Dance 12: When They Tell You Not to Sing

Well, here we are, the last day and the last video of the Delicious Body Dance-a-thon.

I just need to take a second and really let that sink in.

One month. Twelve videos.

AND I DID IT.

When I started out with this project, I was absolutely terrified. I was so afraid to let go and dance on film. Over and over and over again.

But I posted that first video, and then the second and then the third…and I slowly, haltingly realized that this  sharing didn’t make me feel small and scared and not-good-enough. It made me feel bigger, more powerful, and more willing to take risks with my dance.

I feel like you can see that progression from the first video to this last one. It makes me so happy.

In ballet school, I was taught that I would never be good enough. That I would never be perfect, and that perfect was all that mattered. I was taught a lot of other terrible, damaging things too. But this project helped me move through that baggage and let it go. Because there are no scales to measure self-worth, and no way to compare your soul’s unique expression. No matter what they’ve told you. No matter how hard it is to believe.

…I feel like this piece is the perfect one to end on.

Thank you so much for witnessing this journey. Thank you to commenters and lurkers alike. Your support and appreciation radiated through the past month, and I will never forget it. <3

 

When They Tell You Not to Sing 

(By Suzi Q. Smith)

Has anyone called you beautiful today?
Have you seen the exploding stars in your smile, or are they already
black holes when greeted by a mirror?
Are you tall enough to reach your reflection,
or do the crushing boot heels keep you too close to the ground to reach?
Did they tell you that your face is impossible?

Did they tell you not to sing?
Did they tell you that you belong as close to the ground as you can get?
Did you believe them?

Did they rock and lull you with distractions,
or did they stone you into silence so that you no longer
spoke of your greatness?
Has anyone told you that you are a sleeping giant?
That you could rumble the earth all the way open if you wake up and stand?

Are you trapped inside a nightmare laced with villagers and ropes?
Have they named you ‘monster’?
Do you see the torches coming?
Are you yet to discover the might in your fingers?
Are you still buried in the slumber?

Has anyone told you of your majestic glory?
Have you heard whispers of possibility in your breath?
Have you reveled in the power of your sweetest dreams?

Do your teeth have welts?
Have they called your prison ‘cocoon’?
Are you ready to break out?
Are they so afraid of you that you have become
afraid of yourself?

Have they called you clumsy?
Have your legs gone numb in the box they’ve crammed you into?
Can you still wiggle your toes?

Do they mock your wings?
Do they echo the name ‘freak’ in their flapping?
Are you clinging, desperate to a branch?
Are your feathers atrophied?
Have you hardened into stone?

Do they treat you like an artifact?
Has your size become an idle exhibit
now that you are no longer a threat?
Are you still a threat?
Are you history, or are you making it still?

Has anyone told you today that you are still breathing?
That you can melt stones into water with a touch?
That the sun and moon are sheepish at the sight of you?

That the struggle free is what strengthens your wings
to carry you forward?
I offer you every mirror.
Your reflection is in love with you,
waiting.

 

Dance 11: Unnamed #5

This video is what happens when you really want to make a dance video, but your husband is sick in bed. Please pay no attention to the adorable toddler playing with an iPad in the background.

I love this song. I love this song. I love love love this song. And that posed a major problem: when I thought about filming it, I became very concerned that my actual movement wouldn’t accurately reflect the dance in my head. I listened to the music again and again, and I kept thinking, “Maybe I should wait and try this one when I’m in better shape. Take a few months to, you know, work out, so I’m good enough to do it.”

…it made me wonder if that one thought wasn’t largely responsible for my lack-of-dancing over the past too-many-years…the pain of “not good enough” and putting off creativity until I felt worthy of it…

Here’s the thing: a dance (or book or painting or poem or piece of music) in your head may be perfect and magical in its amazingness. It may feel good to take that thought out and polish it and marvel at its sheer awesomeness. It may feel scary as hell to even attempt to make it real. But the truth is that until that idea is brought out into the world, made real in all of its inevitable imperfection…it’s just thoughts. It has no life of its own.

I struggled with this piece. I struggled with the dancing and the editing and the child-minding. And it’s not an accurate reflection of what was in my brain when i envisioned it.

But you know what? It’s here. It’s out here in the world. You can experience it along with me.

And that makes it bigger and better than my perfect thoughts. It’s unique in its real-ness, both like and unlike my vision, with a life of its own. I am so proud of it.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBx7mzW-VW0)

What grand and glorious idea do you have stored away in your mind? How would it be if you made it real in all of its magnificent imperfection? How many lives would it touch? 

Dance 9: …

I didn’t meant to take as long as I did between videos. But giving myself permission to rest and not pressure myself made me realize just how strung out and stressed and self-crtical I had been feeling. Letting go of that made me feel like a 50 lb weight had been lifted from my chest…and I knew that I needed more than a day to enjoy it.

So I let myself rest. I watched movies. I read books (not even useful, informative books! Trashy books! It was AWESOME!). I stretched. I played with Xander (and realized how little I’d been connecting with him in the previous few weeks, even though we’re together 24/7). I didn’t even LOOK at the blog (so please forgive me if your comments went unanswered…I appreciated ALL of them).

And then one day I knew I was ready to dance again. But I wanted to try a video without music…just like my first one. I wanted to let my body dance however it needed to in order to get back into the swing of things. So I set a timer and I danced in silence.

It’s not a perfect video. My inner critic and I duked it out several times. There are moments where you can see my focus slip. My inner dance critic had a field day. But now that I watch it again…I wouldn’t change a thing. This is me at a moment when I decided to keep moving in spite of that inner critic, to share what my body has to express, regardless of how “good” it is (oh, that hateful voice inside). And that makes it perfect and beautiful all on its own.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJLYHocG4Q)

Are you struggling to push through resistance? Are you being really insanely hard on yourself? How would it feel to let that pressure go, to rest peacefully, and to pick things back up once it feels right? How much of the weight you’re carrying is your own self-criticism? 

xox

Meg

Pause for Buffering…

I was going to film a dance video tonight.

I was. I cleared the space. I swept the floor. I tried to pick out a song to use…I was exhausted, but I told myself to push through it. Push push. People are expecting a video, Meg. You should have had one up on Tuesday. I don’t care if you’re tired. Pick a $&#%ing song and %#&@ing dance.

Woah there.

What?!

No.

Forcing myself to make a video out of guilt and stress and fear and in spite of being incredibly tired and not particularly inspired…that’s not what this dance-a-thon is about. That’s not a recipe for self-expression. That’s not sharing the joy of moving my body.

You know what that is? An all-too-familiar place. The place where dancing is a should and not a joy. Where moving is impeded by layers of pain, my body weighed down by resistance and fear. Where injury waits for me. Where I can never be good enough. Where the drill-sergeant voice in my head screams “TRY HARDER!” and I leap to attention, no matter how tired or sick I am.

Screw that.

I knew that this process would bring me face to face with a very dark part of me. This is the part that I always run away from. This is the part that either makes me stop dancing to get away from it or push through in obedience and hurt myself because I’m not fully embodied and I’m not moving with love.

What do I do this time?

I take a step back. I remind myself that:
a) Not dancing tonight doesn’t make me a quitter. There’s still plenty of time.
b)  If I want to learn to dance on my terms, then I need to respect my body’s requests for rest.
c) Tomorrow I’ll be able to start earlier  and hopefully won’t be so tired
d) The only person pressuring me is me.
e) Forcing myself to dance right now when I can’t even pick a song to move to is a sure-fire recipe for hating the resulting video.

There are times to push. There are times when resistance is something you can move through in a healthy way. I encountered that kind of resistance when I first considered doing the dance-a-thon.

But there are also times when resistance is telling you something, when pushing through would make the problem worse.

The former feels exhilarating. It lights you up and makes you feel what author John Green once called “a shimmering nervousness” (I love that). The latter is heavy. It feels like you’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. It sucks.

Only you know which you’re encountering at any given time. Only you know which is the right choice for you. Only you can make that call.

Tonight I know.

I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s the loving thing to do.

Dance 8: The Long Goodbye (A dance in 2 parts)

I used to hate performing.

Right at the beginning, when my teacher would scream at us backstage and force us to be at the theatre at 8am for an 8pm performance, I hated it. I hated the terror of challenging choreography and not feeling ready and worrying about my pointe shoes and forgetting the steps.

And then I changed schools. And I stopped dancing in pointe shoes. And I started doing my own choreography. And everything changed.

My favourite memories of performing are stepping onto the stage to dance my own solo and Knowing that my dance and my story were powerful, that I could fill that entire theatre with my energy, and that my heart and the hearts of my audience were about to have a conversation.

I can’t adequately describe what that feeling is like. At the time I described it like “having the audience in the palm of my hand,” but that sounds like manipulation. It wasn’t. It was secrets whispered from my heart to theirs, opening a window to my soul and knowing that they would peek in and be touched by what they saw.

I mention this because this project, this Delicious Dance-a-thon, has brought me closer to that feeling than anything has in years. It’s different, because my dances are improvised, because I can use editing to put the dance together, and because I don’t have the same space-sharing connection as I did in the theatre, but…I don’t know…it feels the same.

It’s reawakening things in me: knowledge of my body’s power, new appreciation of the way I move, a love of the person on the screen (instead of my traditional horror of seeing myself dance on video). And it’s changing me: inviting me to push a little more, lean into my discomfort, try something new, play.

I didn’t realize until this project just how limited I had made myself: dancing my own little dance, making it beautiful—yes—but creating that beauty within the limits of “well, I can’t move farther than this because I’ll hurt myself and I’ll stop dancing altogether.” Every day getting sorer and tighter and more terrified to move. Every day feeling that powerful, connected dancer slipping farther away.

These videos are helping me to push past those limits, trust myself a little more, step out a little farther. They are helping me to take back that power I thought I’d lost, that connection and blossoming energy that made my heart ache with longing whenever I thought about it.

 

Today’s music has two layers: the cello and the marimba. I tried dancing to each part separately.  I was originally going to edit the “best bits” together into one video…but I found that they wouldn’t fit. They wanted to be shared separately, just as they were created.

And I think this works, because it shows two different ways to step outside of a comfort zone:

The cello, smooth and emotional, feels much more home-y to me. During this dance, I pushed myself to move a little bigger, shift a little more often. I pushed to my edge by more fully inhabiting the dance.


(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXN-1VbLcyk)

The marimba, on the other hand, frenetic and unceasing, is a foreign land to me. It’s not a dance I typically do. I stepped outside of my comfort zone even attempting to put this on film. And it was exhausting. You can watch me get tired during the course of the video. For a while, I debated whether to share this take at all. But you know what? those first 20-30 seconds? I adore them. They made the entire exercise worth it. They opened up a new layer of self-trust and opportunity for movement. They make me believe in myself just that little bit more.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gR9daLJeKA)

Thank you for reading this, for watching these videos, for leaving your comments. You are part of this healing, this blossoming. You are part of it, and I am so incredibly grateful to you.

Dance 7: Not a category

The alternative title for this video is “FEET!”

I wanted to see what would happen if I did an entire video focused only on my feet. I started with bare feet. But then I thought to myself, “hey, what about my Doctor Who sneakers?” and then, “I bet my Docs would be fun!” and then “Hey, how about my wedding shoes?” and finally, “Slippers! Just because!”

I wanted to see if my footwear would change the way I danced. And it did, for sure. Bare feet and slippers were my favourite. They were the most comfortable to dance in and they opened up the most scope for movement. My sneakers made me feel goofy. My boots made me stompy. My heels made me feel like a salsa dancer (with sore feet). It was an interesting experiment.

I had fun playing around with my feet and footwear. But I also found it really challenging.

I’m an upper body dancer. My upper body is my comfort zone. To do this dance, I had to focus entirely on my feet. And that was HARD. It made me so grateful for the rest of my body and my ability to dance with every inch of me. I would do this again to another piece of music just to see if I could do it differently, but I think the next few videos are going to feature ALL of me.

 

“I don’t know what I am, what I am,
But I’m not a category…”