Dance Diaries: The End of a Serious Business

Thursday evening, I officially completed my 10-month dance challenge.  Sweat drenched and red-faced, I was a LONG way from the nerves and near tears of this past September, when I pledged to commit to movement and finding joy outside my comfort zone. Along the way, I was forced to embrace imperfection, to take myself less seriously, and to be patient with my mind as it struggled to express itself through a body that never seemed to be a part of ME, but more a separate, undesirable thing.

I performed a 4-minute intro jazz routine earlier this month to an audience of strangers and keepers, my hair teased to one side, gold ribbon braided through to match the metal detail that hung down from the shoulders of my glam rock costume.  I was out of my element, nervous as hell, looking a fright in glitter and gold, but I did it.  It was far from perfect, but in the end, it was what I hoped it would be:  A ridiculous, satisfying and light-hearted closure to a promise I made to myself. I unexpectedly signed up for three more weeks of classes, not once, but twice a week in two different forms of dance; contemporary African and modern.  I now find myself with nowhere to dance for two whole months until I’m able to sign up and start all over again. Amazingly enough, I will miss the weekly challenge to feel silly, awkward, and vulnerable in the safe and specific context that adult dance classes create.

I realize that it’s a serious challenge trying not to be excessively serious about the dance steps you’re learning, the good opinions you’re wanting, the battle you’re fighting, or the meaning you’re seeking.  These 10 months of dance class have taught me that the fact of the matter is, there is no room for seriousness when you’re wearing black, gold, and fishnet stockings.  I receive this lesson with gratitude as I continue my attempt to crawl out from under the heaviness of this lupus conundrum and into the business of living. Unfortunately, there is no video to show since videography was not allowed, but I’m sure you can gather from my descriptions that it will go down in my personal history as both a treasured memory of a challenge completed and as my most interesting fashion offence to date!

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Dance Diaries Wednesday: The Last Class!

The instant I walked out of my last intro jazz class, I was engulfed by the exuberant beats of a marching band.  The timing was so impeccable, I momentarily wondered if I conjured them up myself.  They were, of course, my city’s own anarchist marching band, The Flaming Trolleys, taking advantage of a beautiful Spring evening by criss-crossing the downtown streets.  As they passed, a marcher’s hula hoop pushed through and above the drums and dreads, a circular blur of colour riding each musical crescendo.  It was all quite strange and delightful. I was intent on interpreting this musical greeting as The Universe congratulating me on making it through 10 months of sometimes excruciating dance class, until, not 5 minutes later, some dude gave me the finger.  Ah, well, sometimes a marching band is just a marching band.

While tonight was my official last Wednesday of classes, I still have two dress rehearsals and the show left this week before I can say that I have accomplished this crazy goal of mine.  It has been part of my zany, right-brained approached to living healthy with Lupus physically and emotionally.  When I made this goal, I said the following to myself:

Do something that scares you and is outside of your comfort zone.

Do something on your own and meet new people.

Try a different artistic art form.

Take ownership of your body as something other than a weak and sickly burden.

Seize these pain-free moments and MOVE.

So, here I am, 10 months later, mere days away from my end performance.  My nerves are causing all sorts of problems in rehearsal, pushing me deeper and deeper into my head instead of my body as I try to keep all the dance moves straight.  My instructor says he can tell that I’m physically stronger than I was in September, which I can definitely feel.  The increments of strength aren’t huge, but just knowing that there was visible progress has made this journey worth it.

So, I’m kind of strong, sort of, and I’ll be dancing my black and gold, glam rock butt off this weekend for strangers and my best keepers.  New goals are on the horizon, but let’s get through this craziness first!

Dance Diaries Wednesdays: Performance Countdown Begins!

“People are expecting you to suck.  They expect all intro classes to suck.  This dance is not a beginner dance because you’re capable of more than that.  It’s hard.  It’s fast. If you practice and work hard, in the next six weeks this dance could be fierce.  So, prove them all wrong.  Don’t be what they expect because that’s not who you are.”

That was my instructor’s “locker room speech” tonight as he prepared us for the rigorous rehearsing required in the next six weeks before our public performance.  Since my last “Dance Diaries” post, Cher was ousted by a new glam rock number that has us rippin’ up the stage in asymmetrical black and gold.  It’s full of angsty, bad-ass attitude and I’m feeling pumped and ready to put in some major sweat in preparation for the performance.

So, the countdown is on!  I have six weeks to do the unexpected and to hopefully, perform a mini-miracle on the dance floor.  I also have six weeks left of my 20’s and oh, what a decade it was.  It ain’t over yet and I can still squeeze in a whole lot of awesomeness until I literally dance my way into the next decade of my life!

Dance Diaries: Body Smiles & The Art of Spastic Meditation

I was back on the dance floor last night after a two week hiatus.  The first week was because of a class cancellation and the second was because of my recent bout of exhaustion.  After about two weeks of inactivity, I forced myself to start the process of re-aligning myself with my body.  It was time to get out of the fetal position and kick up the dust I’ve been accumulating nestled on my couch.

In my post, A History of Movement, I talked about the difficulties in managing my on and off again relationship with physical activity.  Once again, I found myself derailed by overwhelming fatigue and loss of appetite.  I couldn’t rationalize going to the gym to burn off the small amount of calories I was able to digest that day.  With my appetite recently returned, my body is crying out for order, for balance, for the sweat to start flowing on a regular basis.  I feel weighed down by the layers of tiredness I’ve carried around with me for the last two weeks.  I hit the gym tomorrow, but tonight I’ve put on my favourite dance tunes for some spastic, improvised dancing in my apartment.

Not only am I weighed down by the crusty remnants of ongoing fatigue, I feel like it’s been forever since my body has expressed “joy.”  That sounds pretty nutty, but I think it’s important to let your body “smile,” to let it go crazy and impulsive once in a while – hence, the spastic apartment dancing.  At dance class, I’ll admit that I am spastic there, too, but I’m also trying to follow someone’s instructions.  Sometimes, it’s important to move without thinking.  So, I guess you could say this is my version of meditation tonight, to close my blinds and clear my mind with the random flailing of my arms and legs.

We all need more joy in our lives and in our bodies… so, why not create some for ourselves?