I may feel broken, but my arms still move.
I may feel empty, but my feet are gliding across the floor.
There is a tightness in my chest, but I hear the beat, count to 8, and leap.
74th Street waits outside, alongside the bustle of Fairway Market, horns, and the Upper West Side sunset.
But for this hour and a half, I’m here.
This week I went back to dance class after taking two weeks off for my back injury. One of my dearest friends teaches an Advanced Jazz class at Steps on Broadway, and I knew it would be a safe space to test my back out, and see where I was at.
I was past the ice and strengthening stretches at home, and the heating pad wasn’t really making a difference anymore.
Many days had passed since I woke to morning aches, gingerly tapping my alarm.
I wanted to know how my mobility was.
I wanted to know what still needed to heal.
I know the warm-up very well, like an old friend, comfortable and familiar. The plies, tondus, and isolations all pour out like a choreographed dance, and it gives me the opportunity to concentrate on other things; the top of my head, the lightness of my fingers, and my breath moving easily in balance.
As the warm-up progressed, I was pleasantly surprised I was able to do it. When we had to roll back into shoulder stand, I wondered if my back would seize, and instead it lifted and opened as I placed my palms in the small of my back.
When we did a long standing sequence at the end, I slowly raised my leg behind me as my back arched, curious how high it would go. As I saw my foot appear in the mirror behind my head, I felt no pain.
My body was opening back to before. The time off and chiropractic care really helped.
So did being here.
I stopped dancing in the face of my divorce. A good month and a half passed before I was able to walk up the stairs of Steps.
I was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t know who I was.
If I was no longer married, did that mean I was no longer a performer?
In losing a core part of the life I had built for 15 years, could I keep some of it, or would I lose it all?
What did dance mean to me now in the midst of so much change?
My close friend was teaching her Jazz class and I returned weekly for that hour and a half for one reason.
I felt alive.
It was a smaller expression, and I had a new habit of staring at the floor, but I was there, to place my feet on the Marley and be reminded not everything was gone. I was grieving, AND I was still here. As I moved, I didn’t feel engulfed by loss.
The tight balls that formed during my day would breathe open as I took my first stretch over in the set warmup, Coldplay reverberating off the windows and walls, a perfect reflection of my purse filled with wet tissues.
It was a safe space.
There would be times I would second guess taking the subway uptown, but no matter how I entered the studio door, I emerged calmer. In the stretching and turning, telling the story through dance, I felt centered. I was supported here, with community and friendship.
I was returning home.
Maybe I had never left.
There is super eight footage of me spinning around my living room so much, I fall down. For a moment, I’m gathering myself trying to find my footing, and then I get back up again.
And return to the dance.
It was there when I was four, flowing out my small reaching fingers, allowing me to say so much I could only articulate in the circular shape.
And today, as I roll up my spine, knowing once again I am ok, and the flexibility has returned, I look in the mirror. My eye doesn’t drift to the floor or my face.
It goes right to my heart.
It goes right to the reason I’m here.
Maybe I’m in the black, maybe I’m on my knees
Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes
But my heart is beating and my pulses start
Cathedrals in my heart
As we saw, oh this light, I swear you,
Emerge blinking into
To tell me it’s alright
As we soar walls, every siren is a symphony
And every tear’s a waterfall
Is a waterfall
So, I dance.
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