by Emily Kate Long
I was reminded recently of a Zen saying about the three “jewels” of training: great faith, great doubt, and great effort. None of these attributes alone is enough to make an artist—all three must work together in harmony. This month’s post is a look at what happens when the three elements fall out of balance and ways to restore them.
Call it a rut, call it a plateau, call it a crisis—every artist has been in one. It can be as minor as a bad class or as major as utter creative paralysis lasting weeks or more. Whatever the extent, the feelings of being stuck, going backwards, or wandering aimlessly are frustrating. Frustration often begets negative self-talk, and negativity is anything but productive! What’s a dancer to do? Checking in with each of the three jewels is a great place to start when trying to get out of a stuck place.
Every dancer (heck, every person) has strengths and weaknesses. Some dancers love to examine technique but have a hard time opening up onstage. Some are natural performers but find it difficult to pick up or master steps. Yet, an artist needs a well-rounded set of skills, and he or she needs to be able to call on those skills as required. The good news is that we can tap into creativity systematically. We don’t have to be at the mercy of the muse…it just takes a little self-knowledge and self-listening.
Let’s examine the makeup of the three Zen jewels and how each can work in the dancer’s life.