Heard About Town: Tania Isaac
by Tania Isaac
Editor's Note: Philadelphia dance artists are not known so much for their language as for their ability to transcend it — but when they do speak publicly, they are worth listening to. Guest writer Tania Isaac Hyman, a Philadelphia dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor on the dance faculty at Drexel University, was invited to address the Jewish Reconstructionist congregation, Kol Tzedek ("voice of justice") at their recent Yom Kippur services in West Philadelphia. She spoke on the High Holy Day theme of nurturing and sustenance... important themes for artists and non-artists alike. This is a version of that talk.
Good morning everyone—
I'm Tania Isaac and I'm thankful for the opportunity to speak today. This moment is particularly poignant as it seems to be, for me, the end of an arc of recoveries and uncertainties and adjustments—a moment where it seems like the world (my world anyway) is taking a breath and slowly settling into its newest form. As I close out this phase, it seems like an appropriate moment to think about sustenance.
Many of you know that I'm from St. Lucia—a small island in the Caribbean. At moments when I am most depleted, I miss home. I miss and crave being surrounded by brown skin as far as the eye can see (although I love you all very much). I miss the ocean and the visible curve of the sky above, I miss music and the style of conversation. I miss the effervescence and conflict of an enormous family, going to a party and knowing, for certain—for an absolute fact—that in addition to brilliant conversation, at least 80% of the room will eventually be dancing… equally brilliantly. I miss metaphors that make physical visceral sense. Creole inflections.
I began to state, with certainty at first, that what sustains me is family, home and a sense of place. A sense of knowing and belonging. Being surrounded by people who understand and agree with my purpose and ideas—or at the very least seeking these people out. It is comforting and gives me ease.
The things that comfort me—they give me enough breath to go out into the friction and uncertainty that sustain me. I am supported and fulfilled by everything I have not yet discovered and experienced. I am nurtured by an insatiable and deliberate curiosity about everything around me. I guard very jealously the capacity to be filled with wonder and awe at every available opportunity. And when I feel depleted—I try to eat well and take long walks near water, in the woods. I dance, listen to music, write bad poems, make dances. I play. I try to fall down and fall over and not take myself too seriously. Then, I fail miserably at all of it and eat gummy bears and chocolate, and play my tiny violin for a while.
October 13, 2015