Ever since we found this quote by the legendary choreographer Martha Graham on Elephant Journal the other day, it’s been haunting us, because we relate to SO much to it and because we DON’T relate to some of it, a curious mix.
“I believe that we learn by practice.
Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.
In each, it is the performance of a dedicated
preciseset of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit.
One becomes, in some area,
an athleteof God.
Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.
Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
We believe deeply that we learn by practice, and that improvising, like life, is a practice. “The principles ARE the same”; we learn to improvise by practicing improvising. That’s where we veer away a bit from Graham’s view.
We don’t think the “acts” we perform are “precise”; in our experience, they are often unplanned and very messy. From the practice of improvising, we feel ourselves to be not so much “an athlete of God” but more like a conduit of…something…a creative force……maybe God…
We do INVITE a “desired perfection”, but often don’t know what it is beforehand, and it definitely isn’t always perfect; if it is perfect, it’s not always what we planned.
But for sure, we think Graham got the gist better than just about anybody: “Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.”
What’s your practice?
Photo: Christophe Jeannot in Martha Graham Dance Company’s Appalachian Spring, by John Deane.
Related posts: a book + music (‘free play’ + ‘the koln concert’)
about ‘the improvised life’
4-step algorithm for change
4 ways to step outside of your comfort zone + conquer the ‘ok plateau’
improvising as “listening”