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Stamina is a tricky thing. Sometimes it can be controlled and maintained through mind games. Motivation can also be elusive; it can be fickle, change courses, or you can feel that it’s gone forever, even when it’s still there, hiding deep inside. Sometimes, whatever sources of inspiration or muses we might depend on seem to disappear now and then through circumstances, or boredom, stress, or fear.

Recently, I experienced a life changing situation. My husband passed away, leaving me numb, devastated, feeling lost, disconnected to who I am, and completely alone. It was a bit unexpected, yet it wasn’t. At first, I mechanically finished out the dance season with the blessing of muscle memory and habit. When the comfort of familiarity began to wane, I became emphatic and deliberate about pushing through and being “brave.” However, I saw a movie recently about an artist whose husband had recently died, and in one scene, she finally is forced to admit, “It’s exhausting being brave.”

It IS exhausting. It’s also ironic -- artists spend their lives exposing their hearts and deepest thoughts, yet they work even harder to cover up their own vulnerability.

My husband had been a dancer/choreographer, and without realizing it, we were inspired and motivated by each other. We tried to create as individually as our personalities would allow, but I guess you could say that we had become each other’s muse.

Do we really need a muse? Do we require an outside source to express the inside? Maybe we’ve just been using that muse to give us permission to explore and expose our hearts. The creativity is already there. No one else really knows the crevices and hiding places in our hearts, except for God, so why trust someone else to give us the freedom to be honest and raw with what we already know? Even the people closest to us don’t know our every nuance of thought and emotion, because, sometimes even we don’t know until the creative process begins.

All artists have the ability to be honest and raw, but not all have the courage. We want to create beauty, but we sometimes are afraid to create the honest ugliness. I don’t mean the kind that is deliberately offensive; I mean the kind that expresses the reality of what we want to say. Beauty always brings accolades. But even the expression of difficult emotions can be beautiful when done with sincerity and honesty. The problem is, sometimes those difficult expressions can be met with controversy, or worse, dismissed.

I saw a gorgeous sculpture by a Norwegian artist named Gustav Vigelund. It’s part of a huge sculpture park, and every sculpture is a poignant depiction of people in every stage of life, from infancy to old age. This particular sculpture was of a girl falling headlong out of a tree with a grimace of abject fear on her face. It was called ‘Falling into Womanhood,” and it shows the anguish and fear so many people feel about growing up and facing the unknown. Her face actually is chilling, but the piece of art is eerily beautiful. Some of the sculptures bring smiles.

Robin Conrad Sturm is the Dance instructor at Northern Virginia Dance Academy and Artistic Director of Asaph Dance Ensemble.

Robin recently won Insidenova's Best Author in Prince William honors and also writes a blog. Contact her at Northern Virginia Dance Ensemble or call 703-330-5227.

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