This is going to be a bit dark..and really weird. So if you don’t want dark and weird today, maybe just hit delete.
I have never told anyone this story and I have no idea why I feel compelled to tell it now. Maybe it feels like the right time because in class yesterday I saw something that brought me to my knees.
What I saw was simple and profound.
I saw a group of people who were present.
I saw a group of people being generous in their relationships - to themselves, and to those around them.
I saw a group of people listening. I saw a group of people dancing.
I know, what’s the big deal right?
The big deal is that sometimes I find dancing and art making frivolous in the face of everything happening in the world.
And yet today, in class, this group of people reminded me that creativity and art making are some of the only things that will sustain our humanity.
I know, overly dramatic.
What else is there?
When I was in college
(I told you about this place a few blogs back. This was the college where I had to take off all of my clothes and turn around slowly in my underwear as the faculty wrote down everything that was wrong with my body. My little revolt against this indignity was to scarf down a tray full of donuts at the next nutritional meeting in front of the dance faculty)
I felt unseen.
Which is strange, because I was being looked at all of the time.
I was scrutinized and inspected day in and day out.
But I was unseen.
I danced every day, sometimes for 8 or 9 hours a day with the faculty circling me like vultures.
Their eyes on my thighs, breasts, arms, belly, and ass.
But not on me.
I worked hard.
I did all of my pliés and all of my relevés and all of my round de jambes.
I stretched and leapt and practiced and honed and
worked and danced and worked and danced and worked and dance
and it was awful and soul crushing.
I hated it, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it stop.
And this is where it gets weird:
The only way I could imagine making it stop was if my legs got cut off.
What kind of person thinks these kinds of things?
I am the kind of person who thinks these kinds of things. I am the kind of person who imagines sawing her legs off with a knife. I am the kind of person who imagines dance studios filled with blood.
I said it.
I am looking up into the heavens as I write this and there is no lightening coming down to strike me dead.
There is no hand of god crushing me into the earth.
It is just little old me, sitting here drinking my tea, satiated after a morning of dancing, with both of my legs underneath me, ready to dance some more.
What changed, you might be asking.
I quit dancing.
For a very long time.
I didn’t think I would ever come back to it.
But then, there was a curiosity. almost like a calling, and I did.
I did come back to dancing. But this time under my own terms.
No one else’s rules.
And I started to see myself, since no one else was looking, and oh the freedom in that was enormous.
When I did start to be seen by teachers, peers, and colleagues, I was seen for my whole self. I was seen for my whole being.
The dancing became mine again then.
My dark fantasy of chopping off my legs vanished.
And I love dancing on these legs of mine.
Your dance mission for the week comes from Steven Wangh. Find an old fashioned radio and a friend. One of you is the dancer, the other is the radio dial switcher. The dancers dances, the radio dialer switches around to different stations. Stations with classical music, news, country music, static.
Notice how you feel.
Notice your breath.
Notice when your mind gets caught in the words or in your opinions.
Let them go.
What does it feel like to dance to talk radio? To bad news? To static?
Most importantly, notice how it feels to be seen.
Make sure to switch roles.
With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and the Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending