In her workshops and classes, Suhaila emphasizes “being present”. Pull your energy, skills and focus together into “now”, and apply that attention to the work you have in front of you at the moment. Whether you are learning, practicing, rehearsing or performing, “being present” in your process will further your efforts physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Laurel Thompson, one of the attendees at Suhaila’s recently Level 2 workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia, is currently Level 2 certified in Suhaila’s format. Laurel posted a note to her dance colleagues about her thoughts as she was nearing completion of the workshop. With her permission, we share Laurel’s words as we thought it helpful to hear how a dancer in the program hears and translates the message in her experience.
I just wanted to make a few observations about the Suhaila format and specifically the workshop idea. I’ve been to a few workshops now, and I notice Suhaila repeatedly emphasizes the idea of being present. I think that’s a great way to summarize the format and its message. It’s body and mind awareness, and it’s bringing your personality to the stage. It’s also really pushing through that resistance that just wants you to just sit back and procrastinate all those beautiful/important moments away. She reiterated it again when she reminded us that we’re never invisible, that we must always be there and be aware of ourselves and our space.
I think that’s why I enjoy workshops so much. Obviously there’s that dancer’s masochism that affects us all. But it’s not the crazy drills, it’s not even getting that direct feedback from THE Suhaila Salimpour. Putting in this much concentrated work, both physically and mentally, makes me feel present in a way that’s intensely difficult to recreate. We live in a world of Facebook and Twitter where every person thinks every single thing they do is important, and they want to tell you about it ALL THE TIME. As Suhaila said, if you’re busy on Facebook telling everyone what you’re doing today, then you’re NOT really out doing it! (Duh!)
Being at a workshop actually makes me feel like I’ve been to Fight Club, and it’s not just because I feel beaten and sore. I find that after (and during) a workshop experience, most everything in my life gets “the volume turned down.” (Although that may just be temporary deafness from playing finger cymbals around the room for hours.) Pushing until I see what my body can really do, what’s really in my muscle memory, sometimes does feel like breaking through a physical wall. It can hurt, and it’s super frustrating. There’s still that tiny voice inside that wakes up in the morning thinking it already knows what I’m capable of doing, what my limits are. But as Tyler Durden says “It is only after we’ve lost everything that we are free to do anything.” So I fight to lose those pessimistic thoughts, those preconceived notions that I can or can’t.
I find myself really feeling the essence of one of my favorite quotes. “No fear, no distractions, the ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.” (Chuck Palahnuik, Fight Club, 1996). Of course the world does continue to turn as we drill around in circles, but the mundane things that would normally bother me just don’t affect me as much. I don’t feel as distracted by bad drivers, oblivious pedestrians, or whoever happens to be yelling on the Downtown Mall. I get to exist in dancey-danceland and focus on one thing and not worry about much else for a few days. And maybe that’s just a side-effect of not having a “real job” but here I am talking about being present again, and I plan to hang out in this moment as long as it lasts.
Be Present is part of our Today’s Word: Sometimes We Have Something to Say series in which we discuss in brief the common themes and questions facing dancers.