Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Framers!
Confessions of an MFA: Day 1
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about connections in dance and the dance community. I’ve come to the conclusion that, really, the relationship between a dancer and company, a teacher and school, an artist and product, all follow the path of a romance. First, there’s a honeymoon phase – everything is exciting and new, every word spoken is brilliant, every action is appealing. Then you stumble upon your first fight. Suddenly, those parts that were once so endearing are now incredibly irritating and need to change right now. Finally, you settle into a comfort with each other, knowing and accepting the quirks and, hopefully, making each other a little bit better.
Such has been the nature of my relationship with dance. It feels as though there are constantly parts of me in each phase of the relationship, continuously cycling between fighting with each other and comforting each other. We break up and get back together. It’s a messy and confusing relationship, and perhaps not always the most healthy one. But when it’s good, it’s so good, and so I can’t let it go.
About six months ago, I made a decision that, many days, feels like the craziest one I have ever made. Without a job or a plan in place, I packed up an oversized Uhaul, attached my car to the hitch, and drove across six state lines to move from the Bay Area to Denver, Colorado.
For many people, this would be a big deal, you probably should have done it sooner situation. For me, the queen of planning, organizing, and budgeting, this was an epic, earth shattering life change, one which I did not handle particularly gracefully. There was a great deal of time spent crying into a blanket, staring longing at a bottle of wine and realizing it was only 1 pm on a Tuesday, and so opening it was not acceptable. I think I probably said “I’m getting on a plane back home tomorrow!” at least ten times.
In this haze of tears and wine (although it didn’t get opened at 1 pm, it certainly was opened eventually), I started to reflect on what exactly it was that I was missing so intensely. Of course I missed my friends and family and knowing my way around. But what truly lay at the core of my sadness was that I felt so alone. I no longer had a community of any kind that I belonged to, and that was something I hadn’t ever experienced.
As an artist, our community is my inspiration. The work that my friends, colleagues, and mentors are doing is what motivates me to do the work that I am doing. Without being a part of that community in a new city, I felt completely devoid of stimulation, devoid of creativity. I felt alone with my tumultuous relationship with dance.
I came to the realization that the dance community is my web of well-being. They are the people that I go to when I want to sing the praises of dance and when I need to vent on how dance has treated me. They are, for lack of a better description, my girlfriends. And even though our community may not always be in the honeymoon phase, I think we always reach a place of comfort and support.
Slowly, as the months have passed, I am starting to find my dance community here. It’s certainly not something that can be forced, but something that I can keep trying to build and develop. It’s a new relationship and I just hope to hold off our first fight for as long as possible.
Mary Grimes is a dancer, choreographer, writer, teacher, and working artist living in the Bay Area. Since receiving her MFA in Performance and Choreography from Mills College, she has started working as a dance writer and critique, writing for such magazines as Dance and Dance Studio Life. She has had to opportunity to work with accomplished choreographers including Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Molissa Fenley, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Her choreographer has been presented nationally. In the future, Mary hopes to continue her work as a dance writer and is excited to see where this path will take her.