to practice to improve. It's a pretty simple equation, right? However, there can be many roadblocks between knowing that fact and actually executing it. For myself, lately my practice as been pretty slim to none. If I have a stage show coming up, then I'll put in some practice time to prep for my performance. And of course, I do teach weekly. But as far as a regular, weekly, really-challenge-myself practice, that I haven't done in some time. Thus to the workshop I went.

We probably all have different reasons why we aren't practicing or otherwise following through on achieving our goals. It could be lack of time. Not knowing what to practice. Feeling stuck or frustrated. Not having a defined goal, milestone, or end target in sight. Not possessing the right space or tools. Insert your reason here.  The list is indefinite.

So if you are experiencing any of these roadblocks, I want to share with you my top five takeaways from the workshop to help you overcome your inertia:
  1. Set your six month, one year, and ultimate goal. Know what it is that your're working for.
  2. Determine how much you want to practice each week, and at the beginning of the week, schedule it into your calendar, planner pad, or iPhone. Make and set the comittment.
  3. If you're someone who still won't show up even with the time blocked out, make yourself accountable. Sign up for a class (and prepay), rent studio time, or schedule to met a buddy. When you know that you've already put your hard earned cash down on the table, or that you'll be letting others down and not just yourself, you will show up.
  4. If you're not sure what to practice, try writing down all the isolations, traveling steps/moves, and zill patterns you know on index cards. Select one card from each pile and create a combination of the three.
  5. If you're still completely at a loss of what to do when you practice, you can also pop in an instructional DVD. Three of my favorites are Alimah's Finding Meaning in Movement, Aziza's Ultimate Belly Dance Practice Companion, and Michelle Joyce's Killer Ziller. You can find them all on my Amazon aStore.
And I also had one other insight that came up for me during the workshop. Practice should really involve two forms; thinking and non-thinking. Your practice should include working on moves, combinations, and skills that really challenge you and require you to concentrate and focus. Equally, practice should also include putting on a piece of music, turning off your thoughts, sinking into your body, and just seeing what develops. Set aside judment and expectation, and let the music move through your body into whatever visual form it chooses to manifest as.

 If you have an opportunity to take a workshop with Ruby, I highly recommend. By the time I left this workshop, I felt motivated, inspired, and had outlined what it is I really want to achieve in my dance. Two weeks later, I'm still feeling that inspiration. I have my practice time blocked out in my calendar for this week. I have my goals, including a set timeline, written down. I'm generally ready to shimmy and shake it into the next level.

Feel free to leave comments on your own goals, practice, and success stories.