While I look back on the obligatory blog entries I had to write last year for the Dance in Paris study abroad program through Florida State University, which I then continued during my self-directed summer studies, I am reminded that I really did want to continue to write during my last year as an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Arizona because it was a way to reflect on my experiences and look back with a smile from ear to ear knowing that I had something to show for them.
Almost a year later and no blog to show for it, I’m disappointed and slightly annoyed. But the echoes of my last blog post ring true even now, “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.” And so, setting disappointment aside, I have decided to pick up the blog again.
When I made the decision to do so I felt kind of inadequate and a little ridiculous with all the time that had passed. I even thought I should wait for the one-year blog silence anniversary, to reveal something powerful and meaningful and inspiring. This way it would be worth the year of silence and I would mark the occasion. But really? Screw that. I felt the need to write, not the guilt to write. I chucked out the self-aggrandizing and here I am on no particularly eventful day at 5 in the morning on a Wednesday writing this entry.
In looking at the title of this blog, “Pourquoi pas danser le monde?” I realize that while I’ve been dancing in the desert for almost two years, I have been dancing in a part of the world that two years ago was completely foreign to me, save for the time I came to audition for the program. And yet here I am a newly minted Master of Fine Art still feeling as though I’m somewhere foreign. It’s important to note here that I am forever grateful for the experiences that I have had here in Tucson, I would never EVER change a single outcome because, well, they have me sitting here today writing this damn thing. My last year of grad school was filled with ups and downs, ins and outs, rights and wrongs, and ultimately an incredible venture that proved to be an amazing journey of artistic immersion and creative collaboration. It would be impossible at this point to give you a run down of my entire year because of the amount of work that went into my studies. Suffice it to say that as I reflect on my last year at the University of Arizona I am thankful for all of the experiences that will now illuminate my path as a master in dance.
As a graduate, I am now charged with the task of finding my way outside the university. I am faced with that age-old question all graduates ask themselves upon disembarking their studies, “What do I do now?” and while all students go through this plight, I strongly believe it is heightened with the study of Fine Arts. In fact, when I gave the closing address at commencement I discussed this very issue.
Good evening Faculty, Family, Friends, Staff, and Fellow Graduates. It is truly an honor to be standing here before each and every one of you today as the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant for the College of Fine Arts. An honor I know that is hard to come by and deserved by every Graduate Teaching Assistant in this room.
I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because we have chosen to study Fine Arts. We have chosen to study our passion and attempt to make it our livelihood, a feat that comes with its pitfalls, disappointments, insecurities, and challenges but whose rewards are unparalleled.
Having been told that I would be standing here upon my Masters graduation 17 years ago, I might have chuckled and rattle off some off beat, incredibly sarcastic comment with a few choice words that would have prompted my father to reply in his Jersey accent, “Danielle…it might be true; but tone it down a bit!” The same comment would have prompted my mother to say, “Way to go girl!”
I would have said this because my high school guidance counselor told me that she couldn’t announce my major upon graduation because I would ruin their quota at their precious school so instead I would be attending university as an undecided major. I would have said this because one of my ballet teachers at the time told me, “You’re really smart are you sure you want to dance?” I would have said this because growing up dance wasn’t an acceptable profession to those who had no idea the drive, dedication, and personal responsibility it instilled in me.
Still I consider myself one of the lucky ones who had parents and many many mentors who did support my dreams. They were my examples. They were my leaders. They were the ones who taught me to fight, stand up, and never take no for an answer. They taught me to unlock doors and if they wouldn’t open, how to kick them in. You know the grand battement is useful in more situations than class and stage.
And so I stand here before you today humbled and honored that I share the study of Fine Arts with likeminded individuals who are not strangers to hard work, who are happy to continue to hone their craft and dedicate their existence to their art. Who understand that there are only 24hours in a day and would happily spend every waking moment of that 24hour period drawing, playing, dancing, singing, acting, filming, and creating so that they might touch the lives of those around them. I’d like to comment on the courage that it takes us to proceed with our studies. I’d like to commend us for our stick-to-it-tivness. Courage is our most trusted friend when we think our art is worthless or this path is futile. Courage is what got us here today and will keep us going tomorrow.
I can’t know what drew each of you to your study of Fine Arts. I haven’t quite grasped the concept of telepathy, although as a dancer I’m pretty close to discovering levitation. For me I was drawn to the ephemeral quality of dance, that it is there and then at a click of the clock’s turn it dissipates. It taught me so much about the fleeting moments in life that we should learn to hold them near and dear and close to our hearts. It taught me about the ability to say so many things without saying anything at all. Don’t worry this isn’t the part where I break into an interpretive dance. It is the part however where I challenge us to continue drawing, playing, dancing, singing, acting, filming, and creating so that we can inspire the next generation of artist. It is the part where I stand firm in the belief that the Fine Arts have ability to leave no child behind. It is the part where I heed the warning that we should band together with one large voice to let students and future artists know that our studies can move mountains, can change the world, can breed acceptance, and can bring humanity together. It is the part where I thank my high school guidance counselor and former ballet teacher because they were instrumental in discovering that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. And finally it is the part where I pray that our courage never waver, that our artistry continue to develop, and that our minds never tire of discovering our individual expression for a collective voice.
And with that I am reminded of this quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As we graduate today there are so many changes that lie ahead. Some of us may even be asking ourselves, “Why did I major in this? What do I do now?” And to that I ask that you remember the fire that evokes your passion for this study and I challenge you to find the courage you had upon embarking on the journey of your graduate studies. It’s there. And if you can’t seem to find it, run don’t walk to the nearest artist. They are probably sitting next to you. They are there to remind you because they were once there too. Thank you. I am humbled to have received this award and I share it with each and every one of you. In dance we say, “merde” instead of “break a leg” for obvious reasons, so merde to our next chapter. Thank you.
And re-reading this I am reminded of my courage and the need to surround myself with other artists because, “they were once there too.” Which is exactly what I did two days! The taste of my own medicine here went down pretty smoothly! Thanks Magda!
See, while at the University, immersion into my studies was a task I took on tenfold! I love school, I love learning, and I love the idea of self-betterment to become the best student and artist one can be. And now I’m figuring out how to continue to do that outside of school. I’m figuring out how to make the city I currently live in less foreign to me. I’m allowing it to become familiar and making connections within the community. I’m blessed. I have my prospects and some very exciting plans ahead including showcasing new works of choreography at ZUZI! Theater, studying in Melbourne, Australia with Anouk van Dijk’s One Body, One Career Intensives, and presenting a movement session at the National Dance Education Conference back on the east coast. And while I realize almost too deeply that this will be difficult I’m also excited to see where the experiences will take me. Yesterday I created choreography for the upcoming performance and edited music. So see I’m slowly making my way.