Lonely, Terrifying Gifts

Martha Graham grew up in a family where dance was frowned upon as a career. When she finally began to study it, she was considered too old, too short, too heavy and too homely to be taken seriously. Think about that: MarthaGraham. They thought she would be an okay teacher but not good enough to make it as a dancer.

What they didn’t know was that dance was her reason for living. She looked upon it as a celebration, an exploration of life and a religious calling that required absolute devotion. She said that she did not choose to be a dancer. She was chosen.

Like all great artists, Graham was a disruptor. She broke the rules of traditional ballet to invent a revolutionary new language of dance, one that was meant be challenging and disturbing. In the beginning, her performances were often the subject of ridicule and she was made the butt of hostile jokes. Remember, women had only won the right to vote a few years earlier in 1920, and one who ran a dance company that created works that commented on war, poverty and intolerance was unnatural and suspicious.

However, Graham persisted. She continued to portray women called to a higher destiny, women who were forced to overcome fear before they could answer the call. She didn’t know she was becoming Martha Graham an icon, she was simply trying to understand her “lonely, terrifying gifts”. In doing so, she was making visible all those feelings that people have inside them but can’t put into words.

It’s the same thing that you do when you're making something. No matter what medium you're working in, you try and figure out who you are so that other people can see. But when you are doing something that no one has done before you will not be always get “picked” by others and that requires that you develop a different set of internal resources.

Do you ever feel like your gifts are lonely and terrifying? How do you continue to be creative?