0 In On Creating/ Personal

Dance: no language, just sound

Woman with long hair pulled back wearing a white shirt and dark pants is in a dancing pose. Text overlaid says No Language Just Sound. Photo by Leon Liu on Unsplash.

I’m going to talk about dancing, because I haven’t done that here yet and I’ve loved dancing just as long as I’ve loved music/singing and writing, which is to say pretty much my entire life.

CW: talk about disordered eating and exercising

My love of dance is one of the things that’s shaped me. And dancing and music are important in my Eleriannan stories, though I haven’t written one that focuses directly on dancing. [yet!]

I started ballet along with tap and jazz in elementary school, like a lot of AFAB kids in the US do. We were pretty poor but Mom knew I dreamed of being a ballerina, so she did her best to get me classes, at least until she got too busy with work to take me and pick me up.

I was able to do at least one recital before I stopped going to dance classes. But I continued to practice, doing my barre and floor warmups anywhere I could. I made up my own routines and would often stay up late dancing in my room when I should be asleep.

Later, in high school, I fell in with the theater people and that became my life.

We had an unofficial dance troupe and would dance at talent shows, school dances, or in random places. By the way, this is where I got over my fear of being in front of a crowd. [I have a whole another thread I could write about my time with the Thespian Society and the theater group and how that shaped me.]

Somewhere in here, lost to time and foggy brain cells, is when I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never be a professional dancer, especially a ballerina. I wasn’t tall and thin. I had great poise and technique but I was getting too busty.

I started exercising and stretching and dancing all the time. I didn’t eat enough. I went to college for theater and minored in dance and worked out constantly – weight lifting and swimming added to everything else – and I hated the food and I was depressed, so I ate even less. I dropped weight and I still wasn’t thin enough. *

In my beginner ballet class, which was my only path for getting ballet for college credits, my teacher praised me for my “good feet” and positions and control and asked if I’d danced before. Heh.

My modern dance teacher liked my fearlessness and technique.

Image of a woman with light brown skin and hair pulled back in a tight bun standing with her hand outstretched to the camera in a dancer's pose. Focus is on her hand. Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash.
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

Aside: I was majoring in theater. I eventually dropped out because the theater department wouldn’t cast me in anything – not because I lacked skill, but because I dyed my hair and shaved the sides and OMG I wasn’t leading lady material anymore. To which I replied, “I didn’t want those roles anyway, I like character roles. And haven’t you heard of WIGS?” Seriously, what the hell.

So I dropped out, and for a while my life was turbulent and I didn’t dance much. I starved, and I got too thin, which still wouldn’t have been thin enough to be a ballerina, ironically. And then I started going to clubs that played goth music and alternative college music and I started dancing for fun again. I would dance all night, using all the skills I knew to express the music. It was so freeing! No routines, just the music and my body and the flashing lights and atmosphere. Everyone else around me, doing the same thing. It was heaven.

I never did dance with an organized group again.

I continued going to goth clubs, and eventually I became a DJ and ran a night and would often be one of the first people on the dance floor, encouraging others to get out there and move. I like goth clubs. Sure, there are elitists – there are in any scene. But in general, they’re a great equalizer. Anyone can get out there and dance, and you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. No one cares. I’ve seen amazing dancers and ones who just do what I call the gothic two-step [you know, one to the right, then back to the left] or just sway to the tunes. It’s all great! Some people get aggressive, others swirl around. Some are really built and fit and often will show off their bodies in their moves on the floor. Others are curvy or rounder or very thin and they also get out there and move to the music and it’s beautiful every time. Speaking as both a dancer and a DJ, there’s nothing more entrancing to watch than a dance floor full of every type of body and style, all moving together yet in their own worlds.

Before I knew I had Crohn’s, my weight started fluctuating wildly and I didn’t know why. I danced every weekend and walked everywhere, it didn’t make sense. But my family has this extra-curvy body type, so I figured it was just fate. I didn’t link my gastric problems to that at all. Despite having lots of issues, I still was walking long distances and dancing all night. Even up to the day I had to rush to the ER with my bowel perforation, I had been going to the gym to work out regularly and dancing all the time.

After that surgery, things got harder.

I couldn’t bend properly at my waist for a long time. When I say properly, I mean freely, without having to think about the movement and what I might mess up internally – stitches, a surgical hernia. It sucked. I couldn’t lift anything heavier than 10lbs either, and I had no stamina.

Eventually I started doing barre exercises in the kitchen again [that’s my favorite place to do those – a kitchen counter makes a great barre] and slowly regaining my stamina. I started doing “tiny little goth club” sessions in my bedroom late at night, with disco lights and everything. I’m sure my neighbors were confused by the flashing lights coming from my window!

And then, just recently… two more surgeries. I was back to limited bending and no stamina again. I’ve *just* started feeling like I can dance and bend, even though I’m actually still healing the surgical wound. My disease makes healing slow, but I can’t stop dancing. At this point I’m almost 56, chubby, with creaky dancer’s knees and a chronic illness that gives me extra inflammation and fluctuating weight.

I’m not letting that stop me. Movement to music is in my blood, in my soul.

I’ll always be a dancer, no matter what anyone else thinks. No one can take that from me.

* The incessant starving/overexercising certainly didn’t help my Crohn’s, either. I’ve suffered through disordered eating most of my life and it definitely affected my body in ways I’ll never recover from. Don’t do it, y’all.
ps – title comes from lyrics to Transmission by Joy Division

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