When I really stop to think about it, I realize that dance is constantly taking me on a journey, or even multiple journeys at times. I am blessed to be a part of Jan Need’s piece, and as I reflected back on yesterday’s rehearsal, I was struck by how much the emotion in her work mirrored the many emotions of my past. Jan spoke candidly to us about her battle with fibromyalgia and how she realized that the effect it had on her body slowly spread to her heart and then her soul. I think this is a story that every dancer who has experienced severe injury can relate to on some level. For me it brings back memories of the chronic back injury that I inherited from an unfortunate car accident when I was eighteen. It took me almost completely out of the dance studio for two full years, as well as a six month relapse once I had entered the dance major at IU.
Did you know that psychological studies show that serious dancers begin to associate being a dancer as part of their identity? It’s true, and because of that, when a dancer loses her ability to dance for a given time, she also begins to lose part of herself. It is a trial that makes one redefine who she is and how she counts in the world. It is a journey I am very familiar with and I see this in Jan like I saw it in myself. I am saddened by the way life can take something so wonderful from a person. But I don’t want you to think that’s the end of the story, because Jan is clearly a lovely, caring person who is dedicated to her family and passionate about making her story come alive in dance. It reminds me that we all have stories to tell, both good and bad. Some of them we wear on our sleeves for everyone to see. Others we bury deep because they’re just too difficult to tell, at least for now. I am forever grateful that dance gives me the outlet to tell those stories, to live the emotions, and to experience them in a way that I can open my heart to an audience while still feeling empowered and safe. It often even pushes me to experience stories and emotions I haven’t encountered before.
Sometimes I forget that dance embodies the themes of my life. Honestly it embodies me (there’s that identity thing coming out). It stirs up my passion but brings calm to my soul. It pushes me further beyond my limits than I believed was possible, but keeps me safe from the ugliness in the world. In it, I am only me: no judgment, no expectations, nothing fake. I can be one with the movement of my body and express everything and nothing all at once. Dance is the metaphor for my life, and I am absolutely blessed to continue to experience it.