“ If your contribution has been vital there will always be somebody to pick up where you left off, and that will be your claim to immortality."

~Walter Gropius

Have you ever collaborated on a really big project? What does it feel like to contribute to something larger than yourself? Is your creativity limited, or is there always more to give?

Contribution is an often misunderstood term. Some people think that giving is transactional, and by offering some of the best that you have you might somehow be depleted.

But really, the thing to remember is that creativity is the key to contribution. So if you just take a positive approach to looking deep into your creative well, you’ll find an unlimited resource and ability to give.

Transactional thinking is a huge problem in the world today. Far too many people, some of our leaders included, take the approach that every relationship is a zero sum game. They think that anytime they give something or offer help, that they are losing some finite resource of their own.

Whole systems thinkers are more evolved. Science has long disproven the notion that “survival of the fittest” is the primary law of the jungle. In fact, interdependence and a web of contribution and cooperation are the keys to natures abundance.

Higher consciousness seeks to create win-win scenarios. In business, responsible foreword thinking companies adhere to what is known as the Triple Bottom Line framework, with equal emphasis on financial, social, and environmental outcomes. The three P’s that lead to sustainability are people, planet, and profit.

In our individual lives, it can be tempting to think that giving financially to a good cause is the definition of contribution. And certainly that is a wonderful use for some of our resources. But circles of giving exist everywhere, and are as expansive as our creativity and imagination will allow.

Every week I consult with dance leaders or movement facilitators and offer ideas on how to grow their practices and build an audience, whether they choose to become Dance First members or not. (Would you like to talk? Just hit reply!) My goal is to contribute to the field in general so that everyone in it can be more successful.

The point is, you most certainly have something to give, and it’s as close as your imagination. Taking part in a collaborative project is a great way to find meaning in life, and to contribute to a legacy that will bring you good feelings for years to come.

Case in point: The Dickens Fair! This is an annual experience here in the Bay Area that I’ve been taking part in for about the past eight years. It’s an event myself, Teresa, our kids Elliot and Geneva, and a wide circle of friends always attend. I find it fascinating as an example of a cultural community of collaboration and contribution.

For the 800 or so people who play characters in costume, the hundreds of musicians, dancers, and stage performers, and the vast assortment of artisans, vendors, and culinary providers, the Dickens Fair is a multi-weekend marathon of Victorian magic. Creating a spectacle that immerses tens of thousands of people each weekend is no easy feat, and the Patterson family at the heart of it all does an admirable job creating the culture.

What I find fascinating and inspiring about it is how a strong vision at the center has the power to pull together so many small contributions that create such an inspiring experience that has the juice to stay strong year after year. In fact, this is the 36th annual, meaning it has become a multi-generational phenomenon. The sum of the parts is definitely greater than the whole.

I see a similar phenomenon on a much smaller scale at our weeklyDance Jam event. The dancers, the DJs, and the music are all peripheral planets that orbit around the beating heart of our volunteers. Several of the folks who show up every week to make it happen have been helping for decades, and have seen the management torch pass from hand-to-hand multiple times. It’s the sense of belonging to something larger and long-lasting that keeps them coming back. I’m honored to be at the helm of this community at the moment, and trust that when my time is up someone else will step forward.

This is really the whole point of finding a way to contribute to something larger than yourself, whether it be big or small. When you unpack that contribution, you find inside a nugget of your own creativity and something else that is even more rare and ineffable – a sense of belonging.

When a group of people unite around a vision with a sense of contribution, magic happens and the world becomes more interesting and a better place for future generations. Contributing something unique from your bottomless well of creativity gives you back a valuable piece of the legacy that you can hold in your heart forever.

With love and generosity till next week!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Media Partner Spotlight :: The Great Dickens Christmas Fair!

This week’s Dance First Spotlight shines on The Great Dickens Christmas Fair ! It’s time to break out your top hats and hoop skirts, and step back in time to 1860’s London to get your Victorian groove on! This is a Bay Area institution with a storied history going back 36 years that sets the standard for immersive living theatre and family friendly fun!

A vast area of over 100,000 square feet at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco is magically transformed into a detailed and historically accurate recreation of London in the mid-1800’s the era so cleverly chronicled in the works of Charles Dickens. Open weekends until the Sunday before Christmas, Dec 23rd, this multi-faceted delight has something for everyone.

For the kids there’s magic shows, jugglers, old-time carousels and carnival games, Punch-and-Judy puppeteers, candle dipping, hours of fun crafting at the Fairy House making facility and they can learn the tricks of the chimney-sweep trade from the Miracle Sweeps of London School or join Alice at the Mad Hatters’ Tea Party. For grown-ups there’s Waltzing and ballroom dancing at Fezziwig’s, bawdy burlesque and ribald carousing at Mad Sal’s (18+ recommended!), Opera and Can-Can dancers on stage, High Tea with the Dickens Family, and the lovely live mannequins modeling period corsetry in the display windows of Dark Garden.

Older kids and teens can find hours of fascination puzzling over the Time Machine, and exploring the scientific wonders and eccentric inventions displayed and explained in detail by Professor Flockmocker and his colleagues in his workshop. There are historical reenactments of famous land and sea battles, Potter-esque magic wand makers, fencing lessons, and every manner of makers, from bookbinders and printers to ceramicists and luthiers.

Eschew your local mall and abandon Amazon this holiday season and find your gifts at any of the hundreds of artisan vendors stocking authentic emporiums, where everything is handmade and historically accurate, from haberdashers and hatters to blade smiths and jewelers. Great food and drink abound, there are four full bars and an absinthe parlor, as well as dining that ranges from a quick Yorkshire Pudding or Bangers and Mash to a full service sit-down luxury feast with all the trimmings.

With a cast of over 800 costumed characters playing the roles of all the famous Dickens figures, from Charles himself to Pip and Ebenezer Scrooge, all mingling and cavorting with the crowds, this is an action theatre experience like no other. The brainchild and creation of the Patterson family, who got their start generations ago with the Renaissance Fair, the Dickens Fair is now helmed by Kevin and his kids, who have their hands on every detail.

Truly an epic community event, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time, and dress up to the nines in whatever fashion you see fit, because you’re going to want to take in as much as you can and make yourself at home in the living time machine to London in the 1860’s that is The Great Dickens Christmas Fair!

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
The Cow Palace Exhibition Halls,
​​​​​​​2600 Geneva Avenue, Daly City, CA
Saturday and Sundays, Dec 8/9, 15/16, 22/23

Theatre of Yugen Presents :: A Noh Christmas Carol

And now, for a very different twist on Dickens and Christmas...

A Noh Christmas Carol returns! Theatre of Yugen’s beloved adaptation utilizes the traditional Japanese theatre forms of Noh, Kyogen, Kabuki, and the avant-garde dance form Butoh to retell the Dickens classic. Sukurooji [Scrooge] receives a visit from his deceased business partner warning him to change his miserly ways or be doomed to linger forever as a hungry ghost. Sukurooji is taken on a wondrous journey by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come to remind him of the value of life beyond profit.

Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 7pm, Sundays at 4pm

NOHspace – SF

2840 Mariposa St, San Francisco CA 94110