Working with the Grey Areas


There is a Raymond Carver story entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The reader is a fly on the wall for a conversation between two married couples. As the story develops, a bottle of gin is passed around the table and love is discussed. The couples give examples and disagree over what love is and isn’t and the qualifications for all of the gray areas in between. The story finishes unresolved. We flies on the wall listen to the silence of the two couples as they grow drunker and farther away from agreeing than they were at the start. Where I’m writing from now, I get that.

In the face of tough questions that don’t have answers to them, such as, “What is love?” I bring you another question: What makes a person a dancer?

If you can answer that question in one beautifully simple sentence, send it to me. I would absolutely love to hear someone voice in clear, efficient language what dance is in their life. Like so many beautiful things, the emotional complexity of this art form we practice is one of its most cutting and captivating qualities.

Recently, the theme of decision-making has been called up front and center in my life. It’s forcing me to ask questions and write definitions for things I’ve never been remotely challenged on before. I rank things in order of importance so that my 24 hours a day 7 days a week are organized to keep my head above water. I’m working through how to marry my understanding of who I am with the external reality of maintaining emotional sanity and financial stability. So far, I’ve had little luck.

I was hoping that at this point, almost 3 months out from a 5-week dance excursion in the states and abroad, I would have answers and conclusions. Not only do I not have answers for “What is dance in my life?” I’m grappling with “Who am I?” I’m realizing that the former is much more easily worked around than the latter. Cruel as it may sound, I have told a million different stories of my dancer-life to random people on airplanes, at bars, and on the bus. I reason that we’ll never meet again and usually I don’t have the energy to unroll the full story (and it’s entertaining to imagine different realities). The honest reality is that I work full-time at a restaurant, dance and audition when I can, and go to school to finish my undergraduate degree. It’s wildly uncomfortable deciphering what’s become less like a clear picture, if it ever was, and more like a smudgy oil painting.

My smudgy oil painting life is the reason I collect artifacts. Along with the love and friends that save my life daily, these artifacts are the life vests that I throw on days when sleep is little and patience zilch. I am indirectly supported by all kinds of people who live their passions in a way that is fulfilling and sustainable for them. For the days when I am feeling strong, multi-talented, proud and hearty I channel the veterans of my field who tell you that you too can be a dancing biochemist or a dancer who designs buildings and I think YES! We can do it all!! And on the days when I come out of a quad-burning 3-hour ballet class I channel the 19-year-old Katie who dropped out of college and moved to California to train. Like so many artists, I love these extremes. I just can’t get enough of the drama. But the gray areas will always get me in the end.

For the past 4 years of my life, I have been a full-time dance studio dweller. But now, the reality of what is required of me to be able to support myself financially and spiritually is shifting. How I regulate or let go of these new ideas of reality in my own life is now my big challenge. I anticipate that I will be asked to wear many hats to support my identity as a dancer, many having nothing to do with dance at all. I’m putting faith in the artifacts I’ve collected, the truth of hard work and a few prayers for some rain. Right now, I am choosing the actions that will keep me afloat and propel me forward, uncomfortable as they may be. Although this landscape is surreal and foreign, I have to choose to trust myself enough to make it through the unknown. Good luck, self. Godspeed.

To Be Continued…

Katie Florez

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”

-Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love