Dixie Darr

In creativity, work on August 2, 2007 at 9:12 am


Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. Italian Proverb

Two years ago, Mia Michaels lost her father to lung cancer. She grieved, I suppose, as any loving daughter would, but Mia Michaels is not just any loving daughter. She’s a gifted and renowned choreographer. Last night on the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, she paid tribute to her father, Joe Michaels, who was also her first dance teacher, in a remarkable piece where she imagined getting the chance to see him one more time. The dancers, the judges and most of the audience were too choked up to talk.

One thing I’ve noticed in watching this show in its third season is that the dances tell a story. More and more I am coming to realize that what we do as human beings is tell stories and the stories come out in different ways. Choreographers tell them through dance.

I first started paying attention to our need for story when I ready Daniel H. Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, where he identifies the ability to tell stories as one of the necessary skills for the 21st century. Once I started paying attention, I noticed stories everywhere. I noticed especially how telling stories can elevate just about any situation. What made Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo more than just a collection of circus acts was the storyline of the performance. Not surprisingly, Mia Michaels was tapped to choreograph the Cirque du Soleil show, Delirium.

We all tell stories and, as author Natalie Goldberg said, “Your first job is to get your own story straight.“ How you tell it is up to you. There’s a famous story about a man passing by a construction site. He stopped and asked one of the tradesmen what he was doing. The worker replied gruffly, “I’m laying bricks, can’t you see that?” The man watched a while longer and then asked another worker what he was doing. “I’m just earning a living,” he replied. A third time the man asked a worker and the response was much different, “I’m building a cathedral.”

Using our work to tell our stories is a way of putting heart and soul and love into our work. It makes the difference between laying bricks and building a cathedral. Mia Michaels is building a cathedral.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

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