Dance

Raw Honesty: Creating from a scary place

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Raw Honesty: Creating from a scary place

Photo: Kiki Vassilakis

I’m asking myself, and you, “How I do even start to write this?” I’m texting a friend about my multimedia (dance, live music and cinema) show “Dark Blue Sea,” and wishing I knew how to write about the process of producing it. I feel like I owe that to you: a column that focuses on meaty logistics more than it does the internal intangibles of what dance can be when set to raw truth.

The truth is, I don’t know how or what to say about it. How do I neatly package, in writing, the magnitude of what we’re embarking on?

There are logistical tasks for “Dark Blue Sea”: lighting, wardrobe, scheduling and coordinating 18-plus people—consisting of a team of dancers, musicians Girl Blue, Dark Honey and The Sea The Sea and film team Chromoscope Pictures. Then there are the two-day tension headaches after every full band rehearsal, not because they didn’t go well but because the stress of everything I am responsible for in those few hours can feel overwhelming. There are also the more poetic elements of this process like self-doubt, creating a show from my own life experience and sharing my personal and sometimes embarrassing stories with my dancers.

All I know is that I wanted to do something big. Thanks to my friends and collaborators in this project, I was encouraged to make it even bigger. In short, I designed a show that tells a personal story.

All the songs I selected, choreography I produced, and videos I collaborated on, help to tell this story in such a visceral way that it has moved many onlookers to tears. In some instances, I chose songs that forced me to rewrite my personal experience. It was intentional, because there are some things I wish happened that didn’t. I wanted to understand them better through dance, to know how these events would feel in my body. It’s helped me see clearer, gain closure, heal, explore my own faults as they pertain to this story and honor why I made certain choices.

While texting my friend about this column, I remembered that I wrote something the other night about producing “Dark Blue Sea.” It’s vulnerable and weird and honest and raw. It rambles. I wrote it after getting home from rehearsal. I am OK, though, sharing it with you. A beautiful musician friend of mine reminded me this is what art is: an expression of feelings.

Though this process has been a roller coaster, if you attend a showing, you will only see the finished product. It will be beautiful. While the experience is life-altering and incredible, and I often say out loud (with awe) “How is this my life?” There’s also a side I keep hidden. It’s the side I don’t want to give a voice to, because it’s rooted in fear. I gather that many artists feel this way; perhaps we are afraid our art might be invalidated by showing such vulnerability and fear.

So, here I go. This is, at times, what creating this show has done to me:

Scared. Constantly thinking:

“What am I forgetting?”

“Are they happy?”

“Will people like it?”

“Am I doing a good job?”

Reminding myself that this is my story. Pushing so far out

of my comfort zone that I can’t find my tether.

Terrified of that.

Full of self-doubt. Not wanting to let people down.

Not eating enough. Making more decisions in a day

than I thought I could. Finding my voice. Losing my voice. Confronting my contributions to why the story is the story.

Mostly just scared. I guess this is growth. Either that, or naiveté. That thought scares me too.

Mostly just scared. Holding tightly to what I want to do.

Knowing I have so much to learn.

“Forgot about the projector.”

“Forgot to tell them they get free tickets.”

“Forgot we still had to finish that piece.”

“Forgot to ask them to take the roof off the stage.”

So much to remember. So much to forget. So many mistakes to make. So many successes to be had. So much sadness. So much to celebrate. So much

fear  love  growth  talent  doubt.

It has all come to this. Will they like it? Are they happy?

Is it good? Am I absolved …?

…from those times I took it too far?

…from my contribution to the degradation?

Thought stream. Jet stream. Air stream. Brain screams.

Realizing I am letting them in. There isn’t enough room.

Mostly scared.

And this is OK, because it means we care. As long as this fear isn’t paralyzing our process, being aware of its presence in our art can serve an important purpose. And being honest in our art puts something into the world that is uniquely ours.

Nadine Medina is an engineer, owner of Nadine Medina Designs, owner of Troy Dance Factory, and founder and artistic director of Synergia Dance Project. You can see the final performance of “Dark Blue Sea” at Cohoes Music Hall on Oct. 11. 

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