Death of a Dancer

6 Sep

(A long-ish, journal-y post. A quasi-personal essay. And a plea to myself.)

On my super-basic website, in the about me section, I wrote that I’m a writer, dancer, and teacher. I should probably change that seeing as I haven’t danced in almost a year.

I’ve danced on and off most of my life, most intensively in the last ten years. In high school, I replaced theater with dance as an outlet for the unverbalizable (is that a word?), choreographing wordless stories and sublimating excess energy. I took a brief hiatus in college, first to “adjust” (read: be lazy), then because I was rejected from Mosaica, the school dance group (needed to mend the ego with nutella sandwiches), and finally because of major surgery (a potentially book-long story I won’t explain here). While still in physical therapy I took exactly one horrible ballet class, and later attempted to join some rogue “dance jam” group (compiled of Mosaica’s rejects), a bunch of university students that didn’t wash their hair and rolled around on the floor of some loft housing 12 or 20 people and their 50 cats. Didn’t jive with me; I didn’t last long.

Sometime in my third year of college I finally found a niche, though, a modern dance class that didn’t bore me, didn’t feel awkward, and was just the right amount of pain. A good pain. A healthy pain. When I fell into depression (a string of bad relationships + grandfather dying), I doubled up on classes (“I’m so glad,” said my teacher, taking my check, “winter’s a wonderful time to work, don’t you think?”) and threw myself into the thing, plunging to the wood floor and relishing in the buckets of sweat released, the bruises gained. My teacher told me I was making remarkable progress, which always feels nice.

Graduation, France, and back to NYC. I took Graham classes. In general I don’t like Graham, I feel as if my bones are exposed and I think the discomfort is inherent and intentional and disquieting, but not in a good way. It’s melodramatic and, with the wrong teacher, down-right irritating. Luckily there’s one teacher in NYC that teaches Graham while doing Marlon Brando and John Wayne impressions and I took his classes semi-regularly, and laughed at his assurances that “if it feels wrong and painful you’re probably doing it right.” It was almost as good as the class in Montreal. I felt good about myself, I went back to my old studio from highschool and choreographed another piece for their anniversary weekend, had a wonderful (albeit self-conscious) time performing that and being in a larger piece by the director of the company, with out-and-out professionals. But after that performance last October I haven’t been back to a dance class.

So what happened? School happened. No dance classes nearby, nothing apparently convenient on the way, so I learned how to swim instead at the TC pool (useful, sure, but not the same as a satisfying dance class). Am I being lazy? Yes, definitely. I’m worried about taking down the label “dancer”– it might be the last nail in the coffin, though it feels like such a lie to keep it up there. And though dance has been this peripheral thing, not nearly as constant as writing, which as been front-and-center for a while, but this thing at the sidelines, it is frantically waving and quietly shouting (kind of like those nighmares where you scream, but no sound comes out), asking me not to just drop this part of myself. Well, we’ll see. If there’s a self-help group for lapsed dancers, I want in.

2 Responses to “Death of a Dancer”

  1. Andy September 7, 2006 at 8:29 pm #

    Just wanted to say this struck a few chords with me. Also that nutella is wicked good with bananas.

  2. Anca September 8, 2006 at 4:58 am #

    Mm, that does sound good. I also enjoy nutella and peanut butter, peanut butter and bananas, and peanut butter and honey.My first year in college there was one weekend where I made a peanut butter and cranberry sauce sandwich. That was also pretty good. But then, I’d been eating exclusively cranberry sauce the whole weekend and I really needed the peanut butter for a change of pace.

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