I am a dancer
When I was little I wanted to be a dancer, writer, singer, actress and motorcyclist. I haven’t done any acting since drama class and I have never ridden a motorbike (unless you count about 2 minutes on a scooter before I stopped because I was scared). After being in a few bands, I can call myself a singer and I am writing now, so I guess that makes me a bit of a writer.
Dancer… Now this one is a bit more complicated for me. I danced when I was younger and I was good, in a big fish in a small pond kind of way, in a hopeful, childlike, exuberant and un self-conscious way. In my young body that had no awareness of its mortality and took for granted how far it could bend without breaking. I stopped dancing after an injury but it never went away. Whatever it is that makes me cry when I watch bodies moving and lose myself a little when I move my own was still there.
When I came back to dance, at almost 30, as a dancer I had changed so much. My body hurt in ways that I didn’t remember, I felt my limits. And I was thinking. I loved the idea of ‘the thinking dancer’ and I enjoyed intellectualising my embodied experience, this was something new that didn’t occur to me as a young dancer. But this other thinking was limiting, I constantly judged myself and imagined others judging me. A little voice in my head said “You look stupid, you’re too old, what are you doing here? You can’t do a split jump anymore, your work is shit”.
Nostalgia can kill your ambition. I was so caught up in wishing I had come back to dance earlier that I stopped myself seeing that I was dancing now. And nostalgia is not entirely accurate. I was probably not the dancer that my older self was imagining my younger self to have been. It’s easy to romanticise the past, it’s also a bit of a cop out. I can see more clearly now how I let fear stop me from reaching my potential and I let that little voice win.
I finished my training but I have been embarrassed to call myself a dancer. Because I’m not dancing, because I’ve not felt good enough. But I have felt like one. It never goes away.
I have just come from doing my first dance class in almost a year. After a year I know that the sense of loss I feel from not dancing outweighs these nagging doubts that no longer serve me. As the Release class begins, I sink into that familiar feeling of being at home in my body, of exploring my limits. I stare up at the ceiling of the studio and hear the teacher say “just notice, don’t try to change anything” I feel like she is speaking directly to the demon on my shoulder. As the class continues I play, I get frustrated, I have small victories along the way. I roll around on the floor and feel all that is not lost in my body, all that I still have.
At the end of the class we do a five minute improvisation and for a little while I lose myself, just for a moment, I stop thinking. When the class ends, I know that I want to keep moving.
I am ready to let go of what has been blocking me from becoming whatever I can be now. I’m curious to find out what that is. A past teacher used to say “work with the body you have, not the one you wish you had” and I am starting to understand what he meant. I am moving towards an acceptance of myself and of what it took to get me here.
I may not be the kind of dancer that I thought I would be at 12, but I can keep moving. Maybe I will never do a split jump again but I am ready to tentatively say, I am a not young but not old woman, I am 35 and I am a dancer.