I have the pleasure of sharing another guest post today!
Much as it was a surprise to think about how long M. Fenn and I have known each other, it was a “Wow!” moment when I realized that Erika and I have known each other for over 10 years. We met while both in undergrad at a small liberal arts college. Throughout the time I’ve known Erika, I truly appreciate her curiosity and the gentle and clear ways she understands her world. She brings that same voice to Visible and Real today, talking about practice. A dancer, yarn and cat wrangler, professor, and all around wonderful soul, you can also find her writing over at her account on Dreamwidth.
I’ve been away from the dance floor for a little while, and it is starting to show.
I have had good reasons – company visiting, and sickness, and car trouble, and choosing to get enough sleep before sliding into another week of teaching.
I have been juggling that list of things that are all, somehow, my very top priority. There is class prep and grading and showing up for my students. There’s hitting the pattern of medication, sleep, eating well, and moving to take good care of my body. There is time carved out for myself, to be by myself, with books and cat and yarn and music and TV and silence, so I don’t become completely unhinged. There is work that is professional but longer term, pulling papers together, and getting ready for the job market again. And there is dance.
I have been several different kinds of dancer over the years. I took tap and ballet in elementary school. I dance at rock concerts and dances. I started to belly dance in graduate school as a refuge – an hour a week where bodies were important, instead of just brains – and eventually found myself performing. And then I found the 5Rhythms practice, where we dance (in part) because our bodies have things to say, and movement is their language.
I dance to check in with myself. To see where my body is – energetic, in pain, tentative, balanced, lost. To find out what my body needs to tell me. To really be who I am right in the moment. To witness the story that only I can tell, even if I don’t really have the words. When I am practicing regularly, when I manage to get myself on the dance floor reasonably often, it feels like home. It is a deep sigh of relief to take off my shoes, hear the music, feel my feet, and move.
But I’ve been away from the dance floor for a little while. An empty, quiet dance studio is a lot like a blank page, and all the empty space there is intimidating. I never know what I’m going to find in the dance, and right now that’s scary, rather than an invitation to go find out. How will I move when I haven’t for so long? What if in the month I haven’t been showing up, I’ve forgotten how to move? What will come out of my dance? When I’m out of practice, how will I handle what’s there? How can I pile something possibly overwhelming onto an already tall pile of too much?
There’s inertia, too. I’ve survived this past month without dancing. I even made good choices about choosing not to dance in the face of other things, and had good days, doing things that weren’t dancing. So maybe I’m too busy this Sunday, too. Maybe I need that time for other things. Brains are tricksy and sly.
But I’ve been here before. And I know that my body is worthy of the trust I give it when I step onto the dance floor. That my feet have taken me incredible places, but they’ve never taken me too far too fast. That movement is what bodies do when we give them permission; that there’s nothing to forget. That if I give my body space to speak, it will use gentle words and tell me things that are worth knowing. I know that dancing makes me more whole, more centered, more capable. I know that there are ways to be that are better than survival.
And so I start to persuade myself back onto the dance floor. The semester is coming to a close, but it’s not ending NOW. I’ll set the alarm for Sunday morning, and will try not to turn it off. Maybe I’ll usher myself into bed at a sane time Saturday night. And maybe, this week, I’ll find myself moving on a dance floor by the ocean. And if not this week, almost certainly the next. Because my practice is big – and maybe part of what I learn is that it’s flexible enough to let me live all of my life, and will be there, again, when the cracks start to show.