Creating in the Time of Corona
On the inside looking out.
An undefined space yet to be discovered.
The clock on the wall ticks and the window is just a window.
On the outside searching within.
A defined square feet of space.
Time is defined.
Before and after.
Past and Future.
Then and eventually.
The world beyond the window has changed.
Peering through to the outside.
How to redefine?
The window is no longer a window.
The clock on the wall has stopped ticking.
My name is Julee Mahon and I am a dance artist. Yes, I spell my name with two e’s and no i’s, which is pretty much the perfect amount of drama and efficiency I tend to surround myself with. I took my first dance class at the age of two and a half and from then on have always described myself as a dancer.
Julee the dancer, that's me.
As a teen I was at the dance studio 5 nights a week training and getting ready for competitions. I was then accepted into a dance performing arts program in my hometown for my final two years in high school. In fall of 2009 I moved to Philadelphia to start off my college career as a BFA Dance major at Temple University. Over my four years at Temple I met wonderful dancers, and had many performance opportunities all over the city, so come graduation I decided to stay and immerse myself into the small yet fierce arts and dance community of Philadelphia.
Now it is 2021 and I am still here. But where are the arts?
As a creative, 2020 looked very different than the one I had imagined. 2019 was full of energy and inspiration, ideas and performances. New opportunities were awaiting for 2020.
As I look back on 2020 creatively speaking it was bleak. Bleak in terms of motivation and inspiration, energy, and exploration. I found myself asking the questions; How do I create when I am not inspired? How do I create when I am not motivated? How do I create when I have no energy? Who do I create for? Where do I find my audience? Who is my audience?
And finally the big one; How do I create?
I felt like I lost a sense of myself. That part of me that was curious and looks to discover and move. When I dance, I have this feeling of freedom but it went away when I stopped creating. Some days I moved because I felt I had to. Other days I moved because I needed to. But most days I moved from my bedroom to the kitchen and vice versa. In 2020, I forgot what it was like to move as an artist. I felt human again, like superman without his strength. I felt I lost the part of myself that made me a dancer and an artist.
At first it was fatigue. Then it was a failure. And finally fear, that kept me from dancing.
The fatigue came when I lost sense of time. My full-time job had no start or end time. I would work until I fell asleep and I would wake up and get right back to work. The feeling of failure came when I chose to not take a virtual dance class because I couldn’t bear to stare at a screen any longer. I took one class from a teacher I admired, but staring at the screen and moving made me nauseous. It was as if my body was rejecting dance. What previously brought me immense joy was now making me sick. In order to keep my body safe I said ‘no’ to dance. That was the first time I have ever done that. I have always chosen dance. I chose dance over going to school football games. I chose dance over prom. I chose dance over boyfriends. It was always there for me, until it wasn’t.
Then came the fear. I couldn’t fail at something I didn't even try for, right? Would I even remember how to move? That was my biggest fear.
Through journaling and support from friends, I have been able to work through my fear and my unrealistic expectations of what I think dance means to me. Now that it has reached 2021 and we are almost one year into the Corona Virus pandemic, I am looking into the new year with some clarity.
It is okay to feel fatigued, everyone does. You are not alone. It is okay to give yourself what your body needs. Failure is a myth you tell yourself out of fear. My mind was making up excuses for me to not even put in any effort. Instead of just saying NO and give myself time to rest, I said NO and then burdened myself with the guilt of it.
I needed to let go of my expectations and not be so hard on myself. I was bullying myself and didn’t even realize it. When I came to this realization I felt such a relief. I was able to think clearer and felt more confident in continuing my creative process and working my way back to Julee the dancer.
I bought myself a journal. This journal is only for dance. I like knowing that, other than my body, this journal is also a tool. A sacred tool that will hold any idea or piece of inspiration that will keep my creativity alive. Writing everything down will make it real and will get it all out of my head. This book has one rule, and that rule is there is no judgment. No matter the idea, write it down. Just write anything and everything!
Moving is moving. I was upset with myself for not dancing but at the same time shaming myself for engaging in other forms of movement. I started congratulating myself for all the movement I did. Running: you go girl! Zumba: yassss! Yoga: you stretched today! I started to teach creative movement to kids, so I could share my love of dance with the next generation! Celebrate all movements no matter how big or small. Even though it may not be a modern dance class I was still moving my body!
Prioritize your dance. It is no secret I love to dance, so why not prioritize it in my life. Make time to take a class. With the online options, give yourself time to get used to it and do what you can. You can go at your own pace in your home, that is judgement free! Work your way up to masking up and taking class in person, if your community offers that. But know there is no reason to rush your own process.
Be creative! Right now with technology at our fingertips nothing is off limits. Now is the time to rewrite all the rules and expand your mind to think even farther out of the box. Art has no limit. No one and everyone is your audience. Putting work on social media platforms expands your reach and brings art to your community and beyond!
2020 has been a year like no other. I have learned a great deal about myself and about my art. I can honestly say I look forward to what the rest of 2021 will bring. I know I am not alone, I deserve to be kind to myself, and dance will always be there no matter what.
Cheers to more dancing and creating.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Dance Artist + Choreographer
Julee Mahon is a dance artist/choreographer from Philadelphia, PA. She has been dancing since the age of two and began intense dance training in her hometown of Bridgewater, NJ at the Serova School of Dance. In high school, she was accepted to attend the SCVT High School as a part of their Gifted and Talented Dance Program. In 2009 she moved to Philly to attend Temple University's Dance Program and then graduated with a BFA in Dance in 2013. Upon graduation, she received the Francis Bowden Scholarship for High Performance & Choreographic Ability. Her work has been featured in Coaction Dance Collective’s annual shows (2015-2017), as well as in NY, PA, and NJ. She has performed all over the East coast and in Rome, Italy.
Julee currently works for Doman International Institute, a non-profit that helps families of children with brain injuries. She is also the Rehearsal Director & dancer for Philadelphia’s premier chorus girl troupe, The Old City Sweethearts!
Headshot image by: @houseofbrandi