Rythea Lee Kaufman, for "Zany Angels"
"I think if all people were required to get up in the morning and boogie for 45 minutes, the world would be a different place."
I find that in order to be inspired creatively, I have to be practicing the art itself.
When I dance, I'm inspired to create dances. When I write, I source ideas and desires that demand to be written. Making art inspires me to make art.
Sharing creative space with other artists fuels my work. The process of sharing that timeless place, that right brain space that's so counter-culture, with someone else who comprehends the impact of creativity -- there's nothing else like that.
LIFE IN ART
Me and my collaborative partner play with movement, spontaneous monologues, automatic writing, and once we dive in, our life stories pour out.
We use voice, movement, monologue, and song. We take our time birthing a performance piece.
Our new show, "Shameless," took at least a year. But now it feels complete and has the dimensionality and depth we wanted when we began.
Our work is autobiographical. However, we experience our stories as universal and have gotten feedback again and again from people who say we are telling their own stories.
Our new show "Shameless" is about living through childhood abuse and trauma, how we coped, how we healed, how we have come to find ourselves innocent and beautiful despite what we lived through. It seems to me that childhood sexual abuse in particular is the number one suppressed epidemic in American culture. Even when it turns up in movies, it's sensationalized and doesn't touch the reality of what millions of children are living through every day.
My collaboration with Rose Oceania has been a spectacular gift in this lifetime. We've been collaborating for ten years, as artists and friends. We have a similar history of abuse and used our rehearsals to transform our own lives. In the beginning, there was a lot of pain, we were remembering the past and it was intense. But even then, we made dances, performed, painted, wrote.
Through the years, our healing process took hold and our creations became more empowered, joyful, and effective. We've become adults through this process and matured as artists. We share creative time together and it feels utterly natural, a whole universe with new rules.
I'm moved and inspired by my purpose. I know that part of the reason I'm here on the planet is to speak out about what I believe in: specifically, injustice.
I've spent many years healing the injustices that I've lived through. It gives me great satisfaction and energy to give voice to what is right and wrong concerning abuse, violation, and trauma. I'm not willing to be quiet about what I know to be true. My values, my knowing about how children should be treated, about the ignorance that covers up the pain people live through. These kinds of issues profoundly inspire my work as an artist on a daily basis.
The biggest myth about being creative is that only some people can [be creative]. The truth is that every single person is naturally creative. If they think they can't be creative, they've just shut down a core aspect of themselves.
Children get shamed, compared, and suppressed at school, by other children, by teachers and adults. They're told that art isn't practical, that it's a waste of time and it's selfish.
It's has been a great joy of mine to help adults get back to their creativity. The only way to start is to be willing to do it just for fun or just for healing, not to make anything beautiful or "good".
Take the judgment out of it and just do it.
Other things I've learned: When I was first starting to dance, I wish someone had told me that I don't have to hurt or push my body or starve myself to be a dancer. To dance gently, to treat my body gently. I wish someone had told me to do it out of love.
DANCE AS THERAPY
I think if all people were required to get up in the morning and boogie for 45 minutes, the world would be a different place.
"Zany Angels" is a dance/theater company with a mission to expand awareness of the issues of trauma and abuse through performance art that is accessible and playful. To create an environment where stories of triumph and courage are part of a universal narrative that crosses barriers of gender, class culture, and sexual orientation.
Dance as a private, studio form can be therapeutic and transformational. I think performance can be therapeutic, also, but the difference in creating art [for public consumption] is being clear about intent.
I think people take issue with emotionally-oriented art because it can be re-traumatizing.
It's important for artists to be aware of the impact of their stories and where their motivation lies, in themselves.
The name "Zany Angels": We came up with it one day while batting key words around. The "zany" speaks to our weirdness and the "angels" speaks to our intention to make a difference, to use our creations towards change and healing.
Real life as I have been taught is lonely and controlled. Through school and the media, I was taught that real life is a constant push, a never-enough kind of reality.
Creative life is unknown and requires trust, letting go, unfolding, tenderness and in that space, Spirit can get in.
There is great relaxation in the creative process. A place where God(dess) makes me an instrument and uses all my talents and faculties for good. Creative life is a spiritual practice for me.
Marilyn Van Debur is a former Miss America who now travels the country talking about incest.
I heard her speak at a "To Tell The Truth" conference in New York City a couple of years ago.
The woman changed my life. She was fearless and full of feeling. She wasn't numb.
She talked about her history as an incest survivor and what it had been like to heal. She talked about winning Miss America and how her parents came up on stage and they all looked like the perfect American family. She spend time undoing the myth. She asked at the end for anyone who had been sexually abused to please stand up if they felt comfortable.
Because it was a sexual abuse conference, just about everyone stood up. We all looked around at each other and everyone just started crying. It was an amazing moment in my life when I realized I was far from alone.
I love the movie called "Celebration". It is done with great artistry but its very sad.
I love to play my guitar, sing, write music, paint, journal, play outside, eat good food, sleep in, improvise, go out dancing, mush (meaning 'be in love').
I am a therapist as well as an artist. I have a private practice here in Northampton, MA but also do phone sessions with people in different parts of the country. I've found that being a therapist feeds my art and vice versa.
My frustration is rather typical, I think. I'm really disgusted with mainstream cultural
messages, all the 'isms'; sexism, racism, looks-ism, class-ism.
I can't stand the way young girls are being objectified in movies and television. I won't even get into my political rant. Also: the way the arts are being crushed financially, the way creativity has become extinct in our school systems, the way abuse and violence have become "just the way it is."
I find this all appalling. We are a rape culture. Children are raped and don't get help, and we go and rape other countries, we rape our earth. The whole cycle of violence overwhelms me and I just can't think about it sometimes, in order to carry on.
I do my work, I say what I think and then I have to focus on joy. I have to bring in some real joy in order to keep my body alive, to stay creative, to stay close to the people in my life who are just amazing beings. I feel blessed to have created a community where my friends are in a healing process. Where waking up to what is true and real is a priority. We're not acting out addictions to block the pain. But to keep that, to stay awake in the face of global pain is a challenge.
I don't really understand why human beings have to learn about Spirit or God through such immense pain. I imagine visiting the gods and saying: "I think the whole system sucks, the whole learning curve ain't working for me."
The whole way that people get born into such toxic agony and get broken and some heal and others don't and how people pass down their hurts to other people, the whole thing just seems pointlessly agonizing.
Every now and then, I realize how it was all worth it, that being here, falling in love, opening my heart, loving people, even having healed horrific trauma, every now and then it seems really worth it.
Then I think: I made it, I did it and now I just get to fly.
About this group: Rose Oceania and Rythea Lee Kaufman began their collaboration over ten years ago with an interest in merging dance, clown arts, voice, and monologue. They've performed their choreography and theater work in Mobius Theater, Boston, and A.P.E Gallery in Northampton, Mass.
Separately and together their work has been presented at The Seattle Festival of Alternative Dance, The Theater Resource Center in Toronto, and NYC venues including P.S 122, St. Marks Church, The Joyce Soho, Judson Church and Movement Research.
Read more in-depth profiles/conversations with creative artists in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six"