Editorial Note: Each August for the past four years, I’ve asked dance artists at different points in their careers what “making it” means to them. Please join us this month in looking at what “making it” means as a dancer, artist and human.
BY COURTNEY KING; PHOTOS BY CHLOE ZIMBERG
When I was younger, I really got into The Bell Jar. Without taking too much of an emotional nose dive into teen angst, I will say that The Bell Jar, even at such a young age, was very impactful. Specifically, the passage about figs seemed to make an imprint on me. I actually made a shoebox diorama and presented to my class a section of the book. I read, “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.” It goes on to end:
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the floor at my feet.
–The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
I often return to the nook of this fig tree when I think about my future and making it…
I am aware of the spectrum of “making it.” I can sense the tradition and journey that seem necessary for an “I Made It” story. I catch myself yearning for one often. My early dance experience, family, and favorite childhood pop singers (Britney Spears and Madonna) were all influential in the development of this perceived narrative. It suggests that, in order to make it, you have to apply yourself rigorously for a long amount of time before you can get any recognition and, once that happens, you will be on top, at your best, and happy. This path appears through one specific goal, and takes necessary steps to get there. Essentially, this is the way to the end. This message has been constantly communicated to me.
Luckily, I’ve also been gifted with mentors and an education that have helped show me there are several ways to make it and to continue making it, especially in dance.
This past year has been remarkably different than I thought it would be. I graduated last May, and the time has gone unexplainably fast. At this point, I can’t know whether or not I’m making it. That is a perspective I don’t think I can have until years from now. In the meantime, each decision I make feels like an important and permanent step in the direction of a future me. I am very aware of my future and am constantly trying to be present. It can be heavy. But in some ways, this has actually helped me to spend time with loved ones, practice more self-care, and engage in creativity more fluidly.
For instance, I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by so many enriching friends and inspirational artists, many of whom have only come into my life in the past year. I have cultivated a strong base of people with whom I share deep connections. We have similar interests, desires to build community, and ideas for revolution. The performances and explorative projects I have had the chance to say yes to or attend this year have been gratifying. The strong convictions and genuine care of those around me help me to step forward. I’m amazed at the support system that the women and the dance community cultivate, and I’m happy to be a part of it.
When thinking about making it, I think of my face and my core smiling. I think of my family being proud of me. I would also be proud of me. I would have found a balance. Not a delicate balance, but a grounded balance. It would be sweet – a clear peak personally and professionally. Amidst the challenges of this past year, these peaks have been there.
So, the figs. The tree. There are many choices, futures, and opportunities available. What I must believe is that I need to seize the ones that beckon and, by doing so, I will be making it.
Courtney King resides in San Francisco in an old Victorian with a red door north of Panhandle. She enjoys reading, biking and making little videos in her free time. She choreographs and dances for Chlo & Co Dance and hers and hers. Reach out if you want to collaborate.