Guest Post: Resident Artist Sarah Gottesdiener

Life as Improv: a week in Grand Rapids.


As I sit here at the Grand Rapids airport, literally the most enjoyable airport I have ever experienced in America (JFK Jet Blue terminal you are a close second for your Muji store and plentiful food choices, also of course need to give a shout out to Portland OR, my home away from home with your carpet and live musicians and your chatty TSA agents), I am reflecting on my time in Michigan. Much of it is too personal to share on another person's blog, but a striking comparison of two disparate practices I had today I can share in the hopes that some of you will connect dots between experiences in your own lives. 

Humans are born to make connections between things. Scientists argue it is a natural aspect of survival; witches and occultists (and Jungian analysts would say it is synchronicity—a gift from the cosmos and/or your subconscious, which some would argue is one and the same…a blog entry for another day indeed!). I can't help but make some connections between a powerful improv dance class I took part in at Have Company and my usual practice as a tarot reader. 


Marlee and Will led participants in an improvisational dance class a few nights ago that was a special space. The participants were vulnerable, willing creatures who were interested in engaging in active listening and experimentation. When I am in a space like this I reminded about how important being in real life is (aka not being on the internet/phone/texting), as well as the life-changing moments that fall through the cracks of capitalism. What we all experienced we were experiencing together, it existed only because of each other,  the moment could not be adequately documented, bought or sold, and what we were partaking in could exist far after the time we all shared together expired. Catalogued in further movements, choices and actions, perhaps imperceptibly but nonetheless still alive. 


Most of the people in the class were experienced, talented, trained dancers. These artists had danced on stages for years, gotten degrees, studied with the greats. Some like myself had no clue of the traditional dance world. Honestly, for much of the class I had no idea what was really going on. This led to a heightened process. Here I was able to see the risks and beauty of letting go and succumbing to the moment.


I was also reminded of my own practice as a Tarot reader. I have been reading books about, taking workshops and actively giving readings for about 8 years. Hours have been spent poring over meanings, staring at images, journaling, and reflecting on these sacred symbols of the journey of our human experience. I have done my time with my 10,000 hours. I will willingly go 100,000 more for all the gifts and fulfillment that the Tarot, and as an extension my spiritual practice has given me. Before a reading I ground, meditate, and connect to my guides. To be in tip top shape for this aspect of my life every day I meditate, ground, take tinctures, exercise, watch what I eat/drink, am in tune with my feelings and my energy. I am ready and open for any and all information to flow through me. 


However, when it comes time to give a reading there always needs to be an aspect of surrender. Much of the time I am sharing energy with a beautiful stranger, who I am about to give highly personal and customized information to. I take this task very, very seriously and honor the levels of asking and vulnerability involved with partaking in an exchange such as this. When I draw the cards and start that first step of interpreting, on some level I need to disregard the layers of information I have memorized and my years of studies and just trust what comes through. Sometimes my guide is READY to tell the participant information even before I have started shuffling. I always need to listen no matter how bizarre the sentences feel falling out of my mouth. In my experience, everything I tell people makes sense to them in some fashion. 


At the dance workshop on Saturday at Have Company some of the dancers had never met one another. Will Owens, the composer who was making music for the evening's exercises, had never laid eyes on Fiona and Nate, the musicians who were accompanying him. People were trusting one another in all kinds of sensory related ways: the dancers trusted one another's touch and the musicians' notes, the musicians trusted one another, and all of us trusted everyone involved to be present, conscious, and aware. This dancing, this ritual, was not a spectator event. We were reminded at the beginning of the class by our facilitator Marlee that people outside of the circle were as much a part of holding space as the dancers inside. That is a very Wiccan belief as well, when we come together in ritual. People were READY for whatever was going to come through, no matter how absurd it looked or felt. We were all Fools. 


Most of the dancers had practiced their craft for ages yet in the moment surrendered to one another. There were no mirrors, clocks, videos or smart phones. People locked into themselves and one another, trusting their innate intuition. We improvised and there was no failure, only feelings, movement, and listening. 


I encourage everyone to find a class, event, moment that they are truly improvising into with no expectation, only energy and trust. See what comes out on the other side and what you've learned. It will definitely spill over into other aspects of your life for the best. What do you want to try that feels uncomfortable to you? How would moving through that discomfort be helpful to you?

Thank you to Marlee, Will, Sarah, Ariel, Figgy, Elyse, Ericka, Amber, Laura Jane, Eliza, Pam, China, Fiona, Nate, and the other dancers I met in beautiful Grand Rapids, Michigan, in January of 2016.