Dancing Alone

 

Trance Dance. Shaking my body like nobody’s watching. I will rattle loose memories stored in the depths of my tissues and I will explode into sobs like heaves. I will remember.

A sex positive role model and dance teacher lovingly and jokingly said that I was a “sexpot” because of the way I liked to move. It was the first time that I was aware that my body was not only for me but for others. To look at, appreciate, and to draw conclusions from about how good or how bad or how moral I was. I think it felt like a compliment but that it also felt like a dangerous thing to be. I was teetering on the edge of a world where I moved in my body with such a freedom of expression that came from the divinity of my being, soon to trip into one where I was acutely and absurdly and distractingly aware of it and the power it could suggest. The potency of my power hinged on my ability to possess it. Maybe I was beginning to sniff out the strange irony that if I failed to possess it mindfully, or if I tried to stifle it, the power of it could ease into someone else’s hands.  I think a little seed was planted then, one that would later begin to grow into shame. The shame was based on what my delighting in a body expression that suggested sex/sexuality meant about the morality of my 12 year old self. The environment and culture that I drew from would continue to condition me to think, “Maybe I was bad. Maybe I was bad to be this way.”

I had been a dancer since I was old enough to stand up in tap shoes. Dancing had been living for me. Dancing had allowed for a possession of joy that was unbounded in its satisfaction. I stopped showing up to my dance classes shortly after I could legally drive. I sabotaged my own experience out of self-loathing. I had been digesting by then, for years, the message that experiencing my body sexually was not my right, and that because I was innately drawn to doing so, there must be something wrong with me. I had been punished and scrutinized for experimenting sexually with someone whom I cared about and trusted, and I had been caught because I had written it down. I had been shamed, for it wasn’t just that I had done what I had done, it was that I had enjoyed what I had done, and that I had been interested in doing it in the first place.  For years I watered the seed of shame with self-loathing for enjoying the kind of attention I would get from expressing myself sexually, yet I was simultaneously conditioned to believe that the value of my presence in this world lied in the commodity of my body. I was taught that I was pretty so I should play up my prettiness, be awarded because of it, look sexy, encourage sexy thoughts in others, but not actually be a sexual being. Some may have had me believe that by the virtue of chastity I would have the best life. They would have had me believe that though I lived in a sexual body, I must not experiment with what that meant for me. It was not for my own pleasure. I knew that I didn’t agree with what I was being told but I did not have the tools at the time to navigate how to free myself from it. Slowly I drifted. I changed my clothes and my appearance to unburden myself of the attention that I might attract otherwise, and I lost interest in the pure joy of movement.

I dance now, alone, in my living room. I ritualize my movement and I shake out of the shadows my most tender and vulnerable truths. I remember all the people that I used to be and I dance with them, one by one, and all together now. I can birth myself again and again in this way. And with each new birth I can lay to rest some of the demons that have possessed me.

 

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