"Bad Dancer" (+ review of Creativity & Permission)

The stuff about my favorite online course by Marlee Grace, Creativity & Permission, is at the bottom if you’re a TL;DR kind of person.

The strumming of the guitar was my cue - as it blares out of the speakers I begin to unfold from my curled up position.

“I am still living with your, ghost…”

Writhing along the floor in some mixture of gymnastics and modern dance that came from god-only-knows where, I begin my audition.

The year is 1995. The location? My elementary school auditorium, in front of an audience of maybe five adults jurying the next talent show.

I actually have no recollection of this audition beyond the first move, of how I danced or who was watching, but I do remember choreographing on the carpet in the living room for weeks to the tune of Everclear’s “Santa Monica.”

I wasn’t accepted into the talent show.

At the time I was certain it was my performance, but in hindsight I think it may have had more to do with the song ending with the lyrics “we can watch the world die” being repeated over and over again, though I’m sure my freestyle floor undulations were not exactly the talent the central-Florida-Republican-leaning community was looking for.

I had completely forgotten about this event until just the other day, thinking about the moment when I officially decided I was not a good dancer. The moment I decided I would no longer dance in public, the beginning of over a decade of hiding my moves from anyone who was not the mirror in my bedroom (don’t worry, I’m now well out of the dance closet!)

Somewhat unknown fact about me: I LOVE to dance. It’s my main form of workout, I met my partner in a dance class, and I can rarely stay still when there’s a beat playing. If it’s 90’s hip-hop and R&B, forget about it, I cannot even hold a conversation if it ain’t made up of song lyrics.

So when Marlee Grace came to SUCCURRO in upstate NY last year, I was all up in that class - Composition + Practice, a weekend of improvisational dancing, writing, and togetherness. I moved in front of strangers. I watched strangers move, we studied the way each other danced and I no longer consider them strangers.

Marlee, in a film still from a dance video (lost the credits of who took this photo when Squarespace crashed - sorry!)

Marlee, in a film still from a dance video (lost the credits of who took this photo when Squarespace crashed - sorry!)

Since then, I’ve taken this workshop twice. I’ve driven out to Michigan for a two week residency at Marlee’s Center Space, and taken her online workshop “Creativity + Permission” . She’s taught me so much about what it is to be an artist sharing your work in the world, getting inquisitive with yourself and your work, and allowing space for a supportive relationship between the process and the product.

All this to say, Marlee has opened up enrollment for Creativity + Permission for July 1-27, and I highly recommend (there is also a scholarship opportunity for those who need help!).

This is the last time she’ll be running this course, read more here.

The lessons in Creativity and Permission seemed to arrive just as I needed to learn them. Marlee has this keen ability to help us systematically break down the walls we build up and question the lies we try to tell ourselves about our creative work, while being honest about the reality that it might not always be love light and success (and that's ok!). I was also surprised at how much I was able to learn from reading what the other students in the group had to say about their processes and approach to living as an artist.

 I tend to take things a little slower, so I did the course over two months instead of one, and I really feel like I could just keep running through these concepts and learn more each time I listen. 

Honestly, I wrote much more about my experience with this course, but then Squarespace crashed and I lost all that writing and maybe it’s for the better because it was trash, or maybe it was the best thing I’ve ever written. The world will never know.

So I leave you with the closing words from Everclear’s Santa Monica, a song that so clearly describes my personal evolution gained from that talent show experience and every other moment I’ve shared my art with the world, for better or worse.

“I'll walk right out into a brand new day
Insane and rising in my own weird way
I don't want to be the bad guy
I don't want to do your sleepwalk dance anymore

I just want to feel some sunshine
I just want to find some place to be alone

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die

Yeah watch the world die

Yeah watch the world die

Yeah watch the world die…”

christi johnson