Nancy chose “Joy” as her Touchstone that very first year of the project, and when I asked after the details, she emphasized the necessity of making a “stubborn commitment to joy.”
I’ve turned this phrase over so many times in my head that there’s a worn groove on my mental floor. What does it mean to be stubbornly joyful? To refuse to give up on joy? To sit comfortably in the shadows, still rotating, even imperceptibly, into the light?
Nancy teaches the aerial arts, and she loves the metal hoop known as a lyra with a playground ferocity. Nancy likes to turn on a random playlist towards the end of a class, each aerialist improvising in turn. She bounces on her toes nearby, urging a flier: “I want your heart!” Dancing in the air requires forethought to execute a sequence, but there’s a distinguishable line between powering up to a trick, and a fluidity of movement that allows for natural pauses.
Improvising to a song you might not know well forces you to listen with every fiber of your being. It invites stillness, where you lean into a phrase and feel the weight of it, dance with the gravity of it. It encourages variations on a theme: a trailing hand, a heart-catching spin. Nancy’s looking for a stubborn commitment to authenticity in every moment.
She choreographs space into her own performances, giving herself permission to connect with her emotions, to run out into the audience, laughing, or to break down, if that’s what this moment requires. It’s this willingness to engage with each moment that encapsulates for me Nancy’s commitment to joy, whether onstage, or improvising her life from day to day.
Across the years of this project, Nancy has experienced true tragedy, and yet she reaches out in even these darkest moments to the vibrant community that coalesces around her, light streaming from her fingertips, to bring hope and laughter back into this world.
Learning to climb up into a lyra under your own power, where your slightly elevated perspective reconfigures the familiar world, instills self-confidence and a conviction that our perspectives– our very assumptions about what we think is possible– are maybe more malleable than we thought. This rebellious courage bubbles up every time Nancy touches her lyra, and it accompanies her throughout the rest of the day.
Nancy models this stubborn commitment to joy for her students (her son, her chosen circus tribe), helping people understand the gravity of their own impact on the world. This is not only a superpower, but it turns out to be part of an incredible family legacy.
Nancy brings this legacy of leaving space for authenticity to her students in Seattle at versatilearts.net. By supporting this project, you also become part of the story; The Enrichment Project invites you to inquire after after the radical rituals that sustain your own stubborn commitment joy.