I hadn't danced in a while, but a couple months ago a friend told me about a place in town that offers low-commitment adult classes. I had previously only taken classes with the department at school, trusting them to teach technique for safety, and to keep me challenged. Unfortunately, grad school has interfered with my ability to keep up with that schedule, so a drop-in evening class is just the thing for me now!
The years of dancing in college was a great time in my life as a dancer, because the challenges the dance professors offered were not just physical, but emotional. And they embraced the challenges I set up for myself, too. I discovered the intersection of my lifelong love for dancing and my deepening commitment to learning and personal growth as part of helping others through an unlikely project. It was unlikely in that it was one of those fortunate accidents I've come to be more prepared for now. Back then, I thought it was going to be a disaster.
You know how the creative process goes... Step 1. This is awesome, Step 2. This is hard, Step 3. This is crap, Step 4. I am crap, Step 5. This might work, (then cycle back) Step 1: This is awesome (and by the end, add: I am awesome).
I experienced that all for the first time in this dance project I proposed. It was supposed to be a sort of empirical study of emotional reactions to dance stimuli (nerd alert!). Unfortunately, my original plan started falling through: audience members weren't responding as I'd hoped in feedback showings, and I realized I was terribly off track. I became anxious and had a constant fear of failure that lived in my stomach (I'd later name that feeling Thesis Guilt when I got to grad school). I was funded to be doing this project, which was a great honor. But that meant if I bailed I would owe back more money than an undergrad cares to part with. That threat was enough: there was no way out but forward. I'm grateful to the dancers who stuck with me through this challenging time, when I hadn't yet built the confidence I have today to manage a creative team or call myself a choreographer or researcher. In spite of that, I stuck to this fantasy of being a scientist-choreographer and gained a lot from it. I hope that I also gave to others through the results of this project.
Though in a very different way than I imagined, I essentially did what I had set out to do: make something in the meeting of my dance-minor and psych-major selves. In fact, I did it twice: I created both the original group work I had proposed to make, and out of all the emotion of that process I created a solo composed about and of personal growth that I'm still proud of to this day.
As my career clients and I often learn, there's sometimes already a name for the thing we thought we invented to fit our intersections. In this case, it's artistic inquiry, a kind of research not taught in my grad programs, but beautifully valuable in my experiences. The whole processes of this dance coming-of-age are already recorded in a blog I wrote during the experience at USPpsychdance.blogspot.com. (For kicks, you can also find my blog from my stint dancing in NYC at my2280pints.blogspot.com.)
After all of this amazing experience with dance, it's so much a part of me and how I've grown that I refuse to give it up. I learn and gain too much from it. It keeps my heart happy and creative, and is healing when I need that, too. So while I'm doing grad student stuff instead of taking morning ballet or mid-day modern in the studios of the UF School of Theater and Dance, I can still connect to the gifts of being embodied through weekly evening lessons at this in-town studio. It's been a perfect opportunity to get beyond technique and move into embracing time, space, motion, fun, and wellness. Those things were always there in dance, but each time school calls for a hiatus and I return, I re-meet dance as a new person, and dance brings me into even more new growth and fullness.
As I like to say, I'm a dancer in my heart and mind, even if I'm not dancing. But these days, I'm happy to say I'm both.