BRAVE ENOUGH: To Fight in the Arena & Shatter Shackles - My Lindsey Stirling Journey 2
Updated: Oct 28
THE MUSE IN THE MOON - My Journey with Lindsey Stirling
Synchronicity has been hard at work playing with me of late. Sometimes She uses strangers to nudge me. Lately she’s been speaking through unexpected trail signs and my Moon Tribe Packmates. One of my fellow howlers just gifted me with a present that deserves god rays and an angelic choir: the streamed concert of my magic-licious she-ro, Lindsey Stirling. (1-6)
...The Stirling One has always found me at really important moments. Or is it that I find her? It’s like Synchronicity knows when my fingers are just about to slip off the cliff, so She delivers unto me a gust of violin-coated wind that buffets me upward half an inch, allowing me to get that second hand onto the ledge and drag myself back up...
Well, seizures came and seizures stayed. In 2013, they took over my life. Trying to memorize or even create duets with my new dance partner became a nightmare I didn’t want to acknowledge. It was even worse when I tried to make pieces for travel gigs or my rebooted Tejedora Dance Company.
I had this mind-blowing dream-team of instructors and advanced dancers, yet I couldn’t do squat with them because my brains were dribbling further out my nose with every day that passed. Neither could I make anything of the mind-blowing instruction from my new Wing Chun Sifu, or the awesome revision letter that my literary agent passed on from the editor who was interested in my Gladiatrix manuscript. Yes, I’d knocked my first pitch to a Big Five publishing house out of the park and gotten myself signed with an agency. Once again, I had my shot at actually doing something with these gifts I'd been given at birth!
Sha-WING and a miss.
I mean, I could do the revisions, all right. Just not in anybody else's timeframe or rhythms of productivity. Alas. Seizures always win that argument.
By the end of summer, the episodes had multiplied to weekly, sometimes daily. I had no idea what to do. Finally, amidst wildfire season I received an answer. A friend had invited me to come hide and lick my wounds under the shadows of the foothills. I slept outside in the gazebo until I woke up one morning, covered in ash. Kinda fitting for how I felt. Later that day, I called my parents to ask their advice. They suggested that I move closer to them so they could finally help me.
Without hesitation, I dropped everything and moved to Arkansas where I started sifting through the wreckage of my life. I had to quit martial arts training, they revoked my driving clearance, and I finished off my last two contracted travel gigs in Poland and Madison. In 2014, I was rammed again at a stop sign, and then the Great “White Belly Dancer War” blew up.
I was DONE.
Being medically forced into a full stop was actually a relief.
Disability happened--without a single appeal, which is practically unheard of. My caseworker actually paused the interview to ask me why I had waited for thirteen years to apply. Because all the disability agencies in Colorado had told me I wasn't eligible unless I got knocked up or I was out on the street. Plus, I'd never wanted to be on disability. I had the corpse of a dream job I was still trying to resuscitate and another one to set up for my golden years.
But the neuropsychologist I saw upon landing in Arkansas was correct. I had long been doing every habit he would have suggested. It simply wasn't enough. I needed help.
I also needed to stop doing the rack-n-crack chiropractic I’d been doing since my first big car wreck. If I had a really good, gentle chiropractor--read: no ego about getting my neck to pop--and I could see them once a week, that would have kept me at neutral. But my income allowed me to go about once a month, which means that I developed scoliosis, spinal degeneration, and my C2-3 had started to fuse into that backwards curve in my neck. The discovery of Upper Cervical Chiropractic gave me enough space between my vertebrae to pop that fusion free and halt my seizures, which started giving me my life back.
But by then, I didn’t want to reboot the old one. I wanted something else, and I had no idea what that meant.
In the summer of 2016, Synchronicity had an answer for me. Out of the aether, she delivered unto me a Lindsey Stirling video I’d never seen before.
BOOM. The sentiments in this video, as well as a dive into Brené Brown (8) helped give me a direction again. I remembered that the most important opinion about my stuff my was my own. In the words of my own Lindsey that I'd had sitting on my writing desk for years: "It's YOUR fucking story!"
And it's MY fucking dancing. It's MY martial system. It's MY life.
A couple months earlier, I had fired my literary agent over suspicions that, when I had become a "troublesome" writer--you know, how dare I have seizures and be a human, not a revision-spewing machine?--she’d sabotaged my shot with the editor.
(I learned three years later that my spooky spidey-senses had been spot on. She had lied about me, telling him that I had "flaked and disappeared without a word," even when he asked about me multiple times over the years. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.)
That whole experience finished off my dreams of ever getting published through the traditional route. It wasn't just the politics. I’d come to the acceptance that, even though my seizures had stopped, the unstable nature of TBI doesn't work with the publishing world’s rhythms. So I started writing my Giant Slayer and all her cronies the way I had always wanted to write them without caring if they would be salable in the mainstream market. I determined that I would hack my way into self-publishing instead, so set to learning everything I could about it.
This was actually a liberating disappointment. It set my writing free and crossed off another career possibility from my list. Sometimes "NO" is the most crucial step along the way to "YES."
During this time, my healing was on an upswing I could visibly track. This new kind of chiropractic had allowed me to return full-boar into martial training. I was taking Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kali, and a weapons class, in addition to working with my old Arnis crew whenever our Guro visited. The gym where I studied asked me to begin instructor training, which had been a dream I’d never been able to realize at my old school due to--huh. Yeah. More sabotaging politics I'd long suspected that were later confirmed.
(I'd been accused of sleeping with my married sensei, which I had never done. Remember that one, too. It's yet another rinse-repeat bullshit joy of being a female martial artist AND a dastardly belly dancer. You know what sluts we are, we she-wolves who shake our asses and like to roll around all sweaty with the guys, wink-wink-nudge-axe-kick.)
Well, at this new gym, I had a pack of supportive she-wolf fighter sisters, and instructors who believed in me so much they wanted me to start teaching the kids. I was even brave enough to jump back into blogging. My first fearless post was, naturally, about The Arena.
Just like with Crystallize, I watched this new Lindsey Stirling arena video over and over, not only for the motivation and pompoms, not only because I'm a gladiator geek, but because the dancing, costumes and storytelling started solidifying the fuzzy images I kept trying to decipher in my own movement style. I certainly couldn’t do a bunch of the stuff Lindsey and her crew did--not with my injuries, and I didn’t have a partner in sight. But this dance-martial-theater combo spurred me harder to experiment with what I could do.
I started doing random trial videos of me dancing in an abandoned barn or on a snow-covered mountaintop.
I danced in silhouette before a fireplace, in the Colorado Sand Dunes amidst a wind storm, and in a colonnaded pavilion wearing a Cleo costume. I still wasn't used to doing improv anymore, so although the footage was gorgeous, I hated half the dancing.
But this was for video, so when I realized that I didn't HAVE to love all the dancing the way I needed to for a one-shot performance onstage, even more shackles dropped off my wrists and ankles. The guy I was dating at the time had a burned-down house on his property. After the demolition crew tore it down, but before it had been hauled away, the Muse slammed the image into my brain as I was waking up one morning: "Film this dance tale there. NOW."
So we did. Unfortunately, my boyfriend never seemed to remember how often I asked him to get the official footage to me since we'd filmed it all on his camera. When we broke up, I knew it was gone, along with other dances from that time period. All I had was our Demolition warmup and camera angle trials that we'd shot on my phone to conserve his battery. That's okay. There was enough usable footage to make me brave.
Brave Enough--that's the name of Lindsey's album from which The Arena comes. (7) In my Muse's honor, I put motivational stickies up around my house. Eventually, I got up the guts to start speaking to the world about something I'd bottled up for decades: what it feels like to have your life blown apart by domestic violence, and the ways in which I've battled to put myself back together again.
Demolition is my fourth Tori Amos Angry Girl Dance. A lot of people have a hard time with it. That's not a bad thing.
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” ~Cesar A. Cruz
By this time, I had a Spotify account so I took Lindsey and the other electronic artists she led me to into the big, open, mirrored back room of the gym, or onto the even bigger mat with warehouse ceilings. There the gladiatrix-wanna-be became obsessed with putting her new mer-hair into an array of fighter-chick braids and anime-girl buns. She may have also been Harley Quinn that year for Halloween. Ahem...
Once alone, I performed more messy experiments. Sometimes I had weapons in hand and sometimes I didn't. Either way, I was no longer trying to shackle myself to the fringes of the belly dance box. It was icky. I didn't care. I let myself fully off the chain and danced however I wished in any given moment. Those old movement theories from my college days flooded back. The martial arts katas that had been infiltrating my dancing since I started studying karate fused with the sword work I’d been doing since my days in medieval armor.
Then my Elements System took over my life.
At the heart of this was the Stirling One. Mona N'wal, my dance mentor whose inspirational nudge led me to create this system, this one's for you:
Watching that video, all I could think was, “That’s it! That’s exactly what I do. But what she does in music, I do in movement.” This song and a few others with distinct elemental voices went on repeat as I chewed deeper and deeper into what made each element distinct.
Earth. Air. Fire. Water. Metal.
In 2009, I’d stopped being able to juggle my weekly local classes along with travel gigs. Unsure how else to deliver musicality and expression to my students if we weren’t honing choreographies every week, I began using the metaphor of five natural elements in a personalized combination of the Eastern and Western theories I’ve studied.
I danced relentlessly to Lindsey's songs, mostly in my kitchen at first, occasionally outside in the elements. So much footwork, so many spins, so much Expressionism and Modern. After being punched in the face, all my spinal, hip, and torso isolations had grown more and more painful the further my spine warped. I stopped being able to take the weight of a sword on my head, and head slides were becoming impossible. Most of my hipwork was headed the same direction, so my dancing went back to being all limbs-limbs-limbs with expressive hands and eyes, this time with zero concerns about it looking anything like belly dance.
I just let myself move.
More like...I let the Muse-ic move me.
I had stopped performing onstage with lighting that messed up my brain, schedules that threatened to trigger seizures, and choreographies I was having trouble creating, much less memorizing. Everything I had built my old dance career on--I couldn’t do it anymore. Yet all these new toys weren’t stage-ready. They weren’t ready for official classes beyond the Elements metaphors for belly dance technique either.
In 2017, as I was diving home through the flickering fall foliage, the Muse slammed the realization into my brain: this Elements thing was sooooo much bigger and deeper than dance.
Yet I couldn’t figure out how to fully break free from What Was, into what needed to be born. This was as true with dance as it was in the other arenas of my life.
Dance. Inspiration. Emotion. Storytelling. Martial Arts.
Lindsey Stirling IS alchemy. As I hunted and fought and meditated and sought for the power to shatter the last old shackles and blow apart the things that imprisoned me in ever-repeating patterns, Lindsey reminded me where I would find it.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: My Lindsey Stirling Journey 3 - TRANSCENDING INTO LIGHT - And Taking Flight
--OR: After Upper Cervical, I discovered the even better modality for me, NEURO-CHIROPRACTIC. This has been realigning my hips, straightening the scoliosis, and reversing the backwards cervical curve, as well as screwing my head back on right.
--OR: I did start dancing outside and other places besides onstage. You can find it on my new Hartebeast YouTube. The first outdoor experiments are still on the old IzzyDancer YouTube. Or you can find them both on the video page of my website.
--OR: If you're curious about my other dance inspirations, I've written about a bunch of them HERE
GROOVALICIOUS LINKS FOR YOUR INSPIRATIONAL PLEASURE
1) Lindsey Stirling
--"My Story" - As told by Lindsey, set to one of my favorite self-soothing, pick me up anthems: Anchor by Mindy Gledhill
6) Lindsey's book, The Only Pirate in the Room - yarrrrrr!
9) My Spotify collection of Lindsey Stirling songs that make me dance and swoon. I admit, I'm a bit of a Lindsey purist, but there are a few collaborations that I adore.