Friday, July 30, 2010

The more I dance the more I write

If I could shimmy like my sister Kate

Shake it like jelly on a plate

My mama wanted to know last night

How sister Kate could do it oh so nice

Now, all the boys in the neighborhood

Knew Kate could shimmy, and it's mighty good

I may be late but I'll be up to date

When I can shimmy like my sister Kate.

I mean, shake it like my sister Kate.

Those were the lyrics to my first ecstatic dance.  My dad played blues guitar and sang, and I’d shake and shimmy just as fast and furiously as my little three-year-old booty could across the ice blue carpet of our Florida living room. By the end of a jam session I'd usually ripped off most of my clothes and whirled around and around, my eyes streaming, to collapse in a heap.  This dance had a name.  I called it the widdy-waddy dance.

Since I was clearly not such a ballet type, my mother took me to tap class.  I loved the tah-TAH sounds my shiny Mary Janes made the first time I put them on, and hated the thick white tights that slid down my hips to create an unpleasant basket effect around my crotch during class as the instructor’s grating voice shouted, “shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change".  I crumpled.  We didn't go back.

The funny thing about the shadow, all those parts of ourselves we aren’t comfortable acknowledging, is that we leave our love and passion in the dark as often as we leave our fear and anger.  As Rilke says, “the darkness pulls in everything.”

After that one tap class I decided that I had a secret.  My way of dancing wasn’t o.k. with the rest of the world, so I needed to hide it.  The surest way to hide something is to bury it someplace where you can't even find it yourself, like a squirrel with an acorn.  That's what I did.  I told myself I wasn't interested in dance.  I didn't even like watching it very much.  I would still dance around alone in my room, but that didn't count.  That was silliness.  It wasn't dance.  When I danced in the theater, that was acting.  It wasn't dance.

The acorn stayed buried until I started developing my intuition during a terrible period of writer’s block.

The conversation with myself went something like this:

          "I HAVE to get out of this block.  What can I do?  WHAT?"
           "You are a dancer.  Dance."
           "What?  I'm not."
           "Yes you are."
           "Sure you don't mean that dance will shake me loose-- that's all?"
           "No.  You are a dancer.  It is a part of who you are.  Find it."
           "Really?  If I'm a dancer I'll be able to be a writer?"

I didn't have anything to lose. I listened to that voice.

Within six weeks of my first epiphany I’d found my teacher, Dunya McPherson, and Dancemeditation.  I watched her dance and thought, ‘That’s it. I can come out now.  Its safe for me.  She's such an amazing dancer, and... she's doing the widdy-waddy dance!  She's moving just how her body wants to move.'  I went on her website and fell in love with her writing too.  Clearly perfect.

The writer's block took time to fully melt away; maybe a year of furious dancing within the healing context of Dancemeditation with its focus on awareness and respect for the body's innate intelligence.

When the block finally melted I thought, 'Well, maybe I got what I needed and now I can stop.'  But of course its not like that.  The more I deepen into dance, the more my writing deepens, the more I deepen.  The body is a doorway to reality beyond the personality, the ego, which can hold us all hostage.  It was my ego telling me I couldn't, shouldn't write.  My ego was telling me to stay small, safe, and to avoid criticism at all cost.

I'm often scared.   Dance is an art form that takes many years and hours to begin to master.  It isn't about steps, its about learning how to move the body with more and more articulation and awareness.  Five years and eighty days to earn my Dancemeditation teacher training certificate and I'm still near the beginning of that journey.  The exciting part is that like studying nature, studying the body from the inside out is also a life's work.

At its core my dance feels strong. The widdy-waddy dance is intact.  Its unfolding with greater variation every time I have an opportunity to learn technique, to discover more ways to move, different ways of seeing, feeling, of being in the world.


Karleen said...

Love this, the way movement and writing are somehow intertwined.....

Kate T.W. said...

It feels mysterious and obvious at the same time...

Nathalie Molina said...

I found myself shifting in my chair as I read this, a few "yes!" exclamations made their way out...mostly just want to embrace you and thank you for writing this.

The Girlie-Queue said...

Hey Love... I have to share, I'm going in the opposite direction ;)

I recently joined a writing group (memoir writing)... and the more I write, the more I dance...

And it's even funnier, but the more writers I encounter, the more I find that *THEY* are dancing in order to stimulate their writing :) it's kind of awesome... but it appears to have become 'the thing' :)

Thanks love, this was brilliantly written.

Tandava (Carol Henning) said...

I'm right there with you... blocked for decades, finally shimmying some words loose with a wittle widdy-waddy of my own. :-D You are an inspiration!!

Kate T.W. said...

@Nathalie hugs back for your 'yes!' @the Girlie-Queue... love that dancing & writing are becoming a thing! Wouldn't it be great to have writing breaks at dance studios & dance breaks at offices? Add in some music making breaks & visual art breaks & this is a world I like.... Don't know if we are going in opposite directions so much as meeting around the mountain. ;-) @Tandava yay for shimmy words! Your shimmy an inspiration too.

ArtInTheYard said...

Your story has moved me deeply... to tears. I think that there is a strong reflection of myself in your words. Giving up on dance class... hiding in my room, dancing... thinking I could never be a dancer...too short.. too fat... so utterly imperfect.

And having found Dunya McPherson and DanceMeditation just weeks after an epiphany. I think I am also moved with gratitude for that and having an incredible love and gift of dance, and mostly because the best and greatest experiences of my life are still to come.

I have not yet begun my journey with Dunya and I already see my life's amazing.

I'm not a writer but I am an artist. One of the best times in my life was when I was studying fine art in college. My studio at home was a large bedroom that used to be my sister's. When I was stuck with a painting or a project I would dance then go back to my work.. then dance... then work... It's was a constant rotation and very effective.

Thanks so much for sharing your story :-)

Kate T.W. said...

@ArtintheYard thanks to you for sharing your story too. And I'm always grateful when my writing can be of use to someone else. That's the best.

Anonymous said...

After years of feeding my dance to the depression monster, I finally took it back at 40. Now I am a certified yogadance instructor and on my way to more learning and more healing.

I thought, at first, that I had become a writer who happened to dance, and oh, the freedom and additional layer of BECOMING that happened when I said, "NO! I am a DANCER who writes."


Kate T.W. said...

Incredibly inspiring to me Christine. Thank you so much for sharing that.