Dancing Saves My Life

I’m a musician, but before I started on my first instrument, I was a dancer.

Admittedly, I was (and sometimes still am) a clumsy one. I move across the floor slowly and imperfectly. My body aches more than it did when I was three or seven or thirteen or eighteen. I can’t touch my toes to the back of my head like I used to. I spend more of my time in a practice room or in front of a computer than I can afford to spend in a studio.

I’m a musician, but dancing saves my life.

You see, dance keeps me listening to my body, looking for the joints that feel limber and the ones that aren’t quite ready to meet the day. It takes stock of the aches and pains every morning and tells me to be gentle with myself—to save the rash, impulsive strength for when it’s fun or important. Even now, it tells me to sit up straight so my bad shoulder doesn’t hate me later.

Dance reminds me that loving my body means knowing exactly how far it can go. It reminds me that junk food isn’t the best choice when I have rehearsal in an hour. It tells me to take it easy when I’m on the brink of overstretching. It works alongside my partner and says yes, we should go out for a walk tonight, and no, I should not spend four hours lying in bed doing basically nothing, no matter what the chemicals in my brain tell me. More than that, though, dance shows me that in a world in which I and many others feel like all we are valued for is our bodies’ ability to produce children, there is a way forward that allows for a loving and cultivating of our physical selves.

I’m a musician, but even after all these years, dancing saves my life.

It leads me through simple acts of discovery and reminds me my body is capable of amazing things. Yes, I might not be able to touch my toes to the back of my head anymore, but I can turn myself upside down, and if I have someone to catch me, I can fly. Age might not bring me the perpetually-flexible body I had when I was dancing more, but it’s brought me teachers with skill sets I couldn’t have dreamed of back then.

I am a musician, and because I am, dancing saves my life.

Dancing was the first art form I devoted myself to. And if we’re being completely honest, it’s taken me decades to find the comfort and connection in my music-making practices that I inherently find in a dance studio. People know me first and foremost as a musician, but I know myself as a dancer who decided it was okay to group things in four instead of eight. The frustrations I first experienced at the barre and in auditions for the ever-elusive upper-level groups allowed me more patience when I ran up against the plateaus that come with playing a brass instrument. It guides me with more compassion for the work-in-progress part of things than I could possibly know how to give myself otherwise.

I am a musician, but as I face graduation and the “real” world and everything that comes next, dancing saves my life, because in a creative practice that leads me to work so closely with (and around) others, in an art that is becoming so inherently people-centric, my dancing allows me to choose me. ♦

Thanks for reading! My work (largely musical, with overlaps with theater and dance) explores character, story, performer interaction, sexual assault, rape culture, victimhood, and gender. If you want to stay up-to-date on posts, go ahead and subscribe in the sidebar; if you like my work and want to support me more directly, I’ve just launched a Patreon where you can get even more content from yours truly! Regardless, though, I’m glad you’re here.