Creative Expression in the Public Arena

© by Marsha Silvestri

Today's post takes a diversion from my previous esoteric art topics, exploring dance as an art form to promote peace and ecology.

Last night I dreamed I was being interviewed for a TV broadcast about my professional experience as a “street dancer”, as if I were a celebrity and my history of performing in parades and festivals was of significant value or interest to the mainstream viewer audience.

OK, I know it was only a dream, but it roused the issue of “artistic value”, a recurring theme in my life, and an ever-bewildering question: Why are the creative arts are so beloved, providing so much beauty, brilliance and inspiration, yet financial success for artists remains elusive and minimal compared to many other skilled and unskilled professions? This mystery around financial values has plagued me most of my career - why much of the the world fails to fairly compensate certain arts, particularly street artists and dancers.

Seeing so much extraordinary talent in the streets and subways, sparks a slew of perplexing questions. Why do these hard-working ultra-talented dancers need to panhandle, busk, or fail to command better-deserved earnings? Why does society only seem to value celebrities in the arts, where the majority of unknown artists, despite their incredible talent, skill, hard work and experience, remain struggling in obscurity, exploited, rarely taken seriously as other professionals?

Many professions requiring much less talent, training or hard work earn much more than the average artist. Some career choices, for example, a postal mail carrier requiring minimal skills and training typically earns over $50K a year, with postmasters having less than 5 years experience earning as much as $74K. While artists and dancers may spend decades training, including countless hours of ongoing practice and high level performance experience, most barely earn a third of that at their peak, which for dancers tends to be a short career life span, requiring a supplementary career after dance retirement.      

Although I've done years of street performance work, because these were not full-time or contracted paid gigs, I always considered them more like a hobby, volunteer service, or fun, creative playtime, rather than serious credentials one might list on a resume. But this type of “experience” should count for something, at the very least towards notable accomplishments, just as musicians, painters, sculptors and other public artists have garnered recognition through their creative works. Dancers work often harder, to achieve or develop certain skills, that are rarely fairly or lucratively rewarded. Many works performed and appreciated in the moment, if not recorded, remain lost and forgotten by the world. I recall witnessing many inspiring street dance acts, but I rarely learn the artists names. I wouldn't have their contact info even if I could hire them, and I doubt their hats of spare change donations have provided a comfortable or secure living. 

Business analysts might argue that it's a matter of supply and demand, where artists and dancers are a dime a dozen, with greater supply of creative talent than commercial need or demand for such services. Creative work to many, seems less serious, more like play, the fantasy dream jobs everyone wants to do, where menial (boring) tasks or professions requiring advanced education degrees have not as many workers wanting, willing or eligible to perform those jobs. And don't get me started on the extreme salaries of CEOs and other overinflated overpaid positions that contribute to the financial inequality in the world today. I recently lost a long-time bread & butter freelance account because the takeover CEO decided to cut the company's freelance budget (maybe to increase his own salary). Some of my art clients who used to be happy to pay my modest going rates, now outsource that work to Asian counties where the cost of living is a fraction of what we pay here. I can't realistically compete with rates they're able to charge (lower than our minimum wage), so clients on a tight budget go where the work is cheapest.

Another troubling contributing factor, is that many artists love what they do so much, that they're willing to work for free to get exposure, recognition or opportunities to have their work produced. The business marketplace has a long history of exploiting the heck out of artists to pay the minimum that they will accept (if anything at all). Customers rarely challenge pre-set fees of a doctor, lawyer, plumber or many other professionals, yet with art and dance, they have no reservations about asking or expecting an artist to work for free, for credit, for a small pittance, or shamefully bargaining down their rates.

One of my pet peeves is the industry practice of talent contests, where artists actually pay a non-refundable entry fee to create or perform a work, for the “chance of winning” a prize that might not even include money! Getting their work published in a major publication, honorable mentions, some form of perceived high value (typically donated) merchandise, a trip, tickets to an event, or some other media exposure are common art contest prizes. Meanwhile the sponsors of these contests (I call them scams) get free access to hundreds of submissions of amazing talent from hopeful artists they'd normally have to pay for “spec work”. Instead they profit from all the entry fees, which probably more-than-cover any promised cash or premium prizes. Such practices lower the market value for other artists. I can't even count the number of times I've been asked to “contribute” art or other creative works for the promise of “free exposure”. And times I did contribute services to worthy causes, have never generated the type of prestigious opportunities for paid work these assignments “promised”. Actually it is the opposite, where I tend to get more requests for free work coming from some of these projects.

As for the value of my “experience” as marketable credentials, I'm not sure their income-generating value carries much weight beyond nostalgic interest in autobiographical stories, or that my history of decades past would have significant impact on many people today. Looking back, I've participated in dozens of parades, processions, “Lavagems”, Carnavals, “caminhadas”, marches and festivals around the NYC area and internationally, as an independent dancer, and also as member of groups, wearing themed costumes, uniforms or doing organized choreography.

My first experience participating in parades was probably the NYC Halloween Parade when it was still a fairly small West Village event. The parade has grown from a local community puppet show for children, to its massive incarnation of barricaded streets, floats and millions of spectators. I first heard of this parade in art school in the late 1970s from my art teacher, who lived on West 10th St along the route of the earlier parades (before changing to 6th Avenue).

I've always enjoyed designing, dressing up in outrageous Halloween costumes and loved the idea of hundreds of artists making a parade of it. Living in the NJ suburbs in the early 1980s, Halloween was NOT a holiday my then husband enjoyed. So for a few years, decorating our house with spooky art, ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and distributing candy to local trick-or-treaters, was how I resigned to celebrate.

After my first marriage ended, in 1985 I was teaching fitness classes at Westbeth, the art community where the NYC Halloween Parade began. That was the first year I participated in the parade. I dressed as a Sun Goddess, all in bright yellow, my face painted iridescent gold, wearing a giant sunburst headdress I crafted from 2-foot wide yellow crepe paper, and a billowing yellow Norma Kamali ripstop nylon rain poncho. I got tons of compliments on my costume and was both enchanted and inspired by the creativity, quite impressed by the high level of art I observed, taking the concept of Halloween to a whole new level. These were not your dime-store commercial kiddie costumes, but sophisticated professional theatrical makeup and puppets.

In 1986 I did the parade with a Brazilian “batucada” band (a percussion group or section), dressed as a Rio-style Bahiana in a hot pink swimsuit top with hot magenta slim slit skirt with green and white layered ruffles and sequined head-scarf, looking more like Carmen Miranda than the traditional colonial Bahianas known for their wide hooped skirts.

The route changed a few times since the earlier parades, that year ending at Union Square. Our group actually had a float I was scheduled to dance on, that I never made it onto due to massive gridlock traffic trying to get to the parade (big mistake to drive in NYC that day). So I missed the start, and wound up walking the hard pavement streets in silver strapped 4-inch high heel dress sandals. ANOTHER BIG MISTAKE - I'LL NEVER AGAIN DO A PARADE IN HEELS! I didn't enjoy that parade at all. When I finally reached the stage in Union Square, my feet felt so blistered I could barely samba, or even walk. Thank God my car was parked nearby, or I may not have made it home. I learned my lesson. For parading, comfortable shoes are a must!

Harmonic Convergence Egypt

Among my early “street pageantry” inspirations were a series of ceremonial events that took place the following summer in Egypt during a spiritual pilgrimage. Our eclectic group arranged a few theatrical processions with decked out camels, horses, historic costumes, banners, and an assemblage of extraordinary musicians, artists, healers and spiritual leaders, participating in ceremonies leading up to the Harmonic Convergence. We performed sacred ceremonies, music and dance at several sacred sites, getting private access to many. One excursion was to the Temple of Luxor for a magical Full Moon wedding inside the temple, followed by a beautiful procession through the Avenue of the Sphinxes to Karnak. The most epic was a magnificent sunset procession from Cairo up to the high desert overlooking the great pyramids, where about 70 participants spent the night together in a giant colorful carpeted bedouin tent with all-night drumming, music, prayers and meditations. I dressed in white Goddess garb as an ancient Egyptian temple dancer, dervish-dancing with palm branches and swirling veils. Almost everywhere we went on that journey, our bejeweled entourage donning royal robes like the cast of a historic film or opera production, drew attention and interest beyond your typical tourist group.

Throughout that era I was studying sacred dance and various martial arts, including weapons training with sticks, staffs and sword fighting/dancing from the Indian art of Gatka. I was getting paid gigs to dance with fire torches mostly for private parties, not really as street art. In 1987 and 88, I did the NY Halloween Parade as an independent dancer dressed as a guardian angel (swinging a real 3-foot sword I'd probably be arrested for wielding in public today). I also marched in a few Sikh Day Parades with swords, wearing traditional Sikh “bana” of kurta, churidars, sash and turban. The Sikh sword-bearers in parades today may require religious permits to carry ceremonial swords, kirpan knives and other weapons.

Each year the Caribbean Cultural Center would host a parade coordinated with the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Summer Festivals. Those parades and the Brazilian Independence Day Street Fair were among my early introductions to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian art that combines fighting, dance and acrobatic movements, with traditional songs and music). I began Capoeira training in 1988, along with studying Afro-Brazilian dance and percussion. I did a few parades in those years with local samba groups, dressed as a Bahiana or one of the Candomblé Orixas, both as a dancer and as a musician, playing a variety of small percussion instruments.

One year I did the Halloween Parade with a Capoeira group, where instead of the standard white uniform logo teeshirt and abada pants, we all wore black sweats that we painted with white bones to look like skeletons with skull makeup or masks. We “ran” the parade spinning cartwheels down the route, pausing at intersection intervals for quick rodas (sparring games played in a circle). A couple of years I watched the parade as a spectator taking photos, but it was never as much fun behind the crowded barricades as being in it and part of it.

Having immersed myself in the Brazilian culture for years, I couldn't wait to attend the real carnavals I'd heard so much about. In 1992 on my initial visit to Brazil I experienced my first Lavagem do Bonfim - a giant carnavalesque parade of nearly a million people in the streets, a route that spans over 5 miles and lasts all day, ending with a weekend festival at the Igreja do Bonfim. The origin of the tradition grew from a ceremonial spiritual cleansing, a symbolic washing of the steps of the church that takes place each January on the second Thursday after Epiphany. That year I was invited by Tony Mola, a Brazilian percussion master I met in NY, to march with Timbalada in their introductory Lavagem. Being my first time in Salvador, I got lost in the chaos and crowds, couldn't find the group, and wound up walking the route alone.

The Lavagem street cleansing rituals include prayers for peace, prosperity, and honoring the different syncretic religions that blended Catholicism, Yoruba traditions, as well as local and indigenous customs and arts. This clearing of the energy around the churches inspired local parades and festivals in different neighborhoods each week, leading up to the main festival of carnaval that ends on the day before Ash Wednesday for Lent.

The Festa de Iemanja is one such celebration that happens each year on February 2nd, with several smaller parades representing different groups honoring the Goddess of the ocean. Participants fill boats full of flowers and offerings, and the entire beach and surrounding streets are filled with street dancing, drumming, singing, fireworks and revelry. It's an all day party at the beach, not quite as intense or grand as carnaval, but is a very popular and beautiful festival.

I tasted my first Caranaval that year, fortunate to march and dance inside the “cords” (protected space reserved for the group) with a youth group from Olodum. Later that night being swept up through the tornado of crowds of the “trio-electricos” (giant floats or trucks that feature popular bands that move slowly through the carnaval routes), I was assaulted and robbed, attacked by 3 young men targeting me. I fought back and managed to hold onto my fanny pack, but little else. I was practically stripped bare of even my clothes. Lessons learned? There were a few. 1 - As a gringa, never go alone, especially late at night, and being unfamiliar with the areas most notorious for targeting tourists. 2 - Dress down and try to blend in with the locals. That was a tough one for me as I love getting all decked out for these festivals. 3 - Heed the inner voices of spirit guides when they give you warnings. It was after 11pm and my last bus back to my “pousada” (guest house or hostel) was at midnight. As I danced through the sea of adrenaline rush madness, a voice spoke to me loud and clear saying “Leave Now!” I checked my watch, and decided to stay 10 more minutes. About 5 minutes later I was attacked by these guys who were probably following me when my guardian angel gave me the warning.

Maledebale carnaval

Street dancing is big in Brazil, with so many public celebrations and festivals. Free Afro-Brazilian dance classes take place in public parks and squares where locals young and old can learn a group's choreographies and newest street-dance steps that evolve every year. In other lavagems, caminhadas (a walk, parade or march) and carnavals I attended, I danced with larger groups called “bloco Afros” (some having thousands of members including multiple top-level professional dance troupes within the groups) including Malê deBalê, Cortejo Afro, Os Mascarados, and some capoeira schools. Bahia carnaval parades go on all night long, nearly round-the clock for a week! If one could find a way to bottle the energy of these artists, musicians and dancers, it would be worth millions. That high energy becomes even more animated around the Trio-electricos and their free-form dancing fans, known as as “pipoca” (a slang term meaning “popcorn”, used to describe thousands of jumping fans having no particular affiliation with a group).

Back in the USA, I continued the parade circuits for Halloween, Brazilian Day, Caribbean Carnaval, and in the late 90s adding the Coney Island Mermaid Parade to my annual revelry. That became my favorite parade due to the spectacular creativity, seaside location and warm summer weather, where one can escape the street crowds and relax on the beach. It's also a shorter route, not as grueling as some that stretch out for miles or many hours. It's claimed to be the largest art parade in the country. At Mermaid Parades I usually do my own thing, dancing with fan-veils, fabric or other watery props, meandering in and out of different groups along the route to see, photograph, dance or interact with more of the parade (than be limited to the groups you're surrounded by in front or behind your group). The Mermaid Parade is funded by donations from the public as well as the dancers, groups and photographers participating in the parade. And it's a major photo fest! Don't go if you don't like your photo taken.

In 2007 I did the first NYC Dance Parade - and nearly every year since. I think I only missed 2, one due to an injury, and the last one when it poured! I've done that parade alone and with organized groups, including the Brazilian women's percussion group Batala. In 2017 I was a flag-bearer/dancer with my husband Benny for Dances for Universal Peace, one of the grand marshals that year, when the parade theme was “Peace”.

DanceParade 2017 Peace

Dance Parade began as an event to bring public awareness to an archaic law still on the books from the 1920s that prohibited dancing in NYC cabarets. In their mission to abolish that law, ten years later they were partly successful. Dance Parade continues as an annual parade and festival that showcases and celebrates multi-cultural diversity though a wide variety of dance styles and movement art traditions. The festival offers stage performances, free introductory dance classes, dance jams, and promotional info about various studios, groups and dance organizations.

In these parades some groups choose a leader who guides the the dancers incorporating popular steps from a particular dance style or sequences familiar to the group. Sometimes tighter choreography is rehearsed with full routines performed at intervals through the parade. Parade performances are usually more free-spirited than what you see on a stage or a show, with songs or movements repeated dozens of times so viewers all along the route can get to see similar highlights. I've had experiences in Brazil, dancing to the same songs or sets repeated for hours through the route after hearing them rehearsed many times preparing to enter the “folia” (procession revelry).

The 46th St Lavagem da Rua, began around 2008 as a traditional procession through NYC's “Little Brazil” as a ceremonial blessing of the weekend festivities. These were smaller, local adaptations of the major lavagems from in Bahia, added as an extension of the bigger Brazilian Independence Day festival that takes place every year on the Sunday before Labor Day. The parade culminated with a stage show presenting some of the top Bahian bands and performers from Brazil. It was a beautiful celebration I participated in every year dancing and/or playing percussion, until the city ended the tradition in 2015. 

Last year I participated in an all-day art pageant through the Lower East Side Gardens with Earth Celebrations, (an organization for Ecological Social Change through the Arts). There was much beautiful dancing, music, singing, poems, theater, prayers and ceremonies in each of the area gardens and along the East River at the end of the long route. My role was a water bearer, wearing a costume that looked like seaweed.

For some of these events, volunteers work for many months, with no pay, creating art, building props, puppet-making, sewing costumes, rehearsing, planning, and contributing in many ways, time, money, energy and dedication, as a labor of love for a variety of important and passionate causes. Earth Celebrations has been doing this pageant for 30 years. Their multi-faceted mission is devoted to protecting and restoring the environment, to clean up the river, preserving the garden community of the Lower East Side, creating ecological sustainable solutions, and building nature-preserves to protect the areas along the river edge from flooding due to ocean level rising.

As with any “free” festival, commercial interests always seem to find a way to exploit the events to offer the wealthy high-ticket VIP sections of premium viewing areas that the general public are excluded from. In Bahia, the top “trio-electricos” will linger in front of “camarotes” (premium paid sections), performing a full televised show, before continuing down the route, quickly speeding past the poorer sections of fans waiting in the streets. At least the faint of heart, poor, or crowd haters can watch the TV versions from the safety and comfort of their homes.

One reason I preferred to participate in the parades in Brazil was because I didn't have the budget for VIP stands, and being left in the streets, can get pretty rough, dangerous, crowded, restricted and difficult to dance, move, walk or enjoy. As a spectator you're being pushed, shoved, grabbed, groped, pick-pocketed, stomped on, pepper sprayed, and anyone short can't see much over the heads of all the taller crowds in front of you. But membership participation in the blocos or trios also comes at a cost, requiring paying sometimes big bucks for the group costume, t-shirt, wristband and privilege of being protected inside the guarded cords. The groups change costume designs each year, so wearing a shirt from a previous year won't grant you admission into the protected corded area. Some groups are doing away with this system to allow more equality and to protest the overly-commercialized, politicized degradation of these public festivals.

The same pay-to-play commercialism has usurped much of the appeal of NYC's “free” public events. Years ago it used to be that anyone could enjoy these types of cultural, general admission activities. These days, unless you have cash to spend (or donate to non-profit events), you're limited to standing in line for hours to get the few available truly free spots that are still not as desirable as the prime paid or patron donor sections. In NYC a so-called “free public event” VIP access can cost much more than a ticket to a Broadway show or major concert. I can't really blame the venues though, since funding for the arts has been slashed, many parks and organizations need to do something to generate the money to keep the festivals going. 

Many mainstream parades I have little or no interest in at all. I've actually never attended the Thanksgiving, Columbus, Veteran's, Saint Patricks Day or Gay Pride Parades. Most are too formal or military for my taste, or geared towards children or groups I have no affiliation with. I tried the PR Day Parade once, but it was way too noisy, packed and chaotic. I didn't like the energy so I left after a half hour. The Easter Parade is fun, not really a procession, but more a fashion/art show, photo op of people strolling, congregating along 5th Avenue around St. Patrick's Cathedral, displaying their creative Sunday best and outrageous bonnets. If you like fashion, the Easter Parade is a delight, a blend of old world and new style, plus anything in-between. Over the top would be an understatement.

The Labor Day Brooklyn West Indian Carnival used to be great until the police ruined it. In NYC, since the war on terror began after 9/11, the police crowd control has imposed so many confining rules, regulations, corralling triple barricades everywhere, not allowing street crossings, plus street and subway closings, taking much of the fun out of many major parades and festivals. These create frustration and panic, with people in back trying to push forward with nowhere to go. Many public events now make you pass through bag checks and metal detectors to enter. For Central Park Summerstage shows, restricted items include folding chairs, glass or cans, coolers or other picnic items commonly used worldwide in parks. Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park has a similar policy.

Forgive my police rant, but I do feel the high-security tactics cause more problems than the potential dangers they claim to protect us from. You can't even bring any backpacks, foods, drinks, chairs or other common everyday items to many events. The VIPs are able to bypass some of the restrictions, where the general public are mostly kept back far away from being able to hear, see or enjoy the “free” events. If you leave for any reason, you can't re-enter. This past New Year's Eve, it was pouring rain, but no umbrellas were allowed in Time's Square for that event.

And it keeps getting worse. Every year there are less freedoms and new rules added to the restrictions. Any form of protests, marches or public gatherings of 20 or more people require legal permits (seems like an oxymoron). Protestors are forbidden from using any kind of amplification. Signs and banners using wooden poles are prohibited that could potentially be used as weapons. Poles must be made of cardboard tubing, which may not hold up in rain or wind. That's one of the reasons I don't attend many protests these days. The police have made it so much harder to do anything, plus they keep drafting new laws to criminalize any form of protest, imposing steeper fines, risk of arrest, along with militarized police violence that's gotten out of control (including abuses by private security forces as were deployed at Standing Rock).

I've done some activist marches and events with my husband Benny, bearing his peace flags, plus participation in festivals, peace vigils, and related performances to support our common passionate causes. We did the Climate March in DC in 2017. That was an amazing, inspiring event, ending at Washington Monument with a giant dance party on the lawn, more like a festival than a protest.

Climate March DC 2017

I've attended other climate marches alone or with groups, including one in 2017 with Earth Celebrations over the Brooklyn Bridge, plus women's marches and Native American water protectors vigils around NYC. I may attend another women's march in Washington this month. As I wrote about in my previous blogpost on activism, I've always had mixed feelings about protests, sit-in actions, and civil disobedience. I tend to avoid the shouting gatherings, preferring using beauty, dance, music and art to draw attention towards positive missions, visions or goals, rather than focus my energy on screaming outrage or fighting government evils. My husband is more of a hard-core activist with his shadow personas of the Greedoser and Fossil Fool in his skull gas mask and black Darth-Vader-like slogan panels. I admire protestors who use their art creatively to shock, draw attention to, or make a memorable point, using humor, wit, satire and artistic expression, rather than typical angry chants or picket lines.

Sorry to drift off topic into the the police state and legal challenges of activism…

Back to street dancing as a vocational “credential”, which has its own sets of challenges.

With any type of performance work, usually years of formal or informal training and practice are required to develop professional-level skills, where one can earn any kind of living through the movement arts. So much training, rehearsing as well as the massive competition of talent makes dance a very challenging career choice. Most of my dancer friends hold day jobs or rely on other part time work to pay the bills, where dance is what they do for recreational enjoyment.

Sadly in most cases, unless one becomes a celebrity or star, these arts are greatly undervalued, with only a small few reaching the financial success of non-creative career choices. Most non-dancers are rarely aware of the investment of time, money, energy, sacrifice, blood sweat and tears professional dancers endure to be accepted into a good dance company with regular paid work, and hopefully recognition. The professional life-span of a dancer is also short, where constant intense training required to maintain high level skills can cause early burnout, injuries, or being replaced due to age discrimination.

Other factors include: Most artists either dislike or are not good at the practical basics of business, such as negotiating favorable fees, terms, drafting contracts and other legal issues. Also the commercial potential of many arts tends to be limiting. You're subject to high competition, unstable income, no benefits or vacation pay, needing to constantly seek work, spend time and energy preparing for and going on unpaid auditions, plus the need to constantly prove and sell themselves. Many artists are also not great at publicity or self-promotion in ways that convince potential clients of their market value. They often need agents to manage these things. Some of these challenges may have new solutions thanks to social media and platforms like You-Tube, with everyone having phone video cameras can now record and immortalize extraordinary dance performances. This increases visibility for artists and helps document skills for self promotion.

These days I'm rarely “hired” or paid to do performances, though I do often get asked to contribute dance and flag work for festivals, parties or non-profit events. Most of my street arts have been unpaid, improvisational or unrehearsed, though not entirely unplanned because costuming still involves elaborate artistic planning, and I also need to practice to stay in shape to perform. My style leans more towards spontaneous free-flowing spirit, joining in with whatever theme, music or irresistible rhythm swoops me up in the moment.

Career-wise, I always supported myself through my visual arts, and still do today. Dance, martial arts, teaching yoga and fitness were all side-kicks I did because I loved doing them. I believed in their benefit to others as well as to my own life and health. I danced for the joy and inspiration of it, not primarily for money, profit or fame. Dance was never meant to be a full-time “business” to devote all my time or energy to. Getting paid was more a perk than an objective that helped defray my expenses. The years I was dancing “professionally” on a more consistent basis, most gigs I got, paid very little, usually $25–$50 per performance, barely covering my costs (forget the hours, sometimes weeks of unpaid rehearsals). It was never enough to fully support me.

Occasionally I'd get $100 for a 5-minute fire dance at a party or festival, or more for a full multi-disciplined performance. One might think that's decent pay, until you consider all the time and energy it took to train, choreograph, practice, select music, prepare and provide materials, supplies, props, costumes, makeup, travel time and costs to and from gigs, gas, tolls, parking, hanging out backstage waiting around to go on if there are other performers, occasional injuries, and other factors the audience never sees (not to mention all the money spent taking ongoing dance, yoga or martial arts classes). A client might argue that $100 for 5 minutes is equal to $1200 per hour, but dancers rarely receive full-time salaries or steady gigs more than a few per week, if they're lucky! $300 a week is barely enough to survive on after taxes, rent, food, phone, utilities, health care, insurance, etc. Agents may promise more work, but they take a cut and you wind up working harder doing more gigs for less money. Some dancers do well as dance teachers if they develop a strong following teaching several weekly classes, or land jobs at prestigious universities. Dance work is physically demanding and most dancers, even those working full-time, never earn even $30K per year. Dancers are not in it for the money. Though studio owners and managers tend to fare much better. My private yoga clients always paid better than teaching in health clubs or studios. Many dancers do well teaching Pilates privately or becoming personal fitness trainers or physiotherapists.

As much as I love to dance, at this point in my life, I realize it's unlikely that I could successfully compete at a professional level with fresh-faced high-energy twenty-somethings who could easily replicate what I do in seconds. I prefer to dance on my own terms as a labor of love. The flag dancing I do with Benny is pretty unique. We've blended our diverse dance talents and movement-art skills to create a unique form of improvisation. His original hand-painted flags make it even more identifiable and special. If someone wishes to hire me (or us) for a gig, great! If not, I'll continue to dance for the love of it, creating beauty, grace and hopefully having fun inspiring others in the process.

What is my higher purpose in these musings? Mainly to share unique perspectives, stories, little-known facts, opinions or points of view that can serve to help, heal, educate or inspire others. Having my astrological north node in my second house of values might indicate that my higher purpose involves things we value – materially/ financially, as well as spiritual, emotional, professional and other forms of value. In Aquarius, that may indicate new, eccentric or unique ways of creating forms of value through the arts, or making a utopian contribution to society. I'd be thrilled if recounting my experiences can generate expanded awareness, interest, or help support the arts, to promote peace and innovations to help preserve the planet. If my blog helps me sell related books, art, products or services, I also welcome those possibilities. Though I'm not overly optimistic about earning millions as an author, as writing has become another skill that seems to be a dime a dozen these days.

I hope sharing my adventure's and stories have been worth the read.



© 2019 by Marsha Silvestri -