To Dance…that is the question

A dance newsletter came into my inbox this afternoon, and at the end there was a poll about dance names. I answered the questionnaire, which asked how you got your dance name (given by a teacher, a name reference, made it up, etc). I checked the box next to “I dance under my own name.” I dance under my own name because dance wasn’t isn’t about what I do, it’s about who I was am. I used to be am most honestly myself when I’m dancing, and have often said that if you want to know who I am, you must watch me dance.

Which is why I don’t have a dance name.

Which made me think again about why I don’t dance lately.

If I can’t dance anymore, is it because I no longer know who I am? Has the dance truly left me?

I just don’t accept that something that has been at the heart and soul of who I am could totally disappear from me like that. I think back to last winter and spring and the feelings of devastation and grief and loss-of-self that accompanied the depression. I think back to what was happening in my life leading up to that. I see how I could have tangled the dance up in my mind and began to associate it with fear and anxiety.

On the positive side, I also know that my creative spirit did not die…it simply shifted places and has been expressing itself in other ways. That’s how I know the dance isn’t dead. It didn’t die, it’s quilting!

But I hate it that depression has created this dead space inside of me where joy used to reside. I want that hole to go away forever! I want joy back. I want to dance again. Not to teach (not right away)…just to dance. Just for myself, because I don’t feel complete without it, even though it causes me anxiety and fear right now.

And so I have decided to do something about it.
I’m going to give myself a shot of immersion therapy.

The other day an offer to take an on-line dance class with Nadira Jamal arrived in my in-box. Instead of deleting without opening as I have been doing with all dance-related stuff, I read it. then, on a total impulse, I signed up for it.

I am putting dance into my path where I will stumble upon it everyday when the next lesson arrives in my inbox, with no expectations other than that I will read each exercise and be open to trying.

Instead of being a teacher, I will be a student.

I have no expectations of myself on a professional level …instead, I give myself permission to relax and let it happen. And if it scares me, I will breathe deeply, set it aside and look at it again the next day.

The course is about improvisation and the American Cabaret multi-part show style. Yes, this is stuff I’m familiar with, but it’s also an area that I always wanted a good refresher in. Am Cab, with its Turkish influence, requires an exuberance of spirit that is big and bold and unrestrained in a flamboyant way that Egyptian Classical is not. So it’s a form of bellydance that doesn’t come naturally to me – that’s largely unexplored by me. This is good. This is how I hope to reconnect with my dancing body.

As a dance geek, I know that, above all else, there is never anything that cannot be built onto, added into, enriched, re-sized, refreshed, re-examined or re-learned. When one stops learning and seeking knowledge from others, one ceases to grow.

Wish me well – cheers to growth, health and continued recovery!

Mending a Broken Heart

I have been doing a lot of thinking. Sometimes I’ve needed to keep very busy to avoid thinking, but the thoughts move around on their in the background and eventually push themselves to the front. Like a sliver in your finger. Takes time. Lots of time.

I used to tell a story to my students about posture and self-confidence; about how you can change your mood and your self-image simply by changing your posture. Walk like you are confident and eventually you will start to feel confident,” I would say. “If you don’t feel confident, then pretend to feel confident; hold a confident posture.” So much power we have over ourselves. So much power the mind has over the body.

Today as I walked through the woods with Samson, the thought pushed itself forward that it can work both ways. Events can happen to you that cause your brain chemistry to change so drastically that you become physically ill, causing PTSD, or major depression – what they used to call a nervous breakdown – a term I actually prefer.

The heart is indeed a fragile thing. Fragile and resilient at the same time. But it can break. And it does mend. I’ve been thinking, and it seems too much of a coincidence that the depths of the depression followed on the heels of heartbreaking events in my personal life last Fall.

The beautiful song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” has been playing in my head. Poor Andy Gibb. Andy suffered bouts of depression most of his life. In the last year of his life he went through a severe depression caused by a broken heart from his break up with the love of his life, Victoria Principal. He died in March, 1988 from myocarditis, a virus that attacked his heart. He was only 30 years old.

How can you mend a broken heart? How can you recover from depression? Time. Time and the guts to move forward. Andy knew it, and so do I.

Here’s to you, Andy.