I have been making dances since I was in the second grade. Yet somehow when I finish a big project, I still wonder if I can get myself back up off the floor to do it again.
Fortunately, the same people who finish these big projects with me usually ask ‘when we are gonna do it again?’ which makes me feel invited to the party, and then I feel like I should fix up some food, both literally (I am a good cook) and figuratively (I make work with a band of stunning collaborators.) Luckily, I have a dose of my mother’s Capricorn stubbornness. I have never quit anything in my life until I exhausted myself trying to make it work. This is how I gave up, among other things, drinking caffeine, full-contact sparring, and sleeping with women who aren’t honest with me.
Some call me still emerging, because my resume does not include certain kudos. I’ve been told that because I now make my living as an educator in my field, I am no longer a real artist. As far as I am concerned, success is mine because I still love what I do, and I do it more every year.
I hit the limits of my energy sooner now, with less room for argument. This forces me to rely on discernment over determination when propelling myself towards a goal or a new experience. I constantly wonder if I am doing enough.
I failed many times while making my latest performance piece about the Middle East. It is the hardest thing I have ever done.
After my first tour there with dancers, I set out to create a piece about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In addition to my company members, I invited some new friends (a Palestinian scholar, activist and refugee, and some folkloric dancers he knows) to help us make this work.
I missed so many important things. I did not leave enough time to lay the groundwork for directing my first cross-cultural collaboration. I tried to deal with some of the artistic, cultural and political tensions in the room by absorbing them like a gracious hostess. I naïvely arranged for us to work at times in separate studios, thinking it would help us work more efficiently, thereby creating my very own version of a two state solution. No wonder things fell apart.
I failed to draw hardly any folks to the theater that did not already agree with my point of view. I received hate mail. Dancers quit because they decided I was not honest about my politics, or because they found the co-directing arrangement too chaotic.
Ultimately, I earned the trust of those who stayed. I also learned that I could trust the work, even when it seemed destined to implode.
Middle of the Night
Not too long ago, I realized that I’ve been acting like sleep was my daily failure to stay awake. A failure to do more, because more is what I’ll settle for if I can’t do enough.
I think maybe doing Feldenkrais is changing all that. OMG.
[box]Nina Haft is Artistic Director of Nina Haft & Company, a Bay Area-based ensemble known for cultural commentary and site-specific performance since 2000. Nina’s work in new jewish performance has been profiled in Dance Magazine and received support from the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, Margaret Jenkins’ Dance Company, Conney Project on Jewish Arts (UW-Madison), Purdue University, the California Arts Council and numerous private and public arts foundations. Nina Haft & Company is also known for the Dance in Unexpected Places Series, including performances in dockyards, synagogues, parking lots, libraries, train stations, bars, government buildings and historic Mountain View Cemetery. Nina has presented her work locally at WestWave Dance Festival, Dance IS Festival, the East Bay Dance Festival, Raw & Uncut/The Garage, Bay Area Dance Series, the Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival, and at numerous other venues. Nina Haft & Co. has performed nationally and internationally, including appearances in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Portland, Madison, Chicago, New York, Amman, Ramallah, Jerusalem and D’heisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Nina teaches at Cal State University East Bay and at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, where NH&Co. is in residence. To learn more about Nina visit http://ninahaftandcompany.wordpress.com/[/box]