This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight is brought to you by mindful partner dance innovator and Cocréa founder Wren LaFeet!
Leading a Death Affirming Life
I know many of us had high hopes for this year, and though it hasn’t delivered in ways we might have wanted, it certainly seems to be giving us a heaping dose of what we need.
In the vein of my Beloved’s teacher, I have been using this year’s events to learn to lead a death affirming life.
Death has been featured prominently throughout my short years. By 18, I had lost all of my immediate family, except for my mother and father. Death is a part of life, and so to live fully, acknowledging we will die, is to fully honor the gift of life. To live with the knowledge of our temporary form gives meaning and substance to the experience while in bodies.
COVID offered me another multifaceted trip through the death portal.
I not only had to come face to face with the reality that my newly elderly parents were at greater risk of dying sooner, but many friend’s parents and family; many beloved community members; and the very thing that formed the social fabric of my community: dance.
I had to let go of the idea that the practice I have been building for the last 9 years might ever go on existing as it had.
I teach, facilitate, and practice mindful partner dance. COVID effectively rendered my chosen way to connect, pray, commune, express, create, and regulate non-essential. What a label to put on someone; to have your vocation deemed non-essential. It does something to a person.
What does one do when the venue for one’s practice is off-limits?
To adapt and be versatile is at the heart of my practice. Cocréa has evolved into a way of dealing with life’s changes.
I had to get creative. I had to really practice what I preach about being present, feeling everything all the way through, dancing my life in every moment, everywhere. I found a beautiful farm to be on for 2 months, where I could immerse myself in the lush nature of Costa Rica while I fell apart. I sat in nature every day, and I grieved.
I sat quietly. I took in the beauty around me. I let myself be held by my Beloved. I held her. And we danced together, blessedly grateful to have one another in such an immense upheaval and departure from what we’d come to think of as “normal.”
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from (ironically) the movie “Tombstone.” Doc Holiday is lying on his deathbed. Wyatt Earp says that all he ever wanted was a normal life, to which Holiday replies:
“There is no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life. Get on with it.”
Despite it feeling grossly antithetical to my entire purpose of promoting partnered movement as a means of deepening connection and healing our relationship with touch and the body, I began to pivot my work into the “abnormal” virtual realm.
On Sept. 24th, after 3.5 months of production, my team and I launched our first fully fleshed-out online course. My years of theater and production experience were instrumental. I found I had already done the bulk of the work over the previous nine years, creating a coherent teaching. We were able to synthesize existing exercises and practices into a course specifically designed to support relationships.
Though I am hopeful that this course will allow me to survive in late capitalism by continuing to live my dream, the virtual format is still a woefully inadequate venue for what we as dancers do and yearn for and know deep in our being: that dancing in bodies, surrounded by others, instead of with bodies dimly in attendance through a screen, is a magical healing act.
The screen, for me, so far fails in supporting the arising of the numinous state of the dance hall in which I thrive and which nourishes me so well. Flow feels challenging to come by in the navigation of technology.
Yet we are resilient and adaptable. And with some luck and some help from the Earth and remembrance provided by indigenous cultures, I do believe we will make the needed change and come back together on the dance floor soon, stronger than before.
Remember to feel it all, express it all, be with it all, and then move it into creative action. You are POWERFUL, and the Earth and its citizens need you.
Get on with it. 😉
My online course is available on UDemy now, here:
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