by Megan Amal
Editor’s note: At AFO we strive to show the intersection between art and activism, and also all the struggle and affirmation of life that come from these activities. I am delighted that one of our staff writers, Megan, has let us inside her vulnerable and thoughtful creative process through this Dance-A-Day Diary. Megan shows us what it feels like to keep engaging with your art. It’s messy, it’s dull, it’s a struggle, it’s wrought with expectation and anxiety, it’s joy, it’s strange, and it’s often surprising what you end up with.
For the year of 2016 I made a plan to dance every day, record it, and share it online. My goals were to ensure my creative output, use the internet, transform my understanding of the passage of time, and become less precious about the work I produce. In the first months of this project I met goals and lagged behind, I’ve felt proud and felt ashamed, and I have danced erryday.
I made this daily commitment because, as a recent graduate and someone new to the big city, I’m often anxious to make the “right” choices in my time. I no longer have an institution tracking my progress and organizing the application of my knowledge and passion. When I moved to Chicago, in September of 2015, I was lucky enough to quickly find paid work dancing and teaching, but I still felt seriously adrift.
At the new year, after a few months of hustlin’ and bad weather, I decided to make a dance erryday for 2016. Now, a few more months into living in Chicago, I’ve made over 100 dances. Here are some of the videos for you to check out.
At the start of this project I was at home in Florida. On this day, I was watching reality stars talk about the Real Housewives of Atlanta while I danced and then spent hours and hours editing this video and ignoring my family and friends.
Back in Chicago on a warm-ish day. My confidence was growing but I still needed frequent and effusive reassurance. I was starting to think about what the overall mass of videos would reflect about me and began to think critically about my movement style and its cultural connections.
It's still snowing. I spent the day watching Kendrick Lamar videos, listening to Woody Guthrie, and crying because I can’t afford Beyonce tickets. Spending the day staring into the internet always leaves me rough and anxious, mad and sad, and super uncertain.
February is cold and dark all the time.
Had a satisfying day of being a dancer and teacher. I worked hard on a solo at rehearsal and that made me feel alive and full of body and mind. It was my birthday and the sun was shining! I did a sun salutation for every year I had lived and I was happy.
This day I was recovering from the flu and had to cancel a performance. I felt really sad and sorta out of control. I made some calmness for myself by dancin’ and standin’ and sippin’ some tea.
Still sick but I put on lipstick so I became strong. Rossy was working all day. I adventured a bit in search of a new backpack to buy with my birthday money. People stare at me so much.
I filmed this dance while waiting at a stop light and while waiting for my class to arrive at an elementary school where I teach creative movement. I was filming, dancing, and editing with ease.
These are some morning rituals. I don’t do all of them every day, but I do some of them each day, depending on what I need. Making time each day to care for myself and to pursue physical goals has become essential to my creative and personal well-being. I rarely dance in the early morning but I regularly use this time to connect with my body and my mind.
At the start of this project I was full of nerves and fear. But as I progressed, there were many days where I felt so chill about it that I didn’t make my dance until the next day. This project became a comfort, rhythm in my life, something I knew I was doing for me. Something that, when I felt adrift like I did after leaving school, I could reflect on and use to feel grounded. It’s also true that some days this project felt like a burden. Sometimes, I would look at the dances I made and feel that the quality was poor, or that my taste was misguided. Or on other days, it would feel simply like a chore.
Honoring the ebbs and flows of my creative drive mirrors my first experiences of the seasons here in Chicago. I am coming to a greater awareness of the cycles of our earth, our bodies, and our minds. As this year of dancing continues I will adjust my goals and priorities as my needs and desires shift. I will continue to strive towards transparency with myself. I will continue to transform. I will keep dancin’.
For a longer look, you can find more of Megan’s work in her Tumblr.
Or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org