Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Unexpected Dance Lesson

It was nearly 12 years ago...

The setting is in a condominium just south a couple blocks of the Brigham Young University campus...

My room is large, the room decor is light, fresh, and inviting.  There is plenty of natural sunlight streaming through the window... it is morning...

Outside it is springtime.  The grass, trees and shrubs are the deepest green of the season, the tulips and daffodils are in gorgeous array of colors, birds are singing happily, people are outside walking, laughing and taking... there is the smell of freshly cut grass...

My friends have all left to go down south for a hiking, camping, repelling adventure...

Recently, my favorite dance teacher from the University had invited me over to her home.  She had informed me that she was starting a performing dance company and asked that I be a part of it. 

I had always dreamed of someday being a part of a dance company that this particular professor would form, but thought that it would be after many more years of dancing, and after getting my Masters degree in dance performance, that I'd be good enough to dance along side her.  I was only in my Junior year of college - studying to become a dance major.

I had gone to the first rehearsal, but if you look back at the roll, my name does not have an x by it the rest of the week, nor the rest of that month, or the next, or the next, unlike the others on the company with x's... my name has one x and then a big line through all the weeks... the weeks that I spent going from Dr. to Dr. to figure out what it was my body was struggling against.

The weeks and months passed, and the test results came back... first it was depression, then it was fibromyalgia, then a Neurologist diagnosed me with Epstein Barr, another said it was chronic fatigue, on and on I went searching for answers until finally my father had to come and get me from college - carry me out to the car and pack my things up.

So back to the dance lesson...

My very best friend in the world, who was also a member of the newly formed dance company, came to visit me where I was living.  She had a surprise for me.  It was a CD of the songs that the company was learning choreography to.  I eagerly reached out to take the CD from my friend but was stopped by a stabbing feeling in my gut.  I quickly retracted my hand, placing both hands over my abdomen and held my breath against the pain until it subsided just long enough for me to take another breath.  After several attempts at fighting against the pain, I finally gave in to the emotion that was welling up inside me.  I cried as I folded in half and prayed for the pain to go away.  My friend, also crying, wrapped her arms around me and held me as I cried for a long time.

When would the pain go away?  When would I be able to dance again?

There was a guy that had been a great support to me during this particular time.  I remember the conversation well that we had had one night....

Through my tears, I explained to my friend that in order to have enough strength to work, and support myself, I would need to stop dancing.  I couldn't be a part of the dance company that I had dreamed about for so long.  The friend, in an effort to comfort me, came across to where I was sitting and just held me as I cried.  He kissed the top of my head and just held me.  We were never in a relationship, but it was nice to have such a great guy taking care of me.  I was surrounded by a couple of guys like him and some amazing roommates and my friend from the dance group who would take me to rehearsals on the days I felt well enough to go.  I was too weak to walk at times and was being shuttled around because I was too weak to drive.

The friend that brought me the CD knew of the deep love that I had for dance.  She was so much more talented than me as a dancer, but I was grateful to even be asked to participate with such incredibly talented people and so grateful for her love and support as she would pick me up on the days I had enough strength - even if I only did the warm-up, and then the time it took to shuttle me back home.

The pain in my stomach eventually subsided, and I had a nice conversation with my friend, thanking her for the CD, and then she left.

I put the music CD into the stereo beside my bed and I laid back and closed my eyes - dreaming of myself dancing.  As my mind became lost in the music, I found myself beginning to become alive with the various sounds the instruments made or the rise and fall of the voices that I heard.  I began choreographing or dancing along with one instrument and then would jump to the next instrument as I was able to create an ongoing synthesis of people and movement on the great stage of my imagination.

It was very therapeutic to become lost in the dancing that I'd dream about.  The time passed, the song changed, and I opened my eyes.  It was time to let go of something...I was ready to dance about it.

As I opened my eyes, I envisioned a rose on my bed.  As I picked up the imaginary rose I began the first dance I had ever truly danced in my life.  Every little movement was generated by some memory or emotion.  Nothing I did was for show or to impress.  The movement was in no way sappy.  It was directly from a place that I held in the deepest most profound space in my body. It was a dance about letting go...

At the end of my dance my arms cradled the rose and I looked at it almost like I would lovingly towards an infant child that I was holding in my arms.  I rocked the imaginary rose back and forth, back and forth as the child, or rose that I held died in my arms.  I relived the pain, the memories, the heartache as I slowly rocked the imaginary infant in my arms...

The music was fading, and my heart had finished letting go of the pain.  I slowly let go of the "flower infant" and placed it on my bed.  I looked at it and then closed my eyes as the music and dance ended.

As I sat there contemplating on the sacredness and beauty of the dance I had just done, an overwhelming feeling of peace ran through my body.  It had been the first and only time in my life that I had truly danced.  It was a life changing experience - one that I will never forget and one that I'll be able to share with my students over and over again.

In life, just as is the case in dance, we seek to kick the highest, have the most flexibility, work the hardest and be the most talented.  Sometimes everything in our lives need to be taken away from us, everything we love, in order to truly "dance" in this life.

I'm so incredibly grateful for the experience, I feel, was a "Dance Class from God".  He taught me what I needed to do to dance.  It was removing any concern, or worry "of the world" with an absolutely pure desire to move in a way that is truly "intrinsic" to the core.  I'm at a loss to explain it in a way that the reader would understand.

No more tryout mentality, no more worries about the other dancers around me, no more fears of what my movement looks like to others and what they think about it.  No more pride.  No more selfishness, no more judgment, no more anxiety.... just peace.  Peace for being where I am at, when I am at this place, and why...the movement you make may barely be noticed by others.  It may be a dance performed so slowly that none but yourself and God can see the beauty.  Dance none the less and be true to your story.

With love,

Steffanie :)

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