Dear Artists, The World Is Waiting For You
When only parts of a person are welcome, the soul silently suffers in anguish
July 11, 2022
The curtains rise as a vision takes hold of the stage. Illuminated are vestiges of the otherworld. Masters of time and shapeshifting, dance artists extend the definition of what it means to be human (Anandha Ray, 2022). The ceremony begins as energies are called in. Repressed and denied stories, memories, and traumas knock on the door. They are listening, they are watching, and they want in. Devoted, disciplined training allows the dancers to be clear channels. They are not channeling entities or energies outside of themselves; they are channeling from their own human experience. Ancestors may be there too. The denied stories and the forgotten chapters of excruciating pain, haunting darkness, and silent screams are finally given the chance to be fully felt and witnessed. Not only is the dancer liberated and healed in their offering, but the audience is too in witnessing.
Quimera Method, founded by the world renowned choreographer Anandha Ray, is a dance form which creates high level beauty and artistry from the substance of pain, the shadows and the unspoken. As psychologist Donald Winnicott points out, “Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” Much of what people hide are their acting outs of what Christians may call the seven deadly sins. These “sins” can infect the individual, hijacking their sovereignty and infecting their essence with poison as well as that of their community. These “sins” can overwhelm businesses, cultures, societies and nations. Greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth, and pride, these are no strangers to anyone. Even the act of denying familiarity with any of these deadly sins has roots in one of them: pride. Not included in this list but just as “taboo” and vulnerable to expose could be elements of shame, blame, victimization, rejection, depression, greatness, brightness, anxiety, suicidality, death, power, possession, disease, loneliness, alienation, and fear.
From an early age, culture and institutionalized power may teach one to not talk about these. They aren’t welcome at the dinner table and exposing them or bringing voice to them may threaten the comfort of the company one is in. Incurred might be adopting a false self or an overidentification with a persona. This can lead to tragic consequences. When only parts of a person are welcome, the soul silently suffers in anguish. Artists can bring voice and expression to the unwelcomed parts.
Anandha Ray explains her work as, “Not all artists wield shadow as expression, or give themselves permission to create art from the unspoken and disowned aspects of our humanness. This, however, has been my artistic vision for almost 50 years now. In fact, when I began producing dances within the realm of what I call “making visible the invisible” in the US they would be devalued. In Europe and Mexico they regularly received standing ovations. In the US audiences would criticize my art saying ‘that’s not entertainment’ -to which I would reply ‘thank you.’ I knew these works were healing audience members because I would often receive letters expressing the healing that they had experienced.”
What happens to these significant parts of the journey that are so tied in with the experience of being human? If they aren’t receiving the attention they deserve, they may siphon one’s potency, rendering them impuissant. Or they could fuel the psyche with complexes of omnipotence, leading to horrific acts of xenophobia, terrorist attacks, dogmatic indoctrinating, and unchecked grandiosity. Such phenomena are ubiquitous on the planet right now.
Being actively engaged in one’s shadow work is not executed without courage. “These are unwanted parts that we hide in order to be socially acceptable… deep grief, depression, feeling like you are too much, not enough, unloveable… we are raised that being perfect is the path to being lovable. But in fact, all the collectively disowned parts are the root of our collective suffering. We have not been allowed to express the fullness of who we are and so we are a society in hiding… projecting a mask of who we are… and thus it has been my artistic vision since choreographing my first dance when I was 16, to give voice to the disowned and to allow audiences to see that other people have these experiences as well and these feelings are normal, not only normal… they are valuable!” (Anandha Ray, 2022).
The realm of the stage becomes a cauldron for healing. Dancers bend time, engineer space, and play with energy through their poetry of movements. Their vulnerability in exposure becomes a sacrifice for the courage necessary to perform community healings. Their artistry brings oxygen to what had once been suffocating. Their prayerformance liberates bondages of suffering. The numinous dimensions of the collective unconscious are viscerally made conscious through them.
Sadly, artists are undervalued. Their medicine is potent and they deserve to be revered. If more people devoted themselves to creating from their own wellspring instead of devouring the ritualized obsessions of social media, screens, and political diatribes, this world just might become restored to balance.
“I have received letters from people who told me they felt suicidal because their feelings were so dark… and viewing my dance made them feel understood and thus not so alone. One woman wrote to me that upon the death of her husband her grief was so deep she didn’t think she could survive. No one seemed to understand and it seemed everyone wanted her to stop grieving but she couldn’t and so was ready to end her life. But upon seeing her own grief reflected in a dance she felt understood. It helped her to feel like her grief wasn’t “wrong” if something as beautiful as dance could give expression to it” (Ray, 2022).
“And so all these years, with the courage to face rejection, I’ve held candles into the darkness of our humanity. And finally, our societal collective is coming to value this work” (Ray, 2022).
And so, Dear Artists (and to the inner artist in everyone),
Write. Dance. Speak. Sing. Play. Bring your art forward as if your life depended on it. Allow everything you've been holding back, everything stored in the tensions in your bones, in your closets, in your basements and attics to come out. Devote yourself to the craft. You dear artist, know how to transmute darkness into light. Your familiarity with the dark is not something to be ashamed of. When you bring voice to it, you liberate others from their bondages to shame. You've refined yourself to be a clear channel to transform those substances into alchemical beauty. When we see you, we see ourselves. When we see ourselves, we can relax more into our humanity. Expand the definition of being human to us. Go artist, GO! Move your pen, move your body, move your voice. The world is waiting for you to step forward, to take the stage, to reveal the secrets, to shapeshift, to transcend time, to bring humanity back into divine remembrance of the old ways, the simpler ways. Dear Artists, remind us of what we already know, of what we forgot. You are Muse, You are Magician, You are Magic.