“Movement never lies. It is a barometer telling the state of the soul’s weather to all who can read it.” ― Martha Graham
Every person has an activity he or she loves. An activity that the person just ‘gets.’ For some it is flying or cooking or painting or chess. I love writing and dancing. In 2014 I was privileged to dance in several pieces as well as emerge as a choreographer. As with any dancer, my health affects my ability to dance and I recently had to take ten months off of dancing. I felt a disconnect between my brain and my limbs. What it was desperately trying to get my limbs to do was different than the actual actions that were the end result. I struggled as each movement, large or small, caused pain in arthritic my joints.
However, in this time I had a wonderful opportunity to be a choreographic assistant. For five months I watched another choreographer’s process from the infancy stage to the final performance. As the choreographer explored the movements and the story of the dance, I was learning about how effective abstracts were. Learning use of the stage. Learning to help each dancer grow. Learning costuming. Learning.
The dancers were the same who I had been lucky to dance with for the last five years. I’m not going to lie, as the months progressed, I missed dancing. I missed being able to escape the body barriers I experience. While this may sound strange, when I dance seated in my wheelchair I’m able-bodied. Yes, my arthritic fingers are permanently bent, but when I dance they extend. My joints that arthritis has deformed are no longer deformed. Dancing is about my ability.
I kept reminding myself that not dancing was not permanent. The months as a choreographic assistant taught me the art of choreography and still allowed me to be part of the dance community. Deep inside I was missing movement. Missing dancing. My confidence as a dancer was low.
As the months and my health progressed, a concept for a dance tip-toed around in my head. Wanting to bring the idea to life, I contacted another dancer in our community to see if she would be interested in working on a duet. She agreed. I booked studio time. I had the song. I was ready to step into dance once again.
The first rehearsal was amazing. Together we played with movements. We played with the meaning of the piece. We played with sound. It was like being a child in a candy store. On the drive home, I was filled with an energy and a happiness that had been missing. The next day my joints reminded me of my limitations, but my soul reminded me of the freedom and love for dance that had been missing.
For eight weeks, the other dancer and I met weekly to work through each phrase until we were able to string them together into a story. At the end of the process, I found my confidence and a gentle reminder what was missing in my life. Dance. A gentle reminder we need these activities and passions in our lives, even when they are challenging.