Roots to Wings (scroll down)
Roots to Wings is a Conceptual Process based project that uses movement to interpret finding home in spiritual growth. It will result in a full-length ballet collaboration between Conceptual Artist: Nicky Watts, that’s me, Ballet Choreographer: Margot Mink-Colbert, Music Director: Cantor Jessica Hutchings, and Spiritual Director: Rabbi Yocheved Mintz. This project has been in conceptual development for over three years and I have been in different phases of physical and spiritual transformation for that purpose.
Roots to Wings will end with a full-length ballet which is the direct collaboration. Part of preparation for that ballet is for me to perform as many relevant performances as I can from now until opening night of the final ballet. These performances explore both the subject matter being discussed in the production and give an opportunity to practice ballet, dance, and movement. The goal is to reach a semi-professional level by the time of the full-length ballet, with the understanding that Mink-Colbert will create choreography for my part that is to my level at the time. I will not be the best dancer in this performance, but the goal is to be the best I can be and have my process of learning the ballet mirror my process of learning Judaism. These early performances allow me to grow an audience compelled with the subject matter because they have seen the raw openness of exploration.
The artistic connection for the audience is that I am learning dance for this project, at 35. This fragile vulnerability helps the audience be more vulnerable because they see my vulnerability and dedication to stay with it through the discomfort. The spiritual intrigue that the audience has expressed is, “why Judaism,” and an attraction to my dedication to this path, which many have related to their own spiritual explorations.
Since the beginning, ballet/movement and Judaism were a combined package, to a point in which I felt Gd was pushing me into it. This project came to be because I had been gifted a cd of Cantor Hutchings’ prayers. I didn’t know what a cantor was and I didn’t understand that the songs were prayers. I was compelled to dance to them, immediately. Each time I danced to Hutching’s voice, my vibration would change, and I would see myself dance ballet. I didn’t know ballet, I danced by flailing my arms and chaotically moving almost in a 5rhythems style, but I saw myself dance ballet. When I had seen the visions for a year, I decided I would approach the cantor and ask if she were interested in doing a performance together. At that point, I had separately deepened my relationship with Judaism to a point in which it was becoming clear that Judaism was going to be part of my life in a meaningful and long-term way. This whole time, I danced to Hutching’s prayers and didn’t really make the connections that it was all related. Eventually and came full circle and has continued to be an integrative learning process.
In this project, I’m using ballet as my medium to interpret and incorporate Judaism into my body on a cellular level. The final ballet will be about the story of finding freedom while the preliminary performances are where I will actively experience that journey and all the ups and downs, confusions and clarities that walking into a deeper spiritual journey and learning ballet both demand. Both practices strengthen and demand, they both provide a great amount of risk, and have a high reward.
The final ballet is meant to connect to anyone that yearns for understanding how to find happiness and has taken steps to be on that path. It’s a story of finding home for the first time after surviving abuse. It’s my story of transformation, of feeling joy for the first time, which has only taken place while this project has been underway and because of this growth.
The preliminary performances are the actual real-life journey of understanding how to live within this new world; the change in patterns, the change in thought process, the act of studying the actual spiritual material, failing in the process, and picking myself up to try again. The stage inspires the accountability. Together, they lead to the final result, a successful ballet and a personal and collective deepening of spiritual grounding.