Come Dance with Me. The Story of Little Orange Studio

Exhilaration is…what happens when i come home from work, go straight to little orange studio, crank up my Pandora, forget about work and responsibility, and just go wherever the music takes me.  Literally!  This is how i exercise.

Will I do some belly dancing? or lift some weights? or do some step aerobics?  How about some Yoga?  Ballet?  Maybe some Pilates?  Maybe I feel like just putting on a pretty skirt and dancing like I was on stage again (is that wierd? oh well.)

And my husband?  What does he think of his wife in the other room practicing torso undulations and snake arms… busting out in hour long dance routines? It used to freak him out when I first started doing it no doubt… but it doesn’t seem to phase him anymore.  he usually can’t help sneaking into the studio to come stand beside me in the mirror and do his special guy-version of a hip shimmy… or he likes to tip toe up behind me and make inappropriate gestures when i’m doing yoga (hello? Downward Dog? we all know some of those poses clearly invite innocent spousal butt grabs).

My dance habits although a bit strange to others, are my most regular and effective form of exercise, and an endless source and outlet for creativity.  I go through constant ups and downs with regards to my commitment of keeping up a regular schedule.  I’ll start to feel really flexible and strong, and toned, and then i lose my steam.  I get lazy.  I procrastinate.  But ultimately, besides fair weather walking,  this is my main source of exercise. To understand this slightly odd hobby – dancing for hours in a special room of my house- and to understand why i do it and what it means to me, one must know some of my background.

image: First Lesson at Truempy Ballet School by Alfred Eisenstaedt

A brief (although wordy) history of my significant, but very humble, experiences in dance, movement, and fitness…

  • 1977 (I was 7, sure go ahead do the math).  I had known for “years” that i wanted to be a ballerina.  I had not learned yet that i was destined to suck at all sports and athletics.  I started going to ballet classes at a little school in Manchester. I Loved it, but I hated it.  I was addicted to the beauty of it and to the feeling of moving my body to music, but so incredibly challenged by the intensity of it all… so much pain…so competitive.  I couldn’t live without it, but I dreaded every muscle throbbing-toe bleeding class and rehearsal.  [How I loved you, Ms. Priscilla, even when you made me cry and made me do it 37 times, until it was perfect . I truly loved you despite the oozing blisters.]
  • My bedroom at the time becomes, part little girl’s room, part Grand Stage where my early “choreographies” are rehearsed, and performed for unsuspecting aunts and uncles.  I think I charged them each like one dollar.
  •  I did primarily ballet at my dance school, but i also did lot’s of jazz, and tap until I was about 22.  Tap and jazz were where i had the most fun (Who’s not having fun slinking around to Smooth Criminal, and tap dancing your heart out to 42nd Street!)… but ballet was still my first love.  The satin toe-shoes, the delicate tutu’s, the perfect pirouettes , the graceful arms and hands.  I was never the best in my class, and i only ever got a few solo parts, but i kept up with it…always knowing it was my foundation for being able to do any of the other stuff.  I spent many years performing in recitals and small town productions with my beloved first dance school.  My mom and dad were there for every performance, every class, every accomplishment, every smile, every tear.  My mom sewed my costumes.  My dad helped backstage… assembling Santa’s sleigh…he even helped tie up the unraveled ballet shoes of tiny sugarplums in the wings.
  • I went to college and joined the dance company there, which is the first time i was exposed to any other types of dance.  During this time I learned a little modern, and contemporary.  Performed a few times, tried some choreography.  Got a surprise marriage proposal from my dance partner, on stage, during a show, in front of our families and my entire college campus. (that wedding never did happen, but a very memorable “dance” moment!  and great man that i hope is living a happy, healthy life with a beautiful family somewhere. i didn’t deserve him.)
  • My mid-twenties…started dabbling in some step aerobics and learning to do light weight lifting, etc.
  • After college ended, I danced here and there until i was about 26 and then stopped.  I was too old for dance recitals, and didn’t know of any options other than traditional ballet and tap schools where i could continue dancing.
  • Started going to gyms more, learning how to use fitness equipment and taking group classes… aerobics, kickboxing, and the occasional yoga class [a little too new age and misunderstood by me at that time, but i was slightly and subconsciously intrigued].  My body looked and felt great, but I never loved going to the gym.  “What? No pretty costumes?  No beautiful music?  No fun choreographies? “Waahh… grown up exercise… yuck!”
  • Stopped moving altogether for a few years, besides some pretty steady nightclub dancing and the occasionally date on roller blades.
  • Mid-late 90’s, found a tiny little classified posting in the Advocate, for a belly dance class held in a used book store.  “Belly Dance? A Book Store? Interesting…”
  • 5 minutes into my first class…Hooked…I was going to be a dancer again.

  • Gradually found some more classes to take.  One of my early classes was a fusion of belly dance and yoga.  Hmmm… i was liking this yoga thing more and more… especially if i can do it while i’m belly dancing!
  • Started taking lots of belly dance classes and traveling for workshops… and performing a bit.  Hip Scarves! Silk Veils! Sparkly Costumes!  Fake Eyelashes! Exciting Music!  Classes with famous experts!  Dance camp with professionals and famous musicians! THIS WAS LIVING!
  • created a special exercise/belly dance area in my apartment at the time, doing more independent practice and study of belly dance, yoga, pilates, and fitness in general as I slowly and modestly transformed the space into my “dance room”.
  • I spent a few years doing local belly dance performances with other students for fun, for fundraisers, in restaurants… I met so many lovely, creative women.
  • Learned a bit more Yoga and Pilates with books, classes and workshops. Both feel very complimentary to my belly dancing.
  • Got a little stagnant with belly dance after a while.  Tried my hips at some Polynesian and Hula, knowing the music and movements would be equally as thrilling and beautiful.  The costumes were interesting too… I performed at a handful of gigs and parties … got to wear a few grass skirts, and yes… i had my own pair of coconuts.  I had a great time, met more lovely, creative women.
  • Decided to focus my efforts solely on belly dance once again… some classes, a workshop or two, another few performances… did a little teaching for beginners. Only stayed involved with the belly dance community for another year or so.  Life got in the way, as they say.  A few dear friends remain.

  • 2006, I moved.  I started creating a new space, a new room in my new house, where i could practice, play music, be comfortable, and feel inspired – and where I could paint the walls any color of the rainbow without losing a security deposit.
  • Today, I’m dancing again.  I get in an occasional funk with the seasons, my moods, or a temporary obstacle.  But I am dancing.

***

Little Orange Studio is where,

even though I am no longer formally involved in dance…

I am still a dancer. 

There are magical forces at work here.

This is where i get the movement and exercise my body craves.

This is where i am still able to be creative with choreography and improvisation. 

This is where I am the artist I have always wanted to be.

This is where I am the writer I never thought I could be.

This is where I heal, ease pain, and get stronger after the cancer.

This is where I am still a dancer.

This is where I will forever be…

ballerina, belly dance goddess…

dancer.

***

My life of dance and movement gave me the vision to create these spaces where i live.  The space I have now is where i dance, exercise, and make artwork in harmony.  One inspires the other… inspires the other….they are not separate. Since having little orange studio, I have experienced the power it has over my creativity, inspiration, and motivation.  At any moment… early in the morning, or by the flicker of candle light and a full moon… you might find me in there making a necklace, doing sun salutations,  painting a canvas, dancing to middle eastern, acoustic or club music.  sometimes I’m wearing yoga pants and a hip scarf… other times i am decked head to toe in belly dance attire with swirling skirts, jingling coins, lipstick, and flowers in my hair.  No matter what you find me doing in there, there will be music playing, candles glowing, and incense burning.  No matter what you find me doing in there, i am being the most “me” I could ever be.

What inspires me about the sunny studio by the woods?  The warm colors… the delicate sunlight… the magical lamps… the shaggy rugs… the shelves of lovely books and treasures from my past… the whimsical paintings… the meticulously organized art supplies… my gorgeous [hand-made-by-hubby] table and flea market furniture… my cat sleeping in a basket of pretty scarves…the late-morning light that beams onto the colors and my skin.

One might agree, It’s not always easy to find motivation for exercise, or the recipe for creativity, or the wisdom to stop and listen to birds from a yoga mat.  “Real life” always seems to trump.  But putting petty excuses aside, there are no valid reasons for me not to want to go into this room and be creative, exercise, write, dance.  This is where i feel whole and strong. This is where my soul longs to spend its days.

Little OS is my story.  Here I can dance until i am 80 and create until earth’s journey ends.  I never have to retire my sparkly hip scarves or jingly coin belts!  I realize i may want to think twice about the sequin bra’s and coconut shells in a few years, although perky is no longer an issue for me, so who knows! (this can be further clarified for you by Dancing Rapunzel if curiosity now has the best of you)

ALLLLL this being said, I have secretly wished i could help other people create spaces like this for themselves, for whatever it is they want do do.  I don’t think i will have my little orange studio interior design company any time soon, but maybe someone will read this and try it for themselves.  and then poof.  it happens for them…  the magic.

My space happens to be a spare room in the back of my house tucked near the woods.  A cozy corner, a large closet, a patch of grass under a tree can work too.  Your space might be waiting, right before your eyes.  Give it some love.  Give it some You.

Let’s say you had an extra room or spare corner in your home…what would yours look like?  What would you do there?

Maybe you already have a space, that is your story, and you’ve just never told it.

My hope is that at least one kindred blogger or reader will find this post, and be inspired to create their own space to dance (or meditate, do situps, sew dresses, do yoga, make art…  ).

Exhilaration, Bliss, Spiritual Perfection, might be waiting for you there.

love, skyblue. xo.


My heart in full color

I often wonder what it must be like to not love art… to not love creating.  I can’t even imagine it.  People seem to think i am part yoga hippie,part crazy cat lady, and part health nut.  I have no idea why people think I’m a health nut. I had a raspberry danish, two cups of coffee, a glass of root beer, and a large handful of m&ms today.  The other descriptions are pretty accurate i would say.  A day of fun for me would be a few hours at the flea market, another few hours painting in my studio, and another hour or two doing yoga and belly dance.

I was thrilled to spend a few hours in my studio this weekend.  As I worked on a couple of paintings, I found myself asking,  “Why do I love art so much?  Why do i long to spend all the hours of daylight in my studio, sketching, gluing, painting…

I haven’t figured out exactly how to answer that question.  But i decided (for once) I would not judge every stroke, and second guess every color choice, and worry if my paintings would be good enough, or if they would have anything worthwhile to say… I would instead simply enjoy each stroke, and notice the juxtaposition of colors and shapes.  I would just get lost in my paint and let my brushes speak what is in my heart.

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These are some close-ups of the series i’m working on for my living room.  I love the way paint and canvas unite to make the most interesting patterns and textures from the close-up perspective.  More to come i hope.  Happy Monday!

e.j.l. xo

Angel

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” 

Michelangelo

______________________________________

I had this piece of wood.  I knew i wanted to paint a picture on it. it took me about two years to figure out just what i wanted to paint on it…

It was the best part of the morning, when the sun starts beaming warmth into my studio.  It was a Saturday, my favorite day.  I grabbed the piece of wood, sanded it for a while, and made a decision.  There i was, with all my best shades of purple, red, orange, and blue, ready to paint some random abstract sketch i found in one of my art journals…

And then i saw her out of the corner of my eye, right in the swirls of wood.  she was twirling around and around, her hair flowing, wearing the prettiest skirt.  i honestly couldn’t believe what i was seeing.  i looked away for a minute, but when i looked again she was still there.  i left the room to get some water, came back, and there she still was, kind of sad, twirling and twirling.  at that moment, i knew the abstract “whatever” could wait.  I quickly traced her silhouette with my graphite, before she could vanish.  then i just started painting.   When she emerged, I was her.  She was me… the dancer inside me.  She was so lovely and happy to be dancing, and a much better dancer than i ever was.  But there was some sadness in her eyes.   i named her Daisy.

i have danced on and off my whole life.  Ballet, tap, jazz, modern… In my late twenties i thought i was done for good.  I stopped altogether, and it went on that way for a few years, but i always felt the void.  In my 30’s i discovered belly dance, and thought i would be doing it until i was 80.  For many reasons in 2009, i stopped belly dancing and life went on with all its usual ups and downs…  just no dancing.  I was surely never going to dance again.  i was tired, my bones were creaky, i couldn’t even do a grand plie without groaning.

It seems Daisy came into my life just in time.  She reminded me how good it feels to dance…and that i was not yet finished dancing.  I realized that i don’t need to go to classes, or perform with a troupe, in order to continue to be a dancer.  i could dance right there at home, in my little orange studio, and i could do it my way.  Each plie, at my own pace.  Every hip shimmy, as gentle or as intense as i chose.   I could do ballet, belly dance, even yoga and aerobics, whatever the music made me feel like doing.  it would heal my body.  it would heal my spirit.  and i might even wear a bikini again!

Well, I didn’t wear any bikinis this summer, almost two years later, but to this day I dance and do yoga with Daisy.  My body is finally starting to feel stronger and the movement finally feels good again.  I intend to be dancing with her until i am 80, or more.   Daisy has been hanging on the wall there now since the first day i found her, another unfinished painting, another project procrastinated.  Someday I will take her down off the wall, and give her the attention she needs and deserves.  But it doesn’t really matter when, or if, i finish her.  What matters is that she was there, just when i needed her.  And now she is free.  Still a little sad sometimes, but free.

e.j.l. xo

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p.s. before the comment is posted… i am of course aware that my Daisy is not even in the same universe as Michelangelo’s angels.  I just liked the quote. (-:

Have you ever seen an “angel in the marble”?  Did it effect your life in some way?

little orange studio, i love you

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i am forever tidying up, moving stuff, hanging stuff, painting stuff, all in the an effort to create the perfectly inspiring space to do make art, write poetry, do yoga… some days i avoid the space – not feeling creative, too tired, too busy, the lighting is bad, its too cold, have a headache… if it’s an excuse, I’ve thought of it.  But on other days it’s hard to get me out of there.  If I had a sacred sort of space on this earth, this would be it.  If i were one of those life coaches, I would highly recommend creating a space like this, for yourself, in your own home if possible.  A place where you can feel inspired to do whatever it is you really want to do, really love to do… even on your craziest and laziest days.  One of my most ridiculous excuses is that if i can’t spend all day in there, i don’t want to go in there at all today.  Isn’t that bratty?  I decided that i need to just get my butt in there, every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  and maybe good things will happen.  Incense, mood lamps, a crazy coat of paint… whatever it takes to entice you into your special space.

e.j.l. xo

p.s. Tell me about your special space!  (-: