I was teaching our big company meeting this past Saturday, all of the students in a funky circle on the floor on yoga mats, pads and pens in hand, filling out the worksheet I created the night before.  Teens & adults.

What does Grit mean to you?

Where in your life do you need Grace?

What does “JUST BE YOU” mean to you?

Just a few of the questions asked.  The responses?  Mesmerizing to say the least.


Let me take a minute to explain why the heck I named a dance show GRIT & GRACE, and why I moved from producing large Dance & Short Film Events at the Strom theater (big theater, beautiful, but slightly stark)  to a jam packed, strictly dance production, in a smaller, more intimate venue downtown at the Camden Opera House.

The purpose of dancing for an audience is communication, I think at least.  And even though stunning, heart throbbing, tear jerking, emotional roller coaster, mind blowing and truly phenomenal documentaries paired with individuals and groups coming out of their comfort zone, telling their true stories of triumph and despair and love and loss through dance and film, was amazing, inspiring and needed, I knew it was time to make a change.  (Funny, that was the them of our last show lol)

The culture of dance in this small Midcoast community is thirsty, hungry, in need for nourishment.  Not just a true display of old school hip hop to thought provoking contemporary, but an opportunity for everyone to get up and be truly themselves with out excuse and just dance because they want to – regardless of experience or reason.  However, everybody knows everything and you can’t tell anyone anything new with out it seeming like you’re telling them they’re either stupid for not knowing what they didn’t know, or that you’re an idiot and need to show proof as to why your idea, concept, thought, what have you, is even worth discussing and answer questions like “by which source is your theory validated?” etc etc.

Can’t I have a thought? A feeling? An experience that you might identify with and that moment that you accept you’re not so very alone or singular in your experience is precisely the moment that we bond, connect and a thread in this community is tied?  It just seems so simple to me. How to unite people together and use that force and energy to ignite creation and connection.

So I was musing about this debate of acceptance in our community, connection vs forced interaction, need for approval vs standing on a shaky soap box in a last-resort-scenario-to-be-heard, while stirring a cup of fantastic coffee from the local Zoot Coffee shop, that I totally ruined with too much honey and not enough almond milk (ok fine it was ruined by putting either ingredient in – stupid dairy issue) and I was kind of cold, still getting over a cold, pissed that I wore too-thin leggings, and was multi tasking by checking my bank account to make sure I’d be ok this week.  Then it all just stopped – gridlock.

The efforts to say the right thing to bring the audience into the auditorium to view your work and witness these amazing dancers was wasted completely with the words “effort to say the right thing”.  The truth is that people want the truth but they don’t want to admit it always (their truth or another’s).  That’s why dance is beautiful.  I can talk to you about things I want to discuss and things you want to know but I don’t have to say “hey lets have this conversation” and you don’t have to say “no i’m uncomfortable being honest”.  I just do what I’ve been doing for fourteen years and choreograph the concept and story and ask you to come to watch my dancers and see my art work.  Harmless, right?  I mean, that’s what the film was all about.  Pulling you in, helping you to identify, giving you source and proof that these stories are authentic and worth watching – POWER PERFORMANCE – duh!

But I was trying to figure out what exactly I was hoping my community could identify with in relation to my work with dancers.  What made what I was doing so special?  Why come to my human gallery of dance?

I wasn’t quite there yet.  Nagging at the back of my head, I felt slow and very challenged trying to connect this thought.

A struggle I used to have, that only arises on occasion was, as an artist, the craving for acceptance from my own community that I work in, yet daily reprieve enlightens my work as a woman and my spirit connection to be of service, in gratitude and self acceptance.  I must keep working my *$% off, yes, we all do, but this was more about walking away from a battlefield where I’ll surely lose and also not resigning to sit on the pillow and meditate with a candle.  I just wanted to live the way I wanted to live, feel amazing, work hard and see good work produced, and be human – and know that that is ok – and then – just – be happy, I guess.  And I think – that’s pretty much what everyone else is trying to do.

Then with out struggle, it flowed in, gates up, uncontrollable relief and excitement and inspiration:

It takes Grit to walk away from the same fight (thought which causes suffering) that we’ve been fighting and always losing to, and then choice to turn and work hard to get the things done that will bring us success.  But that can be painful and harsh and dirty and lonely – and that’s where Grace comes in.  It takes Grace to truly believe in your own greatness, while offering acknowledgment of your fellows in their greatness.  To ask for help when needed and offer help even when it is an inconvenience.

It takes Grace to do a Gritty job and to hold your head up with a smile and not share the mess but share the message in line at the coffee shop.  It takes Grit to do the job, but Grace to make the job done, take you to the next level in your personal growth, effecting nearly every single person you come into contact with.  From a friend, to a life parter, to your child or the person at Hannafords who is just waiting to clock out.

At the end of the day – if we all just honor our own work that takes a crap load of Grit and Grace to create, then we really are embracing the concept of just being ourselves.  JUST BE YOU sounded like something stupid my mother would say on my way to school in the morning, and I say it to my son and to my students, but the realization that we are enough just as we are, takes a journey to get to.

That’s what dance is to me.  A student literally has to have Grit to push through frustration in the studio but grace to accept that they are amazing even when they can’t get the move, which in turn makes their dancing so much more authentic and real. Channeling grace when things aren’t “perfect” is the grittiest job of all.  And if the two eb and flow like yin and yang, like ocean and shore, like lovers and passion, like child and momma, and wind in leaves, then the path to loving who were are JUST as we are – is the summit of happiness.  And if we are happy, we are in peace.  And in peace, we heal.

So, I guess my point is dance will heal the world.  And if you can identify to having Grit and Grace in your life then embrace who you are and come to our show and stay exotically open for 1.5 hours to concepts, movement, fun and power – and it just might make you gritty day in Maine, a little more graceful.

See you from the stage,

Kea Tesseyman