Dance Like Someone’s Watching


Forgive me.  Forgive me for I’m about to embark upon a blog project that is inspired by another blog. Actually, it’s even worse than that.  It’s a blog inspired by a blog, which inspired a book, which inspired a movie about a blog. Last night I watched Julie & Julia for the first time.  For those of you that don’t know it, this is a movie about a woman who vows to make all the recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook (524 recipes), “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” within one year.  After the movie, I turned to my son, Aleister, who is eight and I said, “What if I were to make 365 dances? A different one every day of the year?” 

First let me explain.  I make dances.  I can’t help myself.  I’m a single-mother who has done a (sometimes) decent job of balancing a full-time job as an accounting manager for a law firm with my professional dance career. But mainly the only reason this works is because I am compulsive about creating dances.  Men I’ve dated find it terribly cute when I break out dancing every time there is music. . . the first few times. I am the grown woman who tap dances in the grocery store. Those aisles! Those floors! I am the lady glued to her iPOD marking out steps on the crowded BART platform. My dentist keeps warning me about clenching my teeth together, but what I finally realized is that I don’t clench! I tap out rhythms with my teeth!  

My attempts to balance this compulsion with my job and motherhood has resulted in a dance career full of fits of starts and stops:  I’ll spend 8 months entrenched in producing, creating, or dancing in a show and then, once it’s over, spend the next 8 months watching episodes of “Mad Men” on the couch insisting that red wine and dark chocolate are a food group and driving in soccer carpools. I never stop creating exactly, I just stop taking those creations seriously.  So, what if I took a year to take the creating seriously?  Twyla Tharp says that creativity is a habit.  Exercising my creative muscles will make them stronger. So what if I make it a habit and vow to make a dance for every day of the year? At the end of one year, I won’t necessarily be the world’s greatest choreographer but I’ll be 365 tries closer to being any good. 

When I was a kid growing up in Indiana I would make up dances at the end of the driveway while waiting for the school bus each morning.  I’d make up show tunes patched together from snippets of ones that I’d heard (remember this is. . . . er, awhile ago and before the days of internet access for 8 year olds and iTunes and whatnot), and make up dances to go with them which I would then perform at the end of my driveway each morning.  Cars were zooming past (we lived on a pretty busy street) and there I was, waving my mittened hands around and singing at the top of my lugs while executing high kicks and jazz squares. Little did I know my artistic blueprint was being formed.  There was something about the feeling of being watched, but not stared down which really got my creative juices flowing.  Knowing that people would see me as they whizzed past, but not stop and judge.  Well, that was appealing. Putting the pressure on without the demand for polish.

So you see, that’s what this blog is.  A little bit of pressure.  The feeling that there might be people watching without the expectations that they will. An opportunity to exercise my creativity every day.  An assignment.  Professional choreographers (ahem! I guess I mean those that actually get paid to do it on a regular basis) are expected to create nearly every day.  What I’m doing would be nothing new to them.  But I don’t have that luxury. Or do I? Why can’t I decide to just do it myself? This project is part Twyla Tharp and part Nike: I’m going to make it a creative habit and just do it!

I’m about to celebrate one of those major type birthdays that makes you glare furiously at your “silver” roots, and which you conveniently forget to tell your friends about in order that you may instead lie under the covers willing yourself to stay the same age. I’d like to think of this project as a birthday present from myself to myself.  I love a challenge.  If I really love to create dances so much, is it something I could do every day? Would I still love it?

Last night, after watching Julie & Julia, I was tucking my son into bed and I started whizzing around his room in a goofy dance. His room was quite spacious as we (me) had spent an entire morning working together (me threatening to throw toys away if he didn’t clean them up, him pretending to clean while really playing Pokemon) to clean it (shove all toys in closet) in a mother-son bonding experience (both of us crying from frustration at closet doors that wouldn’t shut).  However painful, the result was a clean spacious room.

“Oooooh, your room is so clean, honey! It makes me want to dance! That could be my first dance,” I said, jokingly engaging the doorway as a partner in an arabesque, “The Clean Room Dance.”

He gave me the same look I get when I’m tap dancing in grocery store aisles.

“Well, Mom,” he said after a moments consideration, “but not today. You should go to bed. That’s a lot of dances. You need  your rest.” 

I was touched by his concern, but my suspicion was that he just wanted a cuddle.


About Holly Shaw

Holly Shaw is a San Francisco Bay Area dancer and choreographer who has performed as a soloist with Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos off and on for several years. Shaw is the creator of the Eve’s Elixir project, a platform for artists of contemporary world dance wanting to bring new ideas to traditional dance forms, and has produced several shows in San Francisco. Her flow between contemporary modern dance, flamenco and Middle-eastern styles makes her a unique choreographer. Shaw has spent years training Bay Area dancers in technique and improvisation, challenging them to dance from a deeper level and uncover their unique style.

8 responses »

  1. You can do it, you can do it…YOU CAN DO IT — remember that song and the video of you and Heather singing it…? You were perhaps 4…maybe 5?
    Yes you definitely can do it. You’ve always done it and you can get it done.
    So, do we get to see a video each day of a new dance? Will you post them here or with a link to You Tube. I would love to see a video of you dancing every day.
    #1 Far,

  2. creative energy abounds out of those who allow it to flow through them, so why not party while the candles are still bright!? Where else is the joy so bountiful?
    nothing like moving to an impulsive beat while quietly scanning the area for another pair of willing feet that are ready to jump out of their shoes and bounce to the music, then presto, that u nbc anny glint of “I’m there with you, man!”them, bam! In flash, bodies in motion to eternal dance, a display of exuberance in celebration of life itself! Long live dance mosher’s!

  3. Holly- You are so amazing sister. You can do anything. Can’t wait to follow and see! All my love to your fantastic creative heart…dance your butt off girl. Create away!

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