Healing thru Dance: Grooving in the Shadows
At six months old, I learned to walk. They said I looked like a living doll, so small but moving like a sized-down adult. I was petite for my age, charming, and bright. At a year old, I went to court with my parents to make my adoption legal. My mother waited in the courtroom. They told her I would be with the judges for 15 minutes. An hour later, the judges brought me back, explaining that I had entertained them, dancing on the table and singing.
Pictures of my young childhood tell the story of an active little girl. My skin is a healthy olive color from playing in the sun. But in the third grade, something changed. My eyes seemed more vacant, and my body began to take on more weight. I went from being one of the smallest children to the largest. I no longer took dance lessons or danced with my parents. When I did, I saw the same in their eyes. Somehow the weight created a barrier to the world of dance.
In high school I dated, and then eventually married, a non-dancer. His mother had a dance troupe which I secretly wished to be a part of. Bellydance and hula. I feel like I am made to do them. As a young girl, I could make my tummy roll. It seems innate. But like a frustrated lover who yearns for her desires to be indulged but is put off, I was always pushed away. I could be part of the troupe, if I emceed or carried equipment. Only the thin girls danced. Didn't they know that these dances were made for roundness?
After my divorce, I met a woman as round as I was round. She taught dance classes in a small portion of the larger community I live in. They were more than dance classes, really. They were fall-in-love-with-your-body classes and discover-the-sacredness-of-movement classes. I would often sink into tears during the dances. I could feel myself coming home to a place in my life I had pushed away.
The reasons were both simple and complicated. Why does any woman begin to hate her body? Because we are taught to, because we have had our protecting voices silenced, because they are powerful instruments of creation?
One week while in the small bohemian community nestled within my South Texas town, I danced 19 hours and wished for more. It is a feeling I will never forget. I understood things about myself that I would never have understood without the dance. I knew about my flesh, my spirit, community, ancestry, and about my genuine self.
After a year or two, our small community went through a big change. Many of us moved away or found our own paths. I grieved not only the loss of community but the loss of the opportunities I had had to dance. I became overwhelmed with finding an equilibrum. My body habits changed, and then my body did. I put the dance away.
My body has suffered, as has my spirit. In saying this, I struggle with the idea of body acceptance. Self-love and self-care have been the touchstones of this last year's journey. I never realized how twisted the thinking about my body had become. Layers of hate, distrust, abuse and disgust buried the peacefulness I am learning to uncover. Can I love my body as it is in this moment? At this weight? In this condition? After what it has been through, after what I have done to it and made it do? The answer is yes. AND, I know my body wants more. Nevermind what my culture....what society wants....nevermind what the media says or what I assume others think. My body and spirit long to move and be moved. They are lovers that live within the context of my existence. Married to one another in a way, but sleeping apart. Recently though, I feel them longing for one another again.
Allowing myself to dance, encouraging myself to move, rarely just comes easily. There is stigma about moving a round body. It takes courage to take up more space than what is the cultural norm. And what if someone sees something jiggle where they believe no movement would take place?! These are the struggles that play out in my unconscious, right beside the wish to move.
I have connected once more with my dance friend. She is pregnant now with her husband away in the service. I have asked her if she might like to meet to move. We have plans to meet soon.
As I write this, I have a new awareness of dance for me at this time of my life. I recently turned 40 and have made a decision to no longer try to give birth to a child. In a year, when I am out of school, my husband and I will carry on what has become a tradition in both of our families. We will adopt. I am very satisfied with that decision. And at the same time, I grieve for never having the opportunity to experience pregnancy or childbirth. When I look out through the years of my life, I am amazed that I have no children.
People do not know what to do with a childless woman. Recently, I have become aware of the stigma involved, as well as the plain blindness that exists. Women are made to be mothers...is the belief. So people assume we are. And if we are not, they just don't know what to do with us. I believe this will change as people take more responsiblity for the planet and its children. And as we realized that every person has their own unique path.
Ahh, but back to my awareness. I know that childbirth is a form of creativity. And the body becomes its instrument. In practicing dance, I believe I can give my body a means to its innate desire to create. But instead of creating a child, I can create movement, nuance, emotion, story and perhaps the most important thing, healing.
This is my own personal advocacy of self. A demonstation of free will and self-expression. I will move the fleshiness of my body...not to lose weight or to exercise, but to become a priestess to the holy union of body and spirit for the sacred right of re-creation. To reclaim a part of myself which has been hidden away, secretly waiting just out of sight, grooving in the shadows.