I’m now sitting in my kitchen, hearing the crunch of my dog chewing her food, the clank of her name tag against the ceramic bowl, the lap of her tongue slurping water, the click of her tiny nails on tile, and I find myself reflecting on how I feel, in my body, emotionally and mentally. How bizare it seems that I haven’t been writing on this blog, as it now occurs as the natural thing to do after dancing. Where have I been? Who am I now? I’m doing the same motions as before but the landscape inside my heart and mind is much changed.
Let me back up….
So a few weeks ago I discovered this thing called Ecstatic dance. It’s basically a group of people who go to a dance studio or other suitable space, put up sheets so people can’t stare, cover the mirrors, and play music. Then everybody moves as they feel moved to move, they dance how their body wants to express, there is no choreography, just different rhythms of music played and an understanding of how to ask permission to dance with another if that is desired as well as how to decline or accept a request, plus basic safety rules of not laying down in the middle of the floor, keeping that to the periphery of the room, and dancing into empty space. There are some groups that allow contact but this one does not without mutual agreement of the parties involved. Anyways, I went a few weeks ago and each time there is a theme. The theme was “rules” last time and it was such a relief for me. What a blessed reprieve to just let my body move how it wants to instead of needing it to adhere to rules of ballet, rules of jazz, rules of ballroom….I mean most of the dancing I’ve done in my life has been in an attempt to get my body to fit into a construct – how very freeing it was just move however I felt like moving, ugly, rag doll, slow, fast, no structure, a misstep just becomes part of the dance, going off beat is no mistake just an opportunity to get creative. There was no way to actually do it “wrong.” I don’t see many places in my life where that kind of context lives, so to have a space where wrong doesn’t, cannot even exist, is freeing, and lovely.
I was hooked! You mean, I can dance for the joy of moving, get some stretching in, do some balance poses, get the blood pumping, and it is all up to me? There’s no prescribed exercises? No external force requiring anything of me? Sign me up. All I ever wanted to do was authentically express myself, to lose myself, to forget my identity, to drop all the thoughts about how I am or should be or am not and just be present in the moment. And there is something about it being witnessed, as well…it’s not performing, people aren’t necessarily watching, but still there is witnessing happening and somehow that makes the experience different from just dancing alone in my kitchen.
I made a committment to myself to make it to that class whenever I can and I was able to get there this Sunday. This time the theme was Empty Space. I didn’t quite know what to make of that, so I danced however I danced. At one point my headband went flying because I stopped moving and it was gone lol. I was completely unaware that it had escaped, I was so absorbed in whatever I was doing, though I will say my experience of myself was that I was more in my head than last time. Oh well, I’m sure each time will be different, there will be different things to discover. It was still great and my body feels happily tired.
It’s really interesting, thinking about that whole context thing – living as if I am a dancer – and although I was moving for the better part of 2 hours, using all kinds of muscles, and my body certainly got a workout, because it was movement I wanted to do as opposed to making myself go to an orange theory class or something, I’m sore but it’s not overwhelming like that used to be. I used to do one of those workouts and it wiped me out pretty much for the rest of the day. I’m beginning to think maybe it was more stressful on my body than beneficial because I still had plenty of energy after the dancing, and I do today, as well, after the “Training Like A Pro” class I just completed.
Again, tonight I danced for the better part of 2 hours – the first half was stretching and warming up, then rounds and exercises. Boy do my feet hurt and boy was the cardio killer since I’ve not been doing it but I noticed a few things. First, it went better than I would have initially guessed. I have it that I’ve not been doing regular exercises and certainly I’m not in the same shape cardiovascularly as I was last year at this time when I had been doing rounds consistently, but I’m still surprised. I totally got out of breath when we went around the floor in the different dances but you know what, so did everyone else. Not only is my body carrying more weight but I haven’t been participating in this class like they have…although I had to recuperate a few times, I kept joining back in as soon as I could. I didn’t make myself wrong or bad for my performance, I just noted how it was for me and know that it will suck for a while until I’m getting back in condition.
The other thing about it is that I’d much rather be doing this movement than gym movements plus I’m in the space of other dancers who are up to competing how I want to compete. There is something to be said for being in the dance studio environment, surrounded by people of a similar mind, who have bodies like I want to have.
But anyways, even though it wasn’t easy per se, even though I was challenged physically, I still feel energized, overall. If it was stress on my body it was a good stress, a stress that invites growth, rather than a punishing stress that thwarts growth. Hmmmmm, maybe this dancer context thing could really make a difference for me and my body.
I guess that’s all I want to share for tonight except to say that one thing I see that has been missing from my dancing life is consistent practice. I’m committing myself to taking the “Train Like a Pro” class Mondays and Wednesdays and to do the Ecstatic dancing on Sundays plus have 1 to 2 private lessons weekly through the end of the year. I will also look at the skills and drills classes that are offered and the classes at the gym that might support me in what I’m up to, like yoga. I’d also like to be more consistent with the blog posts, as well. I’m toying with the idea of writing after each class if I am so moved but then scheduling the post so it would come out consistently once or twice a week. It might not correlate with real-time, but it would mean you could count on hearing from me at a regularly scheduled time.
And one last thing, it seemed from the comments on the last post that the idea of living as a dancer or creating a context of being a dancer resonated with some of you. Has anybody been playing with that idea? Have new actions occurred to you lately? Have you discovered something about how you operate in your life? I’d love to hear all about it if you are willing to share.
Your Friend, Stef