Sunday, 12 April 2015

My year in art 2014 - I

It’s usually one of my favourite postings at the end of every year to look back over my “best of”.  I sit and dig through my growing stash of programmes and festival brochures to remember what I loved best.  

The 2014 event list has been sitting in my journal since January, but it’s taken me some time to understand why this posting was so hard for me to get going – and also why it became so important for me to still write it even though 2014 is so far gone. My year in art in 2014 was essentially a “worst of”. I had a horrible year.  I did a lot of cool things (list below), but overall it was a painful time that made me doubt myself, my work and my life choices.

I began the year in severe burnout from 2013. I had somehow survived several crisis-fraught creations and volunteer projects in between heavy duty creation and touring with other productions and festival administration. When 2014 arrived, my sensible annual resolution was to permit myself not to make any new work for at least six months.  I thought about the future, my family and my artistic work. 

I decided it was time to take the leap and go and do a Masters in choreography, or I'd never take the time to jumpstart the concentration and reflection that I felt I needed.

However this ambition did not generate the head space and confidence that I’d hoped it would. The seemingly mundane act of writing and rewriting applications should not have been so difficult or different from the grant-extraction machine that I had become over the past three years.  Instead it plunged me into a puddle of anxiety over researching the most suitable choices among unfamiliar.  Struggling over the question of the wisdom of separating myself from my partner for over a year (in some cases, two years or more), and how I should organise the finances to achieve this. I reviewed a previously rejected programme application that I had submitted on a whim.  I wrestled with iMovie late into the night. I plugged some savings and hours into Goethe Institut courses. I sat in the uncomfortable expectation of sceptical eyes looking over my work and my aspirations.

I did make it to the first round of several applications and auditions. I went scrounging around affluent relatives for frequent flyer miles, and made an unthinkable series of trips (dates were non-negotiably spread out). I declined another audition when they wrote with a weeks’ notice to get to Seoul. I angsted myself into exhaustion and slipped up on several deadlines for applications and scholarship.

Then the rejections started coming in. 

Finally I was left with just one acceptance letter.  A wonderful school in London, but with an impossible school fee and living costs, and no hope of a scholarship. I did not know what to do.

My self confidence was plunging and leaking negativity into my creative work. I was convinced that I didn't want to dance anymore.  My creative well was dry and hollow. I worked alongside brilliant people and felt nothing but my own insufficiency. By my own judgement, I delivered the worst performances of my life that summer. I was an improviser who couldn’t improvise. I radioed my therapist and my shrink.

Then my loving family stepped in to the rescue! My relatives offered me funds where I hadn’t been able to get a scholarship. It was unqualified support and love. I accepted the place in London but I felt like a fraud.  I compared myself unfavourably against other Singapore alumni of the same programme. I struggled with guilt that I was abandoning and hurting my partner. I woke up in the middle of the night terrified of what a mess I was heading into.  I calculated the height from my window to the ground – something I hadn’t done in years. I wondered if I was ploughing ahead with plans to leave only because I had now accepted the money.

I scrounged for ways to be gentler to myself, to remember that it would pass. Took fragile steps towards packing my bag and queuing through airports.

Finally I arrived in the blinding sunshine in a new place. Breathing was surprisingly easy. I gave myself permission to start again.

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