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!

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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?

Dance Diaries Wednesday: The Original Trauma

I suppose I have never explained why learning dance choreography was on my list of “greatest fears.”  We all tend to fear things that we don’t do very well, especially as we grow older.  As adults, we’ve found our “niche,” the things that we do well with little effort, so we keep doing it.  Why put ourselves (and our egos) through a learning process that will only make us look like fools?  We spent enough time in our younger years feeling like shit about ourselves and our abilities, right?

Some fear even the notion of trying, others fear because they’ve tried and failed.  Me?  I did a spectacular version of the latter. Many years ago, I auditioned for a local musical production.  My song and monologue got me through to call-backs, which, of course, included a dance portion.  Surrounded by skinny, graceful, obviously trained dancers in leotards, I stood there, petrified in my shorts and t-shirt.  A sense of impending doom swept through my body.  I watched fellow actors walk out of the dance studio without even trying to audition, disheartened by the level of skill required in the choreography.  Somehow, I found the courage to do it anyway.  I thought, I made it to this point, I might as well follow through. If you watch “So You Think You Can Dance,” think of the choreography round.  Remember those dancers who made you cringe and laugh at the same time?  Well, that was me. And to top it off, one of the auditioners ran after me as I hurried out to leave and said, “I just wanted to thank you for coming out.  That took a lot of courage for you to do that…”

Yah… um, thanks??

So, that, my friends, is the original trauma.  I can laugh about it, of course, but I was never in a hurry to repeat the experience.  I was content in the knowledge that dancing was not “my thing.”  You will be happy to know, however, that the dance class I am taking now is in the very same dance studio of so many years ago.  Yes, we are back at the scene of the crime!  It seems suspiciously planned in order for me to proclaim this delicious bit of symmetry on my blog, but it was, in fact, coincidental and realized after I registered for my class.  Regardless, it’s interesting to face this fear and to know that I face it with exact geographical precision!!

As for tonight’s class, the Bollywood routine continues to kick my ass, but I find myself less bothered if I am unable to grasp the steps.  I love that it’s fun and fast – I can hardly catch my breath from it’s cardio goodness.  My instructor also hinted tonight that he is leaning towards doing the lyrical jazz piece (“Last Dance” by Donna Summer) we learned before Christmas as our performance at the end of the year.  Did I mention we get costumes?  It will be an extravaganza of ridiculousness and I’m seriously contemplating asking one of my keepers to videotape it so I can post it here!  Nothing like a blurry, low quality video of non-dancers bobbing around in sequined, tight outfits to remind me that the real skill lies in being able to laugh and enjoy our own imperfections. Although, I do agree, wearing sequins in order to do that is a little much!

Dance Diaries Wednesday: Bollywood, Baby!

After four weeks off, I’m officially back on the dance floor!  This time, I’m doing my best to muster up some Bollywood star power.  During a pause in the choreography, I stated emphatically to the class:

“My friend is a classically trained Indian dancer.  She would puke if she saw me right now.”

I had to do this position and hold it as I bounced forward. I'm sure you know how that turned out.

Through my friend, I have been lucky enough to be exposed to this beautiful dance form for many, many years.  The intricacy and quickness of moves right down to the direction of the dancer’s gaze always amazed and humbled me.  Damn, her leg muscles humbled me!  I’ve also seen her and many of her family members and friends perform Bollywood routines as a wedding gift or at other special occasions.  While experiencing the energy and theatricality of Bollywood dance, you can’t help but smile, clap, and cheer.

And so here I am, getting my chance to try it.  The music and choreography was SO fast, most of the time I felt like I was blurring everything together instead of hitting specific movements.  I’d go back and forth between getting a few counts of choreography and faking my way through several counts in order to catch up to everyone else. I must have looked like a harried, little chipmunk rather than a sexy Bollywood diva, but it didn’t really matter.  I had a great time!  I’m looking forward to practicing this week to see if I can improve next time.

So, okay, I don’t really think that my friend would puke.  I think she would actually be smiling, clapping, and cheering for me because I’m trying something she loves and is part of her.  And that’s the point, right?  I’m trying.