I have a problem facing the camera. Once the camera comes on I forget what I was going to do. Also, out of fear and performance anxiety I used to forget my lines in plays on stage. I used to forget ballet and highland choreographies on stage. What was produced out of fear became an identity: “I'm a person who is bad at choreography and performance”. This is a self-critical head loop for me to work through and let go of. Dana Skoglund recently reminded me that the ability to remember choreographies is actually a skill, a muscle that needs to be worked, just like any skill in yogasana, pranayama, meditation, or any other aspect of life (patience, love, compassion, etc).
In this video I’m re-approaching it, testing the water. I’m dipping my toe just a bit further than I have, but am largely coming out of hiding so that I can connect with my people. I used to filter my experience through some pretty critical voices in my head. I self-edited to the point that very little of ME came through to the surface, which I feel has limited how much I can connect with people. The voices in my head were policing what I was supposed to look like, move like, be like. This happens for a lot of people. The voices are regulating our behaviours based on how we look and where we are from, and making sure to some degree that we fit in. Of course where we are from and what we look like do influence us in many ways, but they don’t always need to limit us. Like me shaking my hams. I do not know why my hips have wanted to move that way since ever, but I never really wanted to openly share it because I feared it was too outside of how people identified me. I remember dancing in a parking lot with my girlfriends in junior high when I overheard a parent comment on my hip movements (that sounds like bowel movements, but I just mean how I was moving my hips). I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I felt embarrassed and very self-conscious. Around the same time, an adult saw me dancing and told me I was too young to move my hips like that. Again, I felt ashamed (I am not blaming, nor am I conjuring a pity party, I am just giving background). Ten years later, there was a hip-hop teacher in Vancouver I used to love going to. But, I always felt terrified that someone was going to come in the room and point (a halting point, that everyone yields to) and say: “HEY! You are from Prince Edward Island, Canada, you went to THREE OAKS in SUMMERSIDE and you ARE NOT MEANT TO BE MOVING LIKE THAT!!”. The self-editing voice has also been in my head as: “You’re a school teacher! You teach kids how to be socially responsible and caring, not how to bring down civilization with ungodly hip- gyrations! You can’t shake your hips, like that!” OR “You’ll be a LUSH if you dance like that! A temptress!”. So, I sought out the culturally appropriate or socially endorsed forms of dance: ballet, highland and pursued dance in university. I have a strong aversion to competition and the 'professional' dance environment felt very competitive. Impostor syndrome was a big thing and when I tried to do ballet and modern the feedback was that my dancing was somewhat rigid. How interesting that in Gale’s Underground Life she ripped 4 (or 5?) pairs of pants while out dancing… The need to move without self-consciousness had to find expression (albeit not enough). Altogether my self-talk was this: "I'm a super rigid, white girl (this meant to me that there were certain forms of dance I am supposed to do instead of other dance forms) who is awkward and bad at choreography. This made A LOT of compression emotionally seeing as how my base desire was and is to play (dance in Swahili is the same word as play – cheza – how appropriate) and one of the most natural conduits of the playful energy is dance.
I am telling you this as a plea to just be open to following your heart and your desires. Be open to it that over time you may develop fluency and literacy in the different skills you yearn to learn, so that you will eventually feel comfortable to share them openly. And please just let yourself look stupid on the way to that fluency. I’m still terrified that many people will see this and think “Oh she is such a show off!” or “Oh, she is so desperate for attention, shaking her butt flesh on the inter-webs for all to see!” or “Oh, gosh she looks stupid dancing like this. How pathetic”. The thing is, while my inner voices said all of this to me for a long time, I just don’t agree with any of it. Movement around my ‘necks of the woods’ has been widely too sterile. Movement is kept to the competitive fields and perpetuates a lot of these voices that buttress self-consciousness (stifling self-expression, not the same as self-awareness) . I don’t want that! I want a big collaborative soupy mix of ridiculous dancers, who are striving for something far from perfection. They are just striving to FEEL in a joyful, life-celebratory way. And pay homage to life BY MOVING however one’s body feels like moving. Even if in the depths of your bones you fear someone calling you a deviant heretic because of the way you move your hips… Dance like nobody is watching. Move with a spark of creativity and joy- It's an inborn healing power and gratitude generator. Yoga like nobody is watching. And be whomever you want and whatever you want while you do it. Yalla, go move and let it be playful.
-While visiting in Tanzania a year and a half ago, we went out for a day-time community celebration (boat racing). There were dancers doing some amazing (understatement) twerking. I asked a friend if this was normal seeing as how families and kids were in attendance. He laughed and said it was traditional dancing. It was markedly interesting to me that using your butt to dance is so wildly defaming where I come from.
- After writing this I read Chani Nicholas' horoscopes for the week. And she SAID IT. She just said it (read under Gemini here):
"All of us must grant ourselves the right to express ourselves as we are, but a little encouragement from each other is always helpful. We are an interconnected web of creative energy that counts on all its counterparts to do their part.
I encourage myself in hope that it will encourage others. When I feel alone in what I wish to express, when I feel like I couldn’t possibly find the courage to be the way I wish to be in the world, I will remember that self-expression is something that has been gifted to us all. I believe in our collective brilliance so I honor my individual duty and contribution to it. " - Chani Nicholas