Some months ago I put a call out on Facebook, looking for people for whom creative expression has made a positive impact on their life, and when Carisa Leal responded that movement had lifted her out of depression, I knew I had to talk to her. Listen to her inspiring story of finding herself through the art of Flamenco.
This Saturday, November 7th, at 8:00pm PST, I’m throwing a birthday concert bash to benefit the Jazz Camp West scholarship fund, and I’m streaming it live online.
Or if you’re in the SF Bay Area, click here to join me in Oakland, CA.
The venue has been donated, so 100% of the funds I receive (after any payment processing fees) go directly to pay for scholarships to Jazz Camp West.
Carisa’s depression started when she moved away from her home town in south Texas to college in Boston. She was plagued by Imposter Syndrome, and although by society’s standards her life looked good, she had this nagging sense that she wasn’t supposed to be doing what she was doing.
Following the socially acceptable path, she got her degree in Engineering, but by her second year working as an Engineer, she knew something had to change. She left her job and helped start a new school called the Experience Institute, based on experiential learning through apprenticeships. This experience allowed her to explore what really was her authentic Self, but during her second term at the institute she felt her depression start to overwhelm her.
The ability to explore during her time with the Experience Institute was really helpful, but at the end of her year she still felt really lost. It took another year of focusing on movement for Carisa to feel comfortable with life and full of life again.
Carisa had danced when she was younger, but it was a very competitive and conformist type of dance, whereas Flamenco, the style of dance she discovered as an adult, she found to be healing. She says of Flamenco, “It gave me a framework where I could express myself… There’s room within the art form to express any range of emotions that you might feel.”
When she first started taking classes, at the beginner level, she committed to dance and made it a priority. This gave her a sense of drive, and she started to see herself get better. Her teachers saw her improvement and pushed her to take harder classes, which established a sense of passion and commitment in her life.
From here, Carisa made dance and movement the biggest priority in her life. Although she was initially very afraid of performing, and didn’t think she’d ever get good enough to perform, she worked through her fear with the help of supportive teachers, and had her first solo Flamenco performance this year!
For awhile, Carisa thought that her passion for Flamenco meant that she must try to earn her living from it. What she ultimately discovered, though, is that for her, it works much better to earn her living elsewhere.
Now Carisa weaves together a job she’s excited about, while teaching yoga on the side, and Flamenco dancing about four hours a week. For her it feels like it’s finally all coming together, “like it’s less of a struggle and more of a celebration.”
Listen for the full story.
More quotes from Carisa:
“I didn’t want to feel like I was a lesser version of myself, sitting in a pool of depression. I wanted to be strong.”
“Everyone has some sort of movement that they’re naturally drawn to… but I think having that extra element of creative expression sort of takes it up to a whole new level.”
“What I wanted was to feel the way I felt going after this goal in the rest of my life… If I can experience success and happiness in this tiny portion of my life, there’s no reason that I couldn’t find that in all of my other aspects.”
“We are ourselves in our bodies, and a lot of time… constricted energy tends to build up in our bodies, and kind of builds a wall between us and who we really are.” Movement can help take down that wall.
On her early stage fright: “I was so afraid of being seen, because I was so uncomfortable with who I was.”
“That’s what it takes is saying yes, and putting yourself out there, in order to get better.”
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Carisa’s website, CarisaLeal.com
Thanks for Listening!
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