“I’ve got legs!”- My take on collaboration


The good thing about marriage is the assembling of worlds, the meshing of experiences, tastes, and perspectives. The best thing of marriage is finding the infallible support system created upon that foundation. To the former, my other half introduced me to the comedy of Eddie Izzard. Life has not been the same since. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of an Eddie Izzard quote from one of his stand up routines, and I’ve been a fan for 10 years now. In one of his skits, (Dressed to Kill, I believe) Eddie tells of a playground romance in which he was so dumbstruck that he failed to utter anything more impressive than, “I’ve got legs!” To the latter, in many respects, I could credit my other half as “my legs.” He’s my base, he’s my navigation system, he’s my foundation from which I can do much of what I like and certainly what I need.

Looking at this term from another view, a post-pregnant one, hey- “I’ve got legs!” And I can see them. Wow. It has been a while. I even put them to use the other day as we trekked through a nearby zoo that is more like a nature walk than a concrete pathway for animals on parade. Hello, hamstrings, I’ve missed you. I am glad I’ve found my legs again and C A N N O T wait to put them to use once cleared for rigorous exercise. I think the recovery period is worse than pregnancy in this sense. Sigh….I miss dancing.

Finally, the dance perspective: And no, I am not going to talk about extension or rotation. For years I have recognized that I’ve needed an anchor of support in the varying spheres of dance in which I participate. I’ve tended to collect mentors along my journey and I’ve reveled in the fact that my “teachers” often become even better resources of information/inspiration/perspective once my formal training with them has been “completed”. The older I get, I see that these “mentors” come in all kinds of shapes and sizes- which can be translated as ages and specialties. Considering myself as one with something to learn by these relationships, I continue to think of these artists as “mentors” when perhaps “colleagues” would be more fitting. As I’ve eased into dance education full time, I have found that having a sounding board in the form of a colleague (actually, a community of colleagues) has been essential, particularly since I keep finding myself in one-person program positions!

What is a lonely educator to do?

1. Find someone with a shared aesthetic, different strengths, and a perspective that compliments but does not copy your own.
2. Avoid a “yes man”: someone who will tell you all of your ideas are great (they aren’t always). You need an honest response or even better- someone that can ask the right questions in order to get you to dig deeper in your own view/work/intent.
3. Keep it fresh. Be social. Engage in a community together and compare notes. The more regions- geographical, intellectual, organizationally- you experience, all the better.
4. Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. (heeeheehee….) Share the listening responsibility and create collaborative projects that relate to your daily teaching life without being part of your daily life- projects if you will.
5. Filter. Know what is worth the expending of energy and what is not (this is a lot like choosing battles). Recognize when you need help or when your partner does. Do not assume your collaborator understands what you mean simply because you’ve been working together a long time. Communicate often and effectively.
6. Keep the humor. C’mon, we work in dance. Don’t get me wrong, I take Dance
V E R Y seriously. But, c’mon, we work in dance. No one will die if we don’t complete the weight shift or spiral. Find a way to remember why you enjoyed dance in the beginning and do whatever it takes to keep it. All work and no play makes Martha a very dry experience.

From that list, you can see good partnerships take work as well as a daily decision to engage. Just as in marriage, the “I do” has to occur every day, not just the wedding day.  Maybe I should send a link to William and Kate?

The secret to a good marriage was whispered to me by a very sweet little Spanish woman named Olga, living in L.A.’s Koreatown, while her husband, Jorge, watered the begonias. She was delightful and he always kissed me on the lips (less delightful). And no, the secret does not appear on this list. And no, it does not revolve around activities in the bedroom. And yes, she was right.

Thanks to my current colleagues: EFP, AW, and especially SB. Thanks to my other half: SDS. And thanks to my past mentors and colleagues, of which there are too many to mention by name.


Author: Heather Vaughan-Southard

HEATHER VAUGHAN-SOUTHARD is a connector. She uses somatic engagement and creativity to inspire change in people, perspectives, and practices within classrooms, therapy rooms, and boardrooms. She is a presenter in the fields of education, social-emotional learning, somatic practice, and the arts. www.hvsmovementstudies.com

5 thoughts on ““I’ve got legs!”- My take on collaboration”

  1. I miss having you as a sounding board…. I just finished a show here I SOOO wanted to be able to invite you to a rehearsal to get your thoughts. I wonder about collaboration beyond what is easily possible without close proximity?

  2. Everything about this is perfect. Thank you for sharing.

    Last Friday Dance In The Annex produced a one night dance concert event called Trip The Light. 8 local (Grand Rapids) bands, 8 choreographers, 2 dance on camera pieces, 1 performed essay and a sold out crowd. Talk about collaboration! By the way, I still need a nap.

    This essay is going in the debriefing file for ways to improve next years Trip The Light.

  3. Great list. I especially love numbers 2 and 6.

    I am an undergraduate dance student and I find that much of the time my peers, not so much the professors, are often quick to say “that was great!” When there could clearly be some changes made, etc. This just puts everyone 5 steps behind where they should be, and causes thoughtless work to be performed on stage.

    Number 6 is especially important and I find that while most of the time, the educators that I’m surrounded by can be very fun to be around, their bad moods can often put their entire casts down in the dumps as well. I’ve come home from rehearsals at times completely questioning why I love to dance. At the same time, I’ve come home from rehearsals reveling in the joy that the past 2 hours had just given me.

    1. Jordon,
      Thanks for your personal response. I am glad the list resonated with you. I found myself nodding as I was reading your comment. Often undergrads are swayed by the social ramifications of offering honest feedback or simply don’t know what to say. As a student and as an educator, I’ve found these frustrating and distracting. With maturity, these things get better and I wish I could say that by the time you get to professional dance they don’t exist, but…..yeah. For me, hearing people talk about dance aided in the deciding which choreographers I wanted to audition for and so on.

      I am so with you on your point regarding #6. And this too is not isolated to higher ed. And the bad attitude can also come in the form of lack of preparation, indecision, and other mood altering roadblocks. Dance is social, but also SO personal and I think it does us well to remember that when we enter the studio each time. When we do that, rehearsal or whatever we are engaging in, can actually get us out of the funk. If the person wants to rid of the funk, that is. 😉

      Thanks for reading, thanks for responding, and best of luck!

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