One of the newest iterations of my mini-cupcake aka SLMDances is facilitating a series of professional development meetings for my dancers to help them achieve their individual professional and personal goals. In a dance eco-system where money is scarce, it is one more way that I am able to compensate dancers for their time and energy in bringing my artistic work to life. But really, it is more than compensation... it is an investment, well worth it.
We aim to spend two hours a month dreaming, planning, sharing, and problem solving. Drawing on my training from student organizations (word to Barnard BOSS-sisters Sheena Gordon & Bendita Malakia), college internships, and recent organizational commitments and professional development workshops, I am devising a curriculum to help us all be the best versions of ourselves, replete with accountability partners, and plenty of positive reinforcement to hold us to our own words.
We are an ambitious group of young women trying to "make it" in New York City -- whatever that means. We are mostly over worked, under paid, passionate, socially conscious artists who want to soak up all the goodness that the universe has for us. We are trying to parse out what this means. We want to parse out what it means to "make it work." We are a community learning from one another, and supporting one another. "I see you, I support you, I lift you up," has transcended from a improvisational movement section in our now signature work, The Window Sex Project, to a manifesto to get us through life.
Enter our reading assignments: "A Black Academic Woman's Self-Care Manifesto," "How to Say No... And When to Say Yes!," "What the Heck's A Vision Board- and How Can It Change Your Life?" and today's gem: "Recline, don't 'Lean In' (Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg)."
Notice a recurring theme? Most New York 20 & 30-somethings are running a career-related rat race, but I feel like artists, and particularly freelance dancers, are running it faster, harder, and with a lot less resources. I dated a guy once who told me, "Dancers... y'all are like the last true starving artists."
Not that we are starving just for monies, but also for time, and also in our mindset. We are so used to thinking from a place of lack, that we forget to notice what we have in abundance. And particularly in the modern/contemporary world, we are so used to fending for ourselves and competing with one another on an individual basis, we forget the power that comes with community and alliance building.
So in today's group assignment, we took a cue from author Rosa Brooks, and wrote our "Manifestus for the Rest of Us." In her article, she charges that we acquire "a room of one's own" a la Virginia Woolf; that is, allow unstructured space and time for rest and relaxation, and also for creative thinking. She also poses that as productive as it can be to "lean in," it is just as productive and necessary to "lean out" or simply, "recline."
With all that in mind, I offer SLMDances' Manifestus for the Rest of Us:
- I am enough.
- I give myself permission to...
- Balance is not always immediate.
- Celebrate every accomplishment.