Of Creativity, Solitude and Becoming.
(Essence of my TEDxIfe2012 presentation)
In this life, there's something we all consider as the normal life; which is usually attained by going to a normal school, get normal degrees, have a good job, a normal marriage, mix up with normal people and live happily ever after. It sounds like a normal fairy tale right? But it is in fact what many do in their normal lives.
I don't belong to that group of people. As a performer, my job requires that i travel a lot, so I usually do enjoy the awkward look in people's faces when I first tell them what i do for a living, especially those I meet in the plane, at the immigration post or at the embassy while applying for visa. They take my passport, then they flip the pages... Then they will look at me, I always wait for the second look, because its always more dramatic... Then they'll ask. "SIR, WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?"
I'm a dancer. "A DANCER?" And they'll take one last look at my passport again, with all the visas and stamps in it. "You must be a very good dancer. WHAT KIND OF DANCE IS THAT?" You see my kind of dance has no definite and precise definition, i only give my answers depending on the mood, for the sake of this writing, let's say, I do profound dance. Between you and I, we know I've only succeeded in further complicating the matter.
Being a dancer, has tremendously equipped me with an extraordinary ability to be abnormal at will. And it feels good. The act of reflection is an act of separation, and to separate oneself from the norm is radical. The society doesn't want us to be individuals, the more we conform the better, so Dancing for a profession is the most radical decisions I've made in my life. I cannot count how many times i have been asked to give a definition of dance, to tell them what it mean to dance, why dance? and who exactly is a dancer?
Most times, we dance in order to be together, we come together in group, our bodies approaches one another, up and down without a pre-established order, but with the same obstinacy we came in with, so there is no risk of being changed by mere dancing right? So our bodies get really close to one another, caressing, desiring, having fun and tearing one another apart.
So when i tell people that i am a professional dancer, Most people think that what I do, is similar to what they experience in a carnival, i.e a variant of sexual parade. Some other people thinks dancing is when many people come together, to follow orders, under the stick of a certain master of ceremony, who they refer to as "CHOREOGRAPHER" then taking same steps in the same direction, a variant of a military parade, another kind of carnival you may say.
For sure dancing is the most social form of art, body language is the most archaic form of communication, and it is the language the children learns to speak first, you agree with me right? So for sure dance is not isolated from any moment of the human life... Moment of birth, prayers, rituals ceremonies, carnivals, moments of joy, fun, rage, anger, disappointment... and in the inevitable moment of death, in all of these, dance is present. BUT, there is another understanding of dance, which i subscribe to, and i also practice.
I AM A SOLO DANCER ! I dance in solitude, I dance with my solitude, and I dance because of solitude. I live on this earth without expectation, without disappointment, for i am attached to nothing, it will be unnecessary to bury me, for i am already buried in my body, along with my solitude. A solitude peopled by images, visions, dreams, phantoms, spirits and memories.
But why SOLITUDE? It's easy solitude = solo, they sound alike no? Yes why solitude? it is an important question to ask, in a world where there is so much distraction, entertainment and almost everybody is a spectator. Whenever we have little free time, we seek amusement, we pick up a serious book, a novel, or a magazine, we turn on the radio, or the television, or we indulge in small talks on our smart phones and on social media, we go to the cinema or we turn to religion, which is the same thing. Religion too has become a form of distraction, a kind of serious escape from boredom.
But We should know that Solutude came from the latin word SOLUS - which means alone, but ALONE? in a world where there is a constant demand to be amused and entertained either lightly or seriously, which is the reason why we have enormous structures of professional amusement and automated distraction. The world over, we are becoming more and more increasingly sophisticated and worldly. The multiplication of pleasures, the innumerable books that are being published, the shocking breaking news, filled with entertaining and emotional stories, we love them all, surely because we want to be taken away from ourselves, because we are inwardly empty and dull. So We are afraid to be alone, it scares the hell out of us to be without a companion, without distraction of some sort.
But SOLITUDE should not be confused with Loneliness, Desolation or Alienation. These are totally different things. And to understand this in dance terms, takes us to a certain aesthetic and ethical in-depth. I.e The equal opposite of many dancers who come together to form a uniform choreography, but here one dancer isolates himself to become many, not to become a unit or an ensemble, but to multiply with one body in movement.
When i started dancing alone, being alone in the studio scares the hell out me as well, its a crazy feeling, especially when i have long sessions of, say eight hours or more, all by my self. IMPOSSIBLE, i was unable to produce anything. Either i spend five or more hours playing candy crush or temple run on my phone, or updating my status on facebook on how it is so great to be in the studio working alone, and of course checking on who's commenting.
Then later, i started inviting another dancer or a musician to join me each time i have studio sessions, already it got better, days when we don't spend the entire time chatting and gossiping we at least come up with something 'not too bad' but that was not my mission, my mission was not to settle for something 'not too bad.' Instead it was a quest for the authentic self, which requires that i be alone.
This quest for the authentic self, which says that two is already a crowd, that one cannot discover God in a group of two or more, one can worship Or idolise our divinities in a group, but the genuine discovery whether He, She or it exists or not for you, is a solo task. If not you'll settle for what has been. For me to be a SOLO dancer, i needed to be alone, to quietly observe things about me and within myself, but to do that, first i needed to inquire into why i get bored so quickly while in the studio.
There i found LONELINESS, it is in order to escape from loneliness that we dive into distractions of all sorts, and seek attentions at all cost. Being inwardly lonely we become mere spectators in life; and we can be the real players only when we understand loneliness and go beyond it. Inviting a companion into the studio with me was a way out, but it wasn't a solution, it was an escape from looking at myself inwardly without being afraid of what i see, this fear when for a moment one realizes that one can rely on nothing, that no amount of gratification can take away the sense of self enclosing emptiness.
Nothing was in fact wrong with playing games or spending time on Facebook, rather than working in the studio, it was my unavailability to accept the fact that, to understand distraction, is a process which requires time, to be processed, which requires that i see myself without separation, without judging whether what i'm doing is right or wrong, but to at least be conscious of my own actions, so time to play games and be on Facebook, and chat, and scroll all though Instagram, and go to the toilet, and receive calls, and fall asleep, and so on, are all actually part of that required time to attain this goal.
So I concluded that i needed to adhere to a different pattern of work, a state of mind which does not shut out anything; and because there is no resistance, the mind is eventually capable of much great attention, but if we are aware of every movement of the mind, from moment to moment, then there is no such thing as 'resisting distraction' at any time and the energy of the mind is not wasted in resisting something, but will be occupied with building something. So that was a first step to combat LONELINESS... I'm Not suggesting that we must live as a loner or in isolation, NO!
But we must have the courage to go beyond this extraordinary fear of loneliness, because beyond it lies the real treasure. So i began to spend more and more time all by myself in the studio, without memories, without ambitions, nor expectations, then i began to get access to myself, to discover the me that was created in God's own imagination and attributes, it was like restoring a computer to its original setting, then i realise that loneliness is simply a wall that surrounds ones quest for authenticity, so many of us have seen this wall many a time, but deliberately get drawn away by taking the easy route.
So in conclusion, this wall must be real for us, we must learn to see it, to stay with it, to understand it, to pull it down and just there, right beyond this wall one finds ALONENESS. YES! That extraordinary state when you no longer rely on anyone or anything psychologically, because you are no longer seeking pleasure, comfort or gratification. It is only then, can the mind know a richness that is incorruptible and is completely alone, and only such mind can be creative, innovative, inspired, compassionate and loving in real sense of these words.