In case you haven’t already guessed, I like to write… a lot. Over the years I’ve become an articulate person who can usually express what she needs to say and can find words for things that others can’t. I’ve been asked to write books, articles, presentations, and I make it a point to write in some way every day. I’ve always been a writer. I loved keeping a diary, and have done so for most of my life. It’s definitely one of the biggest passions in my life. But there are times where words still fail. I can write things out release my emotions over and over and over again, but sometimes it doesn’t provide the relief I usually feel after doing so. Sometimes, words fail.
This post is a little different from my usual material. To tell this story, we have to go back. Way back. Let’s say, 30-40 years. My parents met in high school drama class. My dad started performing magic when he was younger and continued it as a career into his adult life. My mom’s family was big into the performing arts as well. My grandma taught piano lessons, my uncles were into music and had a band, and my mom grew up taking dance lessons… and she got pretty good too. She studied with the Milwaukee City Ballet one summer. So naturally, when I was growing up, I was bred to be a performer. A magician for a dad and a ballerina for a mom. I took lots of music lessons growing up: piano, violin, drums, guitar… and participated in a lot of theater. I also took dance classes. I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old. My first recital was in 1st grade, and we danced to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! By high school, everything had fallen away except theater and dance and high school. My junior year, I was dancing at the studio 2-3 times a week for 3 hours at a time. I had an elaborate bedtime routine that involved 2 hours of stretching and strengthening along with practicing whatever we had learned in class that week. I loved it. Every Christmas and birthday, all I asked for were dance clothes. But it wasn’t until my senior year that I found my true passion, and the point of this blog post.
One day after my Theater Arts class, the drama director Mr. Nibbe called me into his office. Mr. Nibbe was my favorite teacher, and we got along really well. He was definitely a father figure in my life, especially my senior year. I was going through a lot of tough stuff in my personal life, and it prevented me from dancing at the studio that year. On this particular December morning, Nibbe proposed the idea that we do a musical for the spring show, and that I choreograph it. I was thrilled with the idea. I made up dances all the time at home, but nothing serious. A friend of mine and I had choreographed a piece for the school’s talent show, but that was the extent of my experience. When the time came for rehearsals to start, I was beside myself with nerves. I was catastrophizing, telling myself I was going to be horrible, and all of my friends would be there to see me fail, seeing as how they were all in the cast. I kept waiting for the moment to come where somebody laughed or told me it was awful, but it never came. I got compliments and reassurances from the cast and Mr. Nibbe. When the curtain fell on opening night, I walked out into the lobby and was flooded with genuine compliments. It was an amazing experience. It was so good I got asked to choreograph the same show at a local middle school, and I even got paid for it! I wasn’t as proud of that show’s choreography… it was a lot of similar elements and I feel like I was judged for that. Plus, they never asked me to choreograph again 😛
I didn’t give choreography another thought until about a year later when I was cast in a show and then asked to choreograph it as well. I had a blast, and was nominated for a local theater award for my routines! Shortly after the show, I went to Rogers Memorial Hospital for my residential stay. We were required to go to the YMCA 3 times a week, and we were expected to actually work out during that time. Not being one for ellipticals or weight-lifting, I found myself an empty yoga studio and using the sound system to play music to dance around to, or more commonly, to stretch to. I was bopping around when a very emotional slow song came on that Lady Gaga had written about sexual assault., but it can be used in a variety of situations. The words really resonated with me and my treatment at Rogers, as I worked through feelings of suicide and wanting to destroy myself. I decided I wanted to choreograph a dance to this song. I started looking forward to the YMCA trips. I choreographed the dance to portray that there was this invisible force torturing me, throwing me across the stage and trying to kill me. I even used a scarf as a prop to show strangulation and this force pulling me around. Most days I cried while choreographing this routine, because it allowed me to combat these feelings around me, almost as if they were physically around me and not just in my head. My friends started noticing just how emotionally drained I always was after the Y and were awesome support on the particularly rough days. When I finished the dance I called everyone into the little yoga studio to show them the dance. Not only did I cry, but a few of my fellow patients were moved to tears as well. You could tell that the energy in the room had changed slowly throughout the dance. It was as if a fog filled the room and made everything slow and heavy. The air was thick, and everything seemed still for a moment. I will never forget the moment, or all of the love that I received from my friends afterward. Rogers has a rule where we can’t touch each other, but I got lots of hugs anyways. I went home about a week later, and it was then that I realized just how helpful the dance was for me. Dancing that story did things inside of me that no amount of writing or therapy ever could. Words hadn’t been enough. Words had failed me, but dance had not. Now whenever I’m really stuck on a feeling, I try to find a song and dance to it for a release. Not having proper space to dance since Rogers last year has lessened the effect that choreographing a piece has, to the point where I actually haven’t been able to choreograph a piece like that since. I
I went home about a week later, and it was then that I realized just how helpful the dance was for me. Dancing that story did things inside of me that no amount of writing or therapy ever could. Words hadn’t been enough. Words had failed me, but dance had not. Now whenever I’m really stuck on a feeling, I try to find a song and dance to it for a release. Not having proper space to dance since Rogers last year has lessened the effect that choreographing a piece has, to the point where I actually haven’t been able to choreograph a piece like that since. Tonight I cleared out half of the basement storage area, giving me just enough concrete floor to work with. It’s definitely not the ideal floor, bruises are already forming, but the rush of picking a song and nailing that first few second of choreography has reminded me just how powerful dance is. Without my parents, grandparents, dance teacher Ms. Shannon and Mr. Nibbe, I don’t know what I’d do, or how I’d express these emotions. My toes are itching for another go, but for now, I must sleep… since I’ve been awake all night dancing.
What do you have in your life that helps you release your extreme emotions? I’d love to hear in the comments below!