What can heal us?

If COVID hadn’t spread around the world this spring, I’d be in the middle of teaching summer workshops in the dance studios of Mills College. Right now I’d be sharing dance, movement, and community with the global Salimpour School. These annual summer workshops have been such a vibrant anchor not just for me, but for so many of my students. They’re like family reunions.

So, cancelling them was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in response to the shelter-in-place order. Instead of being in a dance studio with my students, surrounded by this thriving community, I’m at home. 

It’s been a huge shift for me. Since I was a little girl, my life has been so full of traveling and being out and around people. Being the director of the Salimpour School, of Bal Anat, and touring to teach around the world is a very external, extraverted life. It’s no wonder that these past few months have made me feel so internal.

But I haven’t felt lonely. Even though we might be physically isolated from each other, we’re going through this moment together. 

And if the pandemic weren’t enough, we’re now grappling with an additional layer of political unrest and conflict. But every conflict offers an important opportunity for healing, both within our own selves and in our communities. 

One of the most effective tools for healing, throughout humanity’s history, has been through making and partaking in art. Art of all kinds—visual arts, music, theater, dance, poetry—is one of the only human experiences that can truly help us through times of turmoil. Art focuses us on what really matters, what’s sustainable, and what we want for our future. 

Art helps give us meaning. It allows us to reflect and interpret ourselves and what’s going on around us, and it gives us hope. It shows us compassion and teaches us empathy. It transcends borders, languages, and even cultures. It connects us.

I know many of you are still working, some of you even more so since the pandemic started, but I hope that you find time for art and creativity. You need that time for yourself, to nourish your spirit, and to help you move forward with clarity.

Because I believe that art is the only thing that will truly heal us. 

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