WHEN MUSIC MAKES YOU FEEL FREE ("Me atrapaste" in music!)
Where do you feel “all there”?
When do you feel that you want to jump so high that you don’t have to come down?
When do you feel whole?
Where do you feel free?
These are all questions asked by ballet dancers at the end of their careers, or dance students at the beginning. They are asked by Russell Janzen, retiring from the New York City Ballet, and in the 1995 PBS Special ballet documentary, “Silver Feet”, about the dreams, successes, and pathos of teenagers desiring to enter a ballet career. (See, New York Times, Sept. 23, 2023, “A Bow of Gratitude to My Body” by Janzen, and the PBS Special.*)
To which I add:
“When do you feel like your clothes fit so well you are not wearing any at all?
And, “With whom do you feel like you are just “you”?
The answers to these questions may come easily or only after some thought, but they are well worth asking oneself from time to time in order to be sure that we are living squarely in the middle of our answers. Otherwise we may miss the fullest of feeling and the better part of life.
These questions have occasionally guided me throughout my life in the occupational, avocational, and relationship choices I faced or needed to make. But they are more central now during retirement when I have more time and agency in how I spend my days. Now I have a delicious chance to live closer to the bone.
This coming weekend Russell Janzen is retiring from a stellar16-year career, and he now gets to have another life, one he says comes “with different kinds of freedom.” He will enter a new career of social work. I had a similar realization twice, once when I retired from 30 years of a corset design and purveying career, and before that, when I retired from a 16-year legal career. On both occasions, I felt had a different kind of freedom!
What I found after my 2020 "retirement" was that I was able to develop a more thoughtful and balanced lifestyle, pursue the entirely new pleasure of music, and accordingly, start to feel more centered in me and not in my customers and business “mission.” I began to feel whole, free, and “just me.”
I now pay attention to and seek out those kinds of feelings when I approach others with the possibility of deepening or opening up new friendships, especially in the musical world. Music illuminates my spirit, unwraps my feelings of vulnerability, and helps me feel more.
Janzen will find a new a kind of “more,” with many new friendships and pleasures. Although in the past few years he has been focusing more and more on maintenance and recovery from physical injuries, now his spirit will soar as he allows for change and renewal after he retires the intense demands on his ballet body.
Until three years ago I always felt neutral about music. Dance, opera, crafts, calligraphy, fine art and learning about and making various aspects of all those arts, were my primary arts focus for years – and then music seized me in the spring of 2020 and I went down the "sound" rabbit hole! It is just like that for some people who are also struck by musical lightening. It’s more common than you might think, and can come about at any time of life.
A new instrumentalist friend from Latin America recently taught me two new Spanish words that seem relevant and significant: un empujadorcito, meaning a “small push” and “me atrapaste” meaning “I got lost in” or “inside.”
I like to conceive of my present involvement in the various aspects of music as a push forward, and in my case, a push forward into and inside music – and myself.
I see results of that “push” in what like to observe and think about, such as my response to the various venues and how they shape music for listening. I see it in my venturing into a new pitch that my Duchess and I are trying out, and in playing a few pieces outside of the typical compositions that I prefer to learn, such as some sweet more modern pieces composed by Garreth Brooke. I particularly like making new friendships as seem this year to be blossoming in my musical world.
My reference to clothes not fitting, came to me at the very end of my lawyering career in the winter of 1989. It was after a 16-year career in civil law (doncha jes' love that name for my career "genre" of law, as opposed to "non-civil criminal law"?) as a regulatory, transactional, and trial lawyer, most of it for the State of California.
One day I was walking down the steps of the State Building to attend a financial center deposition with 12 other real estate attorneys, most from the “big” law firms. I was very primly and properly dressed, carrying my classic leather briefcase and trying to look competent and important. As I stepped down one step, all of a sudden I had the strangest feeling that shook me to my core, namely that my coat was too big for me -- in fact, huge! It was swallowing me up, causing me to disappear, and it made me feel “not me.” I was definitely not happy, and I was feeling lost.
In that moment I had a “grandissimo epujador” for sure!
And it was in that very moment that I made my decision to leave law and the State bureaucracy where I never was entirely content, and was often unhappy (however, never unhappy with the research and writing aspects of law, or my clients!). That work situation no longer “fit” for me.
Within one year I figured out how to leave, and I did just that. I walked into my own entrepreneurial, small, artistic retail (and eventually web) venture that I named “ROMANTASY: sensual arts for loving couples and romantic singles.” But that is a story for another day.
Now me atrapaste in an even more sensual artistic venture called “music.” I think I’ll dwell right there for many years to come because there I feel free, and "just me."
*This PBS special, now almost 30 years old, does not interview any dance student of color or other than a dancer with a rail-thin body type. The one ballerina with a normally shaped curvy female body, is rejected by the SF Ballet School, but goes on to achieve remarkable success as a multi-talented Broadway singer and dancer! Thankfully the edges of what today is considered an “acceptable” body shape, size, and color for ballerinas in major ballet troupes have expanded considerably, because of the arts' admirable push to become more inclusive.
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