Pondering My Body’s Limitations Has Brought Me Back to Dancing
A long time ago, a friend asked if there was anything I wished I could do that was outside my ability, capability, or means. The question wasn’t prompted by familiarity with my Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) or anything of the sort. Rather, it was one of those silly, yet oddly profound, questions that friends bounce off each other during quiet moments together.
I remember not even needing to think before answering. However, the answer that reflexively came out of my mouth surprised me. I responded that I wanted to dance.
Curiously, I had never really watched dance shows or followed the latest trends. I didn’t ask my parents if I could take dance lessons. And if I ever found a piece of music particularly compelling, I was the guy who would rather sing along than move my body.
Looking back, I think dance popped into my head because I envied the way the dancers I knew seemed to effortlessly control the way they appeared to others. And I found the ability to exude confidence, strength, or sexiness at will to be appealing, rather than being passively accepting of how others perceive me.
But I always thought this skill was beyond my reach, because I’m amazingly clumsy. Oftentimes, my body moves in ways I don’t intend. And CMT has given me a bit of an awkward gait, weak ankles, and a propensity for spectacular falls.
Indeed, to this day, the extent of my dance experience largely involves wildly swaying my body in the midst of drunken throngs of people — something for my own indulgence and unworthy of anyone else’s audience.
Yet recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about dance. I’ve been reading and following the work of disabled dancers I admire. And I’ve fallen down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole watching inclusive dance performances and following various stories.
This has led me to question some of my preconceptions about dance, including what it is, what it can be, and who it’s for.
While growing up, I thought there were only a few ways to dance, and that dance was like martial arts, which I was familiar with. I assumed that the guidelines of dance were purposefully rigid, requiring metrics to determine what’s good and bad, and what’s dance and what’s not.
But perhaps this was my assumption simply because it reflected my own prejudice of what defines confidence, strength, and sexiness. Maybe the dance community has always been more accepting and understanding than I had ever been.
And maybe the inclusive dance community can teach us to listen, to act with empathy, and to break down the structures and prejudices, both internal and external, that immobilize us.
Although I don’t imagine I will start regularly dancing anytime soon, I’m reconsidering things I had previously considered out of reach.
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