Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Turning Point

I just finished watching the movie, The Turning Point. While I think I may have seen it once before, years ago, I really didn't rememember much about it. I'm glad I watched it tonight though.

For those who have never seen the movie, it was made in the '70s (and is a definite product of that age - in terms of looks!). Beautiful dancing (Michael Baryshnikov is in it--a very young Baryshnikov, I might add!) However, the essential story is a struggle between two women in their late-30's, early-40's. Both women danced together in the ABC (American Ballet Company), and both were highly talented. One, however, gave up dancing so that she could raise a family. The other went on to be a prima ballerina. In the movie, they have met back up again as the prima's career is dying and the women who gave up her dancing is struggling with coming to terms with self-doubt over whether or not she made the right decision to give up her chance as a prima over having a family.

Some of the themes strongly resonated with me as they are issues with which I've struggling the last ten years, and especially ever since last fall when I had to make the decision about taking the position at the ballet studio in town. On the one hand is the recognition of the prima ballerina that the dance world is an all-consuming one. And unless you're willing to sacrifice much for it, you will never get very far. On the other hand is a woman with talent who never felt like that talent was given the recognition it deserved--instead she has had a "normal" life, and part of her resents that fact. And part of her just misses dancing.

All of these are things I have dealt with at some time or another in the last 10 years.

The truth of the matter is, I miss dancing. I miss ballet. I need to dance; part of me feels as if it's been lost when I haven't been dancing as I used to. But then there's another part of me that has me shying away from that world. And I haven't been able to determine why or what's wrong.

This movie kind of helped me see something more clearly than I've been able to up until now.

As much as I loved performing when I was younger, the truth of the matter is that performing is not what I want. Not really. I want to dance for the love of it. There is an indescribable passion that I feel as I dance that I get rarely from anything else in life. But it's not the stage that draws me. When I was in college, I started out as a drama major. And I realized, after a year, that while I enjoy performing, I didn't be a drama major. It was the love of the language and emotion that drew me to drama, not performing.

While I've had so many opportunities in my life to perform both in secular and in Christian circles, and I don't regret a single one of those, I don't want that world. Don't interpret that as not missing that world. In some ways I truly do. But there is a part of existence in that world that I don't want. Never wanted. Never liked. You can't have the world of performance without the grimy, political, competitive portion that goes hand in hand with the beautiful aspects. And for me, the grit and dirt often outweighed the beauty.

And the truth of the matter is that every time I've existed in that world, be it in a "Christian" form or non-christian, the gritty side has always been there. I guess it's part and parcel of being human. I knew when I was about 18 or 19 that while performing in a regular company would be amazing, if I was going to perform, I wanted to perform for Christ and as a witness. The opportunities I got during those years were wonderful. And I was able to do just that. But even then there was always that black side that it seems is so impossible to escape in the world of dance. The competition. The ugliness. Even amongst so-called Christian people, it was there. And what they did was beautiful. But I didn't like the hidden part of it. The side that no one sees outside of the backstage and dressing rooms.

I hope that I'm not entirely done with dance; I will always have to dance for myself. But I think God has needed me come to this place of (a) longing to dance again and (b) clear recognition of what I don't want. Even if I had stepped into the position that came open last fall, it would have been stepping into a consuming whirlpool in which it is difficult to keep one's head above the water if you don't really know what it is you want. And the truth is, I don't know what I want right now (and I say that not just in terms of dance but in relation to a number of aspects of my life). I do, however, know what I do not want. And at least that is a step in the right direction.

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