Beth honored at Prime Movers of Santa Cruz event

Beth honored at “Prime Movers of Santa Cruz” event
January 28, 2013

Cabrillo Dance Department and Tandy Beal & Company presented a special dance concert that celebrated the roots of dance in Santa Cruz with some of the people who made it all begin, including yours truly, Beth P Riley! This performance served as a family tree of passionate teachers, who have in turn inspired thousands of students, many of whom have now themselves become teachers and artists. Each guest artist honored created a piece of the history of dance in Santa Cruz and shared their unique perspective on how it all began. Some of the guest artists included were JoAnne Bailey, Tandy Beal, Vicki Bergland, Paula Bliss, Roberta Bristol, Kathy Caton, Diana Crosby-Lindsay, Regina DeCosse, Ruth Fisher and many more. In between the various stories of dance in Santa Cruz live dances were featured.

Here’s what I said:

The great dance artist Agnes de Mille wrote: “Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”

In 1977, I was sitting in a Physiology class across campus –  on my way to what I had landed on as a good, stable career, Nursing. I had a degree in English but my father was a doctor, my mother, a nurse. This would be a safe bet. On day 2 of the class, sitting in the 2nd, I began to weep….and weep and weep… The teacher asked: if I was alright. I nodded silently, breathed  and made it through the class. Immediately after, I walked across campus and knocked on Roberta Bristol’s door. “I have to dance”, I told her.  She listened to my story:  dancing since age 5  –  creative movement class,  pre-professional ballet and a fortuitous summer with Hanya Holm ah: modern dance …and now –  a leap in the dark: I have to dance.

With robust acceptance, Roberta said “Go for it!” and sparked a dying fire. She supported all of the twists and turns along the way.  A few months later in the dance dept at Cabrillo sparked by  – Diana Crosby, Tandy Beal and Ellen Sevy as well “(Glorify the space” …. Tandy Said)   … to Stanford and a Masters in Dance,  I returned to teach for nearly 20 years at Cabrillo …to spark and be sparked.  Intertwining a rigorous Yoga discipline and a profound fluid movement work called Continuum into the mix, I found my greatest joy in the art of teaching.

The thousands of students whose lives I have been blessed to participate in continue to fuel the fire. From seniors in Tandy’s Discover Dance Program, to little sea creatures in “Listening to the Earth”  to forest animals in Mt. Madonna School’s “Ramayana” to the deep divers in Continuum classes, to my current act at Kirby School, where I have been  privileged to build a strong and viable dance program for Middle and High schoolers. What started as a leap in the dark has become the dance of being carried by life itself in our beautiful coastal community which is literally on the edge.  How do we all spark one another? Encourage openness of heart, hold the tenderness and vulnerability of this life as our primary gift and reward?  I keep guessing and leaping in the dark. With a dance, a hope and a prayer that goes something like this poem by Dawna Markova:

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.