I have aged a thousand years, but I remain a child. Through dance, I am born again and again — dance is a process of death and rebirth, and it curses me with the chance of constant improvement. Dance, someone wiser than me once said, is ephemeral. It is in those fleeting moments of beauty I feel that I could create something perfect despite my inadequacies. These creations are epiphanies, realizations so enormous that muscle and bone struggle to contain them. As I wait for the death of perfection and am born broken again, I am reminded that the greatest of these is the epiphany yet to come.
Birth is messy, teary, and grapples with the promise of a new future. Much like birth, I crawl out of trauma in the hope of healing when I take my first steps on the stage. The lights and mirrors force me to see my flesh in brutal honesty; my heart skips a beat every time I see my own reflection. All I see is cancer, spindly fingers of disease violating my body and consuming me in lumps. Fixated, I stare. My figure distorts and becomes swollen, laden with fat from the poison pumping through my veins. (The machine starts pumping faster.) Sometimes I flash to the Day Without Sound, when doctors showed me images of roots wrapping around my whole body. (I didn’t know anything aside from hearts could grow, but growth can go anywhere veins do.) Feeling vulnerable and filled with scorn, I wake back up in class and lie down on the floor. (They don’t know I imagine a tree sprouting from my chest, that I tremble in fear of the toxic fruit it may bear.) I begin the motions with more frustration and determination each time, all the while feeling like a failure for expecting a tomorrow I was never promised.
Death is the most beautiful thing in the world because it destroys anything that gets the chance to blossom. Dexterously cruel, it plucked away my eyelashes and gouged out dreams. (The worst part is, I only have a scratch on my collarbone to prove it.) Now, every phrase is slightly flawed and the subsequent is slightly better. I understand that perfection is impossible to achieve with an imperfect machine, but the child in me reaches out for something greater than the confines of my body. I was once powerful, defeating the Alps and running with grace manifested as poetry of muscle and bone. (It’s hard to sit up when the weight of muscle atrophy and your own existence pull you down.) I get glimpses of what I used to have in those around me, their bodies wound with effortlessness. Ascending to gestures they draw in the air, I push hard to mold myself in a unison of body and mind. My feet start gliding across the floor, the walls of my body dissolve with the walls of the room — they are one in the same, and I am whole again. Here, for a bittersweet breath, I fill up all the space in the world with the crescendo of my liberation. (My piano teacher would be proud that I found a way to turn myself into music, if she wasn’t dead.) But my effort is never enough to last, the hunger for power is never satiated, and I die in the imperfection of my humanity again.
The epiphany is in the crux of the cycle, caught in an absurd purgatory for a healing dancer. Weak like an infant, wrinkled like an oak, I am left at the end of the phrase too blind to see rhythm beyond the logic of sound. My body has been resurrected against the will of nature, but learning of the relationship between movement and mind vindicates the hope that what cancer left behind is still mine. Youthful and elderly, present and past, alive and dead, strong and weak — these are the lines I walk towards a future, one I can only build when my mind and body are whole. In this way, the ephemeral art of dance is a stagger towards the construction of my final masterpiece.