In our Level III sharing last week, I hit upon the theme of arrival and departure. Each piece had a movement component with the dancers entering from afar and then leaving waving goodbye on the other side of the stage. It was a strong physical and visual metaphor for the actual experience of these folks finishing their three-year commitment to Orff Schulwerk training. They arrived as one person and left as another and in-between wasn’t the dancing wonderful!
Introducing the performance, I noted that each arrival is already a step towards departure and each departure an arrival to the next step. The art of living well includes creating a welcoming space for arrivals, both for others and for oneself, a happy way to say hello and begin a new venture. And then ceremoniously giving a shape and form and means to fully be present in the bittersweet fact of departure, a way to say goodbye and prepare for the transition to the next hello. And then to make sure the dancing in-between is joyful, vital, connective to the best in others and the best in yourself.
And so today is the last day of vibrant World Music Course with some 27 beautiful souls from Canada and the last of my six courses I’ve taught this summer. Each course a lifetime in itself, a birth with the opening activities and welcome songs, a life filled with the best of music, song and dance that I have to offer crafted from my 42 years of teaching and research, a death eased by closing songs of goodbye that speak the sadness of things having to end and the privilege that we got to live and love all those days together.
And then I immediately turn tomorrow to preparing the space for the next opening, the beginning of the longer cycle of my 43rd year with children at The San Francisco School, a place with its own stunning Opening Ceremony, rich calendar of life and love lived for 175 school days and then another stunning Closing Ceremony ending with a Hug Line, in defiance of all lawyers and cynical views that children can not be touched. (We hug our children constantly and appropriately and because they learn loving touch, they can be touched by things that happen. We teach our children to move artfully in music classes that include dance and movement, in yoga classes, in P.E. and thus, our children can be moved by things that speak to the heart. If an institution forbids touch and neglects movement, they raise the next generation of cold-hearted confused people suffering from the loss of warmth and human contact.)
Truth be told, I’m reluctant to say goodbye to this strange but wonderful life of creating these powerful instant communities in 5 or 10 day life-spans. It will be fine and familiar and joyful in its own way to reenter the longer life span of the school year, but this work will be harder and instead of being wholly in charge, I will return to my non-titled role as teacher somewhat at the mercy of others making decisions and having to negotiate much with fellow teachers. When looking at political systems, I sometimes found myself attracted to the apparent oxymoron of “benevolent dictator.” It’s a role I enjoy in the workshop setting, feeling like a god creating a world and alone responsible for each decision I make as to what happens that day. But always with the idea of knitting folks together, bringing out our best possibilities through the vehicle of music and dance, leaving space for all to contribute, to question, to change the direction of the activity if needed and always with humor, warmth and fun at the forefront. It’s a great responsibility and a great privilege and I take it all seriously.
So eight hours from now, it will be goodbye Toronto and hello The San Francisco School.
With some tears and laughter in-between.