A reader asked, “Did that really happen to you?” after finishing one of my novels. I’ve heard this before, and the character-revolving question churns in my mind. It’s a great question. One for which I don’t always have a ready answer, because it’s rather loaded.
When I was a professional dancer, one of my fortes was Character Dance. I think this is where I first came to understand that, as an artist, I’m all my characters and none of my characters. I abandoned myself in a role, poured out blood, sweat, and tutus, until I became another persona. The interpretation was all mine (via the Lord’s inspiration and direction). After I hung up the costumes and retreated to the hotel or home for a cup of tea and a foot-soak, I was just me and nothing like the earlier identity on stage.
It’s the same with creating characters in books. Sometimes a reader will say, “I can relate to you,” when referencing the protagonist in a novel. I appreciate the response; it’s also interesting for me. While I can draw parallelisms, such as an incident or event that motivated the story, antics that aided a character’s development, or inject personal likes and dislikes, I’m not that person. Not even in my first novel, which is assumed in the industry to be every writer’s veiled autobiography. I'm just a vehicle to carry out another's story.
If I am my characters, then I’m also a human-flesh-eating imp, a war criminal, and a subterranean giant. I’m ALL of them (because creators invest in roles), and NONE of them (because I’m somebody else at the end of the day). Clear as mud? Lol. I'm inclined to think it's more the moral of the story that speaks (if anything does), which is sourced from a gracious God.
Lately, I’ve been feeling as if moving underwater through life and had to take a break from routine. So, I’ve been absent from here for a bit. In the interim, a friend shared with me the following film of an underwater artist. Took my breath away. One of the most beautiful presentations I’ve seen, it's proven hard not to replay it constantly. I’ve had dreams of dancing underwater, but I think my day will be in Heaven when I know I won’t drown. Interestingly, this video has helped me as a writer. More on that development will be revealed at a later time. For now, please enjoy this all-encompassing masterpiece.
Please meet my New Adult, Paranormal Romance, Speculative, angsty novel written from a Biblical Worldview (if that is not a mouthful). Freshly published.
Elyse Magellan auditions at a dance conservatory for the elite. Privileged she is not, and so presses on by sheer determination, talent—and hopefully a great deal of luck—to get into the prestigious school and resident company. But nothing overwhelms her more than the aristocratic Gabriel Krist – the school’s accompanist and concert pianist. Not only does he possess a compelling demeanor, he looks like a god, an angel pale and beautiful. He’d like to possess her, but is it for love or something else? What others in the wings say about him is a shrouded story. His promiscuous reputation has Elyse, the innocent, on edge. That’s not the only thing that troubles her. Gabriel is…different. Something dark resides in him. She doesn’t know what it is, this thing that urges her to run, yet she can’t seem to pull away. At the same time, Gabriel is desperate for someone to find even a flicker of goodness in his cursed and heartless soul. Dare he lead this young fawn in his irreparable dance through the dark? Or does she possess the wherewithal to lead him out of the shadows and into light?
This season, I had the privilege of donning my ballet shoes to dance with the liturgical lyrical ballet group, Solum Deum, under the direction of my friend and gifted choreographer, Tess Dempsey (two named “Tess” in one group, imagine that!). It became an interesting contrast in my mind when, in one of the dances, we represented holy angels. Considering that one of the three novels I am currently working on has to do with the Nephilim, descendants of the fallen angels, and because of that research and the fact that, often, I have to dive into dark subject matter, the elements of this dance were refreshing. A refreshing experience on many levels! I continue looking upward and forward.
Once, during my early balletic days, a director appointed me to a challenging role, instructing me to dance, said, “With attitude, Darling.” What he meant – what I learned – was to dance with complete heart, sense, and purpose; to abandon myself in that role. Since flamenco is such an individualistic art form, yet this particular discipline is still fairly new to me, I often hear those words of early advice trickle up from the deep recesses of my memory. I’m finding my voice, so to speak, my stylistic language within the flamenco context: to mean what I say. What I’ve added to my Bucket List, however, and what I yearn to do, is express flamenco in a worshipful/liturgical/Christian piece and venue. I believe in possibilities and have a vision for that day. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my continuing, enriching education toward a flamenco dream.
The first three photos are by Victor Garza of garzapix.com. The remaining are by Mike & Sharon Mansoor (Sharon is the lovely lady from England who I had the pleasure to dance with at the WOW festival represented here).
Several of these pictures are capturing moments from my new flamenco solo, an eight-minute Alegría, that has been added to the repertoire under the direction of Lucia Andronescu (shown in photo #2). I am soon to turn 45 years old, and it is fun, fun, fun to still be dancing!
Periodically, I will post snippets here on my flamenco journey, since flamenco has become a regular part of my life and love, making it fuller. I had written once how the dance never leaves the dancer. This certainly is true, but in my case it has transitioned in a matter of months into something brand new, a different dance genre and language. I’m learning a lot in a short amount of time. My dance director calls it the “fast track to flamenco.” The curve is uniquely challenging, but it’s just right for me these days and I’m enjoying it immensely.
A few days ago, this local newspaper article came out on the dance company with which I am currently studying and performing. Thought I’d share the latest.
“Break the ballerina,” I have deliberated. I want to be reconstructed, transformed into another kind of dancer – that of flamenco. I want to learn, I want to be of that world.
Flamenco is something that has always drawn my attention, yet I've never had ample time or opportunity to pursue studying it—and unless you’re born into it flamenco is a type of study. It’s like learning a new language, a new culture. Serious students only, for flamenco is far too complex and challenging for the easy going. In many ways, I find flamenco more difficult than ballet or any other form of dance I've carried out. It requires absolute immersion physically, mentally, and spiritually. I don’t know whether it’s where I am in life today or if the timing is suddenly just ripe, but I am shifting things around to make room to absorb and to learn, to train. I can tell in my heart of hearts that there is no turning back for me. I've caught the “flamenco bug” and I’m in the midst of a new and lasting love affair.
Currently, I am dancing with Pasión Flamenca under the direction of Lucia Andronescu. A good fit for me in both style and method, I am receiving superb technique training along with continual performance experience. I began this particular journey about two months ago.
One day, I will look back at the progression, my metamorphosis from one kind of dancer into another. Flamenco is truth by fire, a matchless, mystical pilgrimage that, in a strange way, provides a sense of balance for this spiritually attuned dancer/novelist.
I had decided a while back to come out of hibernation and take up my dance shoes again. However, my little home studio has grown dull and lifeless without community. So, I recently mused on the idea of taking a class. Aside from networking, with my past professional background in lyrical ballet, contemporary, and international styles wherein training occurred a long time ago, I could definitely use refreshers.
On a whim and to my delighted surprise, I located a Russian Gypsy/Flamenco troupe with a strong foundation in ballet currently based out of my local city, Knoxville. Directed by Olga, who not only offers classes for technique but also teaches the significance and history behind the movements and music, she provides opportunities to perform, complete with colorful costumes and beautiful expressions, capturing the hearts of audiences, through her company Sangria Dance. I found gold.
After I took the first class, a conversation went along in my mind: “Well there you are, Tessa! Where have you been?” How could I possibly have retreated from the dance world like I had when I've missed it so much? I do know for certain it was high time to make a change and get back with it – and it feels great. Not only is dance good for the body, it’s nourishment for the mind and soul, too. A dancer without community or personal growth can feel depleted. I've joined the troupe, reconnecting with like-minded individuals in a setting that’s culturally vibrant and expansive. Truly, Sangria Dance is a feast of sustenance to a hungry dancer. Dance is a way of life. And as these things often go, it’ll enhance my writing, too.
“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”—Albert Einstein
Here is another one of my favorites from So You Think You Can Dance (Season 9). Again, a few choice dancers partnered together, Alex Wong and Eliana Girard. In fact, Eliana is what I’d consider perfection in dance. I greatly admire her skill and persona. Performing a contemporary piece luminously choreographed by Stacey Tookey to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Today, I’m simply in the mood for something intense and lovely.