2 weeks ago I told my dance teachers that I couldn’t dance anymore, because 4-5 hours of homework a night is just absolutely unmanageable.
It sucked. It still sucks. I quit dance because I thought one less thing to think about would make life a little easier. But instead my thoughts have just been consuming my head and this maelstrom of emotions is something I am unable to express anymore. I was thinking about going back, or adding just one class in. But then I realized that what I missed most about dance was what it never did for me. And that made me sad.
The truth is that I started dance because I thought that it would shape me into something beautiful, something worth loving, something that would give me a purpose and a self worth by any means. I wanted something that would allow me to express my emotions freely, wholeheartedly, and completely.
But the truth is that it doesn’t work. At least it didn’t for me the exact way I wanted it too.
You see, my memories of dance consist of a bunch of incidents that happened because of dance that had nothing to do with dance. That probably doesn’t make sense. For example, when I fractured my foot, I learned that I couldn’t rely on dance to solve all my problems. Or when my studio danced for a ministry at my church and I got super jealous, I ended up finding myself praying for a family rather than dancing. Or when the Union Gospel Mission people approached me because I wanted to sing some worship songs after dance, and getting to lead worship for the homeless community ended up inspiring me like no other. I could go on and on about crazy things that have happened to me because of dance that really had nothing to do with me dancing at all.
I started dance because 12 year old Lea was failing life and needed an outlet. I wrestled with dance a lot, because it never gave me what I was looking for. I had a vision in my head of the dancer I wanted to be, but my classes were growing me into a different kind of dancer. Don’t get me wrong, there were many great classes where I left laughing and smiling feeling accomplished and happy. There were many days when the special touch my teachers’ possessed would take away all the anxiety and stress my life placed on me, as they patiently fought with my uncoordinated self to loosen my muscles and fix my terrible technique. Ballet gave me time to breathe.
But I still don’t know how to breathe. I still flip out during my calculus tests. I still get yelled at all the time for being too hard on myself at school. The other day, after I went off on a tangent about all the things I did wrong on my test, one of my teachers told me I needed to do some meditation. Dance was supposed to be like my meditation, except I cannot dance as myself. I still feel anxious all the time. If I am asked to do whatever I want across the floor, I will freak out because I have no idea what to do. I don’t know who I am. I don’t want to take out my failures in my dancing, because I am not a failure. And even if I wanted to I couldn’t, because I am not confident in my dancing enough to show anyone who I am. I’m trapped underneath the stronghold of performance I’ve created in my head which makes me ashamed of messing up, ashamed of dancing when I always mess up, and saddened and hindered by thoughts that force me to cross my arms and hold back from trying as I know I cannot dance the way I wish I could.
I can do more pirouettes in my room than I can across the floor. Very few have seen me truly dance. I probably look stupid when I go all in, my horrible technique and all. But at least it’s me. At least when I do it I’m not masking the same way I do in class. Dancing alone, the possibilities are endless. Dance is a part of me for sure, and there is something so special about dancing alone with the God of the universe. After all, he’s the only one who can steady me. He’s the one who will teach me how to breathe. God is the only thing I can base my self-worth off of. Knowing my self worth through His eyes is the only way I’ll ever feel beautiful.
Today, I miss dance. But I’m afraid I cannot dance the way I used to. The dancer I want to be is only in my head. There are things keeping me from experiencing pure joy through it. So right now I’m going to dance in my room, dance with all my heart, and spend a little bit of time with God. Dance to me is not about jumps, turns, or being flexible. Exploring these emotions will grow me into me more than any other.
Perhaps only then I can be free; when I allow myself to dance as the clumsy, awkward, imperfect me.