The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking Away

My dance teacher, Christopher Dolder, when I was at UC Berkeley, was an amazing dancer, teacher and mentor. He stood up for me in all of my youthful freakiness, backed up my artistic integrity, and kicked my ass 7.5hrs/wk (minimum).

Here's one of the most amazing things he taught me:

I was struggling with the concept of my mother's choice to be reborn in Christ. Not because of Jesus; that part I understood. I understand my mother's desire to be loved unconditionally, and to be led by something higher than ourselves. And I understood why she wanted to be part of a religious community. What I didn't understand was why she was giving up so many things; meat, movies, music, jewelry, books.

At the time (I was 20), I could only see this abstention as boxing oneself in; hiding from reality. And the things I was most proud of my mother for, in an avatar/hero/mythological way, were her accomplishments of bravery.
For example; my mother went to El Salvador in the late 60's/early 70's, where the government soldiers pointed machine guns at her, and some authoritarian tried to keep her from leaving the country with her new husband and an abscessed tooth. She was there with the Peace Corps, educating women about birth control in a time when IUDs were still piercing through women's uteruses, and that was deemed worth the risk, often.
My mother worked in the first Free Clinic in the Haight, holding young women's hands as they went through abortions, back then.
As a child, I saw my mother could walk into a household where the families were screaming and hitting, and she could calm everyone down and get them to speak to one another and make up.
As a school psychologist, my mother took four times as many cases per year than any of her colleagues. In the 1990's, she constantly went on home visits to field workers' families with dirt floors, and worked her calming magic - in a second language, no less. She took me with her to see happy families of different classes (not that we had much money, but it was tons in comparison), and made sure that I understood that beauty and kindness were to be found in places unfamiliar to my own white upbringing.

So, why then, I asked my mentor, would my mother be shutting her eyes to reality now??

Christopher then told me something that I pondered for weeks, at first as totally foreign, and then as amazingly intimately honest about true human experience. Being a self-proclaimed "hard-ass woman," at first, I thought, "that's silly! don't be such a baby!" But now I see the glory of it's subtle wisdom.

Christopher told me that, sometimes, after seeing enough pain and suffering, people just don't want to see it anymore, and they decide to protect themselves from being upset by the harsher things in life.

And, you know what? That is okay.

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.