LivingArts: Stoking the Fire

Lifelong learning… we all know it's important, especially in your field. As artists though, it can prove tough to find the time and resources to take courses or workshops while trying to be your own promoter, accountant, motivator, scheduler, etc. We know it is vital to our professional and artistic development but as many of us are self-employed or contracting, instructing or mentoring, spending the money and time on yourself can seem foolhardy. In spending that time and money, you are potentially ‘losing’ valuable working hours, or sometimes more importantly, time off for yourself.

I mean, there’s a good chance that the courses or workshops can get you more work. Right? It’s not guaranteed but it’s possible. Suddenly you find yourself looking at it as a numbers game, questioning what you can get out of it on paper. For myself, as a dancer, choreographer, and director of a dance studio, I’ve played this numbers game far too many times.

With my schedule, like many dancers, I work afternoons to evenings, Monday through Friday plus the primetime Saturday mornings. So it’s funny: as dancers, we want to take dance classes but they are happening at the same time we teach, leaving the only real option to us being weekend workshops. Which are great, but being sandwiched between your own classes on Saturdays and Mondays, sometimes it feels like the information comes in one foot and out the other.

So I made a plan. Immersive dance experiences. Surround myself with nothing but learning the art I love. Take a trip during an off time with no teaching or even creating. Just learning.

First, I tried it out on a small scale last summer; one week in New York focusing on Salsa, learning from some of the best dancers and choreographers in the world. It was amazing! I came back with a deeper understanding of the style, the culture and what it means to me artistically. I left wanting more… at least one week more.

Cost wise, and time wise though, that would be tough. So, I applied for a grant through the Ontario Arts Council for the following summer to attend Urban Dance Camp in Germany for three weeks. Yeah. Three weeks. I ended up receiving the grant and a week or so into the camp, as my body ached and my mind overflowed with information, I thought: Maybe three weeks was a little much

But I take that back. I take it back because I learned so much more than what I was expecting. I learned how to be a better dancer, a better teacher and a better student. I learned how to fail spectacularly and how to bounce back from it. I gained friends and colleagues from all around the world, learning that what’s ‘on paper’ pales in comparison to the intangibles. W.B. Yeats said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." For me it rings true, as I am as eager to share my knowledge now as I am to gain more of it.