Dancing my way back

I’ve been feeling a bit lost of late, perhaps for some time – I’m not sure when it started. As a consequence I’ve been looking for the things that help me feel more coherent and recognisable to myself. As a young person, I danced a lot. Ballet lessons from age four to fourteen (I couldn’t handle the point work) tap lessons, ceilidh dancing through my teens, goth night-clubbing and jumping up at down to bands. I danced a lot, and I could, and would, dance all night. Slowly, the spoon shortage (which also began in my teens) kicked in. Pain, tiredness and lack of opportunities have combined for some years now and I stopped being a person who dances.

The year I was pregnant, I carried so much water I could barely waddle, and as the inflated mother of a young child, the scope to dance disappeared, and I let it go. There have been odd occasions of dancing, but it stopped being a reliable feature.

This winter, dancing was on my new year’s resolutions list. Thus far I’ve not done a vast amount – I danced a bit at a Roving Crows gig and it was clear that my older, stiffer, under-spooned body could no longer tolerate jumping about like a demented pixie for hours at a time. I was going to have to relearn, and do something different.

I’ve been experimenting a lot with how I move my body. In the past, I mostly danced from the feet, a lunatic faux-Irish-jig if you will. The rest of my body following where the jumping and stomping led. So I’ve started thinking about all the areas of my body that can dance – knees, hips, spine, arms, hands. I don’t move my head about much, as there are balance issues there. My moshing days are clearly over, and anyway that stuff hurts too much. If I let go of the idea of dancing as rhythm, and treat it as making shapes sympathetic to the music, everything opens up for me, and I can move in ways that don’t wipe me out after the first song. If I want speed, my arms can express that.

With a background in ballet, and a few terms of studying Tai Chi in my distant past, I have some habits of movement. It’s all about soft curves, and there are all kinds of rules from those traditions that I default to, so I’ve been challenging myself to move differently. I wouldn’t previously have stuck any part of myself out in an angular way – elbows and knees, stomach and arse. I’ve previously danced with soft hands, but I can use fists, flat palms and spiky gestures for expression, and again this opens up the range of movement available to me, so I can make it interesting. If my body is very stiff, then a less smooth approach is easier.

I’ve found running harmony singing groups that one of two things can happen. Either you get safe, comfortable, affirming harmonies, or you get spiky exciting ones. It’s dawned on me that the same is true of dance – that I can have safe, graceful flow, or the challenging spiky stuff, but nothing wrong, nothing bad. Being taught to dance, for me, meant growing up thinking about moving my body as something for other people to watch and judge, but that simply doesn’t have to be the size of it.

Not only am I re-dedicating to dancing, but I’m shooting for once a month now. I have a better sense of self when I dance, it releases me emotionally, and I feel like someone I can make sense of. It doesn’t have to hurt, or exhaust me, and, it turns out, I can go into a dance space already sore and tired, and move in ways that do not leave me feeling worse. It’s a set of discoveries I’m very excited about.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Dancing my way back

  • Ella Wherry

    I swear you are my twin on the other side of the world…except I am not anywhere so gifted with prose and a bit older! That said, I too have been trying to dance again…only it is daunting to me to find music that fits. Something uplifting, energizing, but not so over the top that I am wiped out after 2 minutes. If you find something great, please share it. Almost all of the music here is written for a first grader and even if it has a beat, I get bored early on from the lyrics. So, would be delighted if you share! Namaste…

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Well past the dancing stage at age seventy. Difficult to do with a walkers and then there are energy and balance problems to deal with, not being able to drive, nor any places left to dance in my town. Outside of a couple of small motel based bars, there are no bars in town any more. They are tearing down the last one that used to operate out here.

    • Nimue Brown

      There ought to be a sitting down but still dancing movement, because there are a lot of people in your sort of situation, or heading that way…

      • Christopher Blackwell

        Is so we will probably have to invent it ourselves.I once suggested that to a younger man with a birth defect that made his walking a very rolling process. He joked that he was the token Gimp. I suggested that he should start the next dance crazed based on how he moved and then we could have millions desperately trying to learn to dance it as well as him. Looks like it might be time to take my own advice. [Grin]

        I used to do ceremony at a motel that he managed as the night manager. It was a pretty ratty old place, but they never complained about my stinking up the room with Frankincense. Well one night I had set the room up for ceremony,using a small desk as an altar and moved the furniture around to get space to dancing Then I undressed took a shower. All was fine until I tried to leave the bath room and discover that the door knob and latch had broken their connection and I was locked inside with no way out. Sure I could yell and scream until someone broke in the front locked door and freed me, but with the altar fixed up and the circle candles set out and tools set out, that did not seem like a good idea some twenty five yearn in a small conservative ranching and farming town.

        As this was old 1940’s motel, there was a small sliding window in the bath room high up over the toilet which suggested another but perhaps risky idea, that I climb out the back window into unknown dark territory, me night blind without my glasses and the possibility of trash,broken glass and debris below, with only a small motel towel around my waste, then walk the full length of the motel so dressed to the motel office and get him to unlock the front door to my room. This way I would be in a position to give a quick explanation as to what I was doing.

        To make a longer story shorter it took longer than any of us expected as none of his other keys would work and he evened up having to break the door any way. My ceremony was a bit late that night. Quite an experience for a puffy over weight man in his forties as I was then, not to mention the possible show for the rest of the motel’s customers.

        I met him once again last year in the grocery store, recognizing him by the telltale walk of his. I asked him if he remembered that night and he grinned. While others were nervous of me, hearing that I was a witch, he had seen my at my more helpless and ridiculous time. [Grin]

        I did ceremony there for a couple more years just for the fact that I could take a hot shower, something that In ever could do at home, never having hot water.

      • Ella Wherry

        What a delightful tale. I love the stories, and we all have them, where, in that moment it is a bit awkward or embarrassing or unflattering, but years later becomes the stuff of legend! Truly it is a sign of a full life, lived without much remorse over things not done….although to be sure, I am glad this one is yours and not mine! 😉

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