Most of you may not know much about my artistic side, and while I have not been performing as much as I used to, I continue to study (and occasionally perform) butoh dance. Founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, butoh is a post-modern form of dance originating in Japan that grew out of a rebellion against more traditional forms of Japanese dance and theater. It is a deeply introspective kind of dance, commonly referred to as the dance of the ‘beautiful grotesque.’
My first exposure to butoh was in 2000 when a new artsy friend of mine, butoh dancer Delphine Mae, asked me to perform in a collaborative piece in San Francisco. I was hooked from that moment on. When I returned to NYC, I began to research ways in which to study and over the past 15 years I have been fortunate to have studied with Japanese butoh masters such as Ko Murabushi, Akira Kasai, Katsura Kan, Tetsuro Fukuhara, French-born Vangeline, and with my mentor for nearly a decade, Mexican-born Diego Pinon.
Two weeks ago, Nick Fracaro and Gabriele Shafer, founders and artistic directors of the International Culture Lab brought Diego up for a weekend long workshop that also included three nights of performance for their Coney Island Butoh Festival. It was an extraordinary chance to work with fellow butoh artists and students for 12 hours a day. What makes Diego so unique is his own brand of butoh cultivated for over three decades, Butoh Ritual Mexicano, that incorporates butoh, ritual dance, and shamanism with an emphasis on creating cohesive community. After a weekend, you feel as though you have all been friends for years. Diego is also an absolute master of physical theatre, and in fact, since I first worked with Diego, I respectively refer to him as “Stanislavsky of butoh.”
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because doing what you love to do and creative self- expression, for me, are two cornerstones of wellbeing that deserve greater attention. So many times, we put ourselves last on the list and forget to carve out time for the things that give us joy. Many people often discredit having any artistic side or inclinations flat out. For this I say “hogwash.” There are so many ways to be creative and most of the time we are our own worst critic. We stuff down the dreams of singing on stage, making a sculpture, landscaping a garden, even knitting that cute little hat for our niece. Even though you may never win an Oscar, there is nothing that is saying that you can’t audition for your community theatre if you have a lifelong dream of being an actor.Think it can’t be done? Grandma Moses began painting in earnest at the age of 78!
One of the biggest factors in immersing yourself in something you love to do, whether it’s in sports, physical activity, devouring an interesting book, or pursuing an art, is that it can produce a state of flow, that feeling of being “in the zone” where you are completely absorbed in what you are doing and where time and self-consciousness seem to melt away. The term flow was coined by pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and expertly explained is his groundbreaking book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience.
I first discovered flow in an IDEA fitness journal article in 2008, when I was headlong into the fitness industry. Soon after reading Csikszentmihalyi’s book and while I was also performing, I began to see the quest for happiness as the balanced duality between psychical wellbeing and artistic expression that I refer to as the ‘Science and Art of Living.’ When those two things are out of balance, the rest of my life feels out of balance. I think the greatest set-back of my injuries is having to find alternative ways to exercise that will produce the similar effects of flow. The other factor, is getting back into my artistic creativity, again to feel the flow I so love to experience. My goal for 2016 is to add more flow into my life. I see flow in action all the time living with my musician boyfriend who can be in the studio completely immersed for hours. He is a great role model.
How can you add more flow into your life? The more you do the activity, the easier it will be to get into the state of flow, so practice away! What is your hidden passion? Can you carve out one hour, or even 10-15 minutes, to pick up that guitar, write that poem, snap that photo, work in your garden, decorate that cake, go to the bead shop,doodle in color, knit, sing a song, sign up for an art class, spend a day at the fun ceramics studio with your best friends, write the first line to a novel or short story, carve wood, take an improv class. How about a long hike, bike ride or swim, playing with your kids, a long game of scrabble. You get the point. With the internet at our fingertips, finding a class, club, and teacher is easy. Check out Groupon for great deals as well as community centers or your local YMCA/YMHA. Pick your passion for 2016!