Who I Am and Why I Came Back To Dance (Disclaimer: It’s longer than I intended)

I am semi-new to blogging and this site is completely fresh…I started it Tuesday night.  I had no intention of writing a post like this. I was going to just jump into some of the ideas I have for this site, slowly unfolding concepts and ideas I want to work with.  However, yesterday I spent a bit of time searching “topics” in the Reader, trying to find other blogs that I would like reading to add to my own feed.  I clicked on a random dance video, after searching something like “choreography” and discovered a new blog.  But after checking out some of her other posts, both writing and dancing, I decided that this person was really passionate about what she is doing, and this inspired me because there is nothing I love more than finding people who are really passionate about something and are proactive about it. (I want to give this woman credit, so her blog is this: NadiaInHerOwnWorld.wordpress.com and you can also find the link in the footer of my blog in my list of blogs that I follow).

For me, one of these “somethings” that I am passionate about is dance, but my dance journey has not always been so linear.  I spent most of my youth and teenage years dancing. My mom put me in a dance studio when I was a child, and about the first five years of my life after three were spent doing ballet and tap.  I remember making up dance routines at home in the living room and performing them for my mom.  We would also stretch together, using towels to wrap around our feet like a belt while laying on our backs.  Eventually we moved away, and so I left my home studio.  After this I spent my middle school and high school years dancing for the school dance team and also in a studio, mostly jazz and kick line at this point. During my senior year, I started contemplating what I would do in college.  There was always something inside of me that said I should do dance, but for some reason I didn’t see this as an actual possibility, or an actual major. I had no clue what I wanted to do, and I decided to start a degree in journalism, with this idea that I liked writing and traveling and I could always try to write for a travel magazine or something like this.  This is the moment when I consciously decided not to dance anymore unconsciously.  In hindsight, this is exactly what is was: a conscious decision that I made unconsciously.

It seemed easy at first. I went away, I left my home, I started at a university, dance was in my past. I would even say things like, “oh yeah, I danced when I was in high school (and middle school, and childhood…)”  I would use the past tense. I no longer identified with this aspect of myself. I knew that I liked dance, I knew that I like choreography, but I was no longer a person who did those things. I think at first I missed it, but after a year or two, and immersing myself into journalism (before deciding to switch to psychology…and ultimately anthropology) I forgot about dance, I forgot that I missed it. The intersting thing is that I started doing yoga, and I became pretty involved in this practice initially–probably because without realizing it, I was getting back into my body again.  Key thing: you can’t forget the body.

There came a day when I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore. I really loved school and anthropology, but I was confused.  I decided to put school on hold, traveled overseas, worked on a farm, and then moved back to my hometown. Upon arrival, I didn’t know what I would do next. I hang out in cafes quite a bit, and one day I overheard the barista tell someone that she taught dance classes: adult ballet and adult jazz. I suddenly felt like all I wanted to do was dance, and so I went up to the girl before leaving and asked where she taught her classes.  A few weeks later I showed up, nervously, to the jazz class. They had just started a piece of choreography and I got placed in a window between two other girls in the second row.  My first thought after about five minutes was “Wow, I haven’t done this in a long time!” and “Why is picking up choreography so hard?” Five years ago picking up new steps was easy and quick. I realized this act of learning steps and coordinating the body to execute them is a skill that becomes easier with time, and pretty naturally with a lot of practice. But the brain is also wired in a certain way to do this, and if you don’t stretch these neural pathways regularly, they start to change. Not only was this first class a physical exercise, it was a mental one too, and more than my body it was my brain being exercised.

But after a few classes, I started to pick up things quickly again, and my mind and body seemed to suddenly remember how to do everything it used to do. Instead of focusing so much energy just trying to remember movement patterns and getting my body to do them in time, I could start putting more of my energy into the emotion I wanted to express, and into feeling my body dance. Pretty soon, my favorite times of the week started to be these hours in the studio. I used this time to release anything I was going through, to put my emotion and energy into something, despite the type of emotion. And I also started to see that my body spoke to me too. When I did certain movements, my body felt certain things. This would trigger my mind into an uncovering and discovering process. What was most impressive was that I couldn’t believe that I went five years of my life without dancing. How could I ever not do this, I thought. This is how I consciously made a decision unconsciously. I consciously decided to stop dancing because I went to college and decided to major in something that wasn’t dance because I unconsciously thought that’s what I was supposed to do. In turn, I thought this part of my self and my life was over.

The other thing I realized is that for a long time in my life, I knew that I liked dancing, but I even danced unconsciously.  Sometimes, especially in high school dance team, I just learned the dances and performed them at basketball games, and knew that it was fun and something I was good at, but I didn’t feel my body in the process. It was just execution.

Pretty soon, we had a dance recital at the studio I took the adult classes at.  It was pretty funny, because this was mostly a recital for all the young kids in their dance classes. I felt like I was eight all over again, dancing in itchy costumes with bright red lipstick on and a bunch of eye makeup.  But this is what made me realize I wanted this as a part of my life again, and I wanted to dance consciously. So I renerolled in school, and started studying dance again.

Currently, I am in my last year at the university before hopefully continuing my studies elsewhere.  I finished my anthropology degree and picked up a second major in french. Dance is my minor, as the university does not offer it as a major, but it is definitely more than a minor interest in my life. It is a passion and it is something I need in my life. Not only does it allow me to express myself to others, but it opens me up to myself.  The act of moving and not thinking actually opens up tons of layers of awareness to who you are and what you feel. But the act of moving after thinking is also good.  Choreography for me is an intellectual activity of sorts, and a creative expression that unites the ideas of the mind with bodily movement and emotional feelings, allowing all of these aspects of the self to work together as a whole.  I came back to dance because that is who I am, and I could no longer shut it out.  I am also a lot of other things, like a student, an anthropologist, a writer, an artist, a film addict.  But I’m also a dancer. And I’ve made the decision to be a dancer consciously.

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