Wanting to make and to become

I picked the dance workshop.

Some voice inside my head suddenly went “oh, for god’s sake, challenge yourself for a change!”. And before I could take it all back, an actual voice outside my head confirmed: “that’s booked, 2pm on level 4”.

I got to the conference late, of course. Drop the children off to the earliest-starting childcare you can find in one city to go to an event in another city and, no matter how hard you try, you will be late. And have to leave early. But still. Some things are worth the time and effort, missing chunks and all.

RSC “Towards a creative curriculum” conference – panel session

There is something very odd about the Barbican centre. Something I can’t quite pin down. On one hand, shows and exhibitions there seem to me to have rather white and understatedly wealthy audiences, although I don’t go often enough to have any real evidence of this. On the other, the space really feels like it’s open, free and accessible to anybody. My scruffy self has never felt intimidated or inhibited or even remotely uncomfortable on those cosy little benches or around the orange walls. A very strange mix of vibes.

Registration helpers were friendly, easygoing. A bit less formal than at healthcare events. I got my delegate pack and sneaked into a panel session in the theatre. I was in the Barbican theatre. In the friggin’ stalls of the Barbican theatre. A few metres away from that beautiful stage, where passionate speakers were now providing facts and figures and rationales and experiences to illustrate the value of an arts-rich education.

I teared up at more than one point. Surprisingly, the voice of the last speaker – artist Bob and Roberta Smith – also broke several times whilst he read his very moving words on the essence – the esprit – of art. (There is something very comforting about not being the most visibly emotional person in the room but that’s for another time.) I followed the flow of delegates in and out of rooms, engaged in all sessions, marvelled at the ongoing arts-based projects in English schools, and even talked to other humans over lunch (which is unheard of).

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith presenting during the panel session

When, at the dance workshop, I was asked to come up with ideas for moving in an imaginary space, I immediately – and as expected – went into a complete, paralysing blank. When invited to create movement with my workshop partner and then perform in front of half of the group, my heart shrivelled and I was pretty sure I’d just die from embarrassment. My ingrained sense of inadequacy was instantly off the roof. Only briefly though, this time. Because then, quite quickly, I saw it. The stuff I have been writing (and thinking!) about, here and elsewhere. It was just there, crystal clear, in front of my eyes and in my ears. And said this: creativity is a muscle. It’s not an innate entity or a gift from some gods. Granted, there are predispositions and limitations that are different for each person. But a very large part of it is about whether or not one has been allowed, or has allowed oneself, to train it, practise it, experiment and grow with it. And this one time I wanted to allow myself to start from somewhere. To start from here. These people were either dancers or art teachers; I was neither. But this time I -quite literally- moved myself from the familiar “I shouldn’t be here, what is little incapable me doing here!?” to “come on, babe, this is the safest place to try, with people who know what they’re doing”.

I tried. I moved. I followed and I led. I explored an imaginary rainforest and danced as somebody’s shadow. I let my hands and arms and neck and ankles do whatever they felt like doing when the spotlight from the torch hit them. I let myself be into myself. Which is a scary place sometimes, but also one full of love and wonder. For an hour I cared more about being my curious self, the one I’ve lost, than about what other people would see. For an hour, I was finding my way into my heart.

I won’t forget what that felt like anytime soon.

Do you remember when we were talking about your art and you told me “I just stopped caring one day – I started doing it for myself”? I wish you could see how far I’ve come.


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