Several years ago, I was on a workshop tour in Europe. At some point in the journey, my daughter (who was about nine at the time) and I were on a down-going airport escalator with six very large, fully packed suitcases. We were already halfway down when an elderly gentleman fell at the bottom of the escalator. Others ran to help and stabilize the man before moving him; and my daughter and I were still heading downward. If we continued, we (and our six large suitcases) were going to end up landing on top of this man and the others stabilizing him. I quickly turned us around to run back up the escalator. And as we turned to run back up, struggling with our six large suitcases. . . we noticed people started to step on the escalator heading down toward us. So, there we were, “treading water” as we were running up a downward moving escalator trying to not land on the people at the bottom while trying to keep people from entering at the top. About the time the elderly man was moved, we, by some miracle, made it to the top of the escalator. The man was okay and being assisted by others, and my daughter and I were safe. After briefly catching our breath, we were back on the same escalator going downward, and things continued in the airport without any hint of what had just happened.

Sometimes we have to go backwards to go forwards. We find we have to go back and retrain to learn something new or to relearn something in the correct way. It can feel like we are moving backwards and can even seem painful. But the goal is to learn and to grow, and we succeed when we take responsibility for that learning and growth. But ultimately, by recognizing those moments and embracing them, we set the stage to escalate our process even further.


Escalate is part of our Today’s Word: Sometimes We Have Something to Say series in which we discuss in brief the common themes and questions facing dancers.

Photograph by Billy Hicks. Wooden escalator, Greenford Station, London Underground, 2006.