During intermission of a dance concert I attended Friday night, I was asked when I started dancing. I responded that I was 3 years old, but that I did the standard ballet-tap-jazz combo that all little kids do when they first start dancing, as if dismissing my early involvement in the art. Small-town dance studio, nothing too intense. More concerned about what costume you’re going to wear for the summer recital, what cool jazz song your teacher is going to choose for your routine. Turns, splits, smiles, sequins. Ta-da! Jazz hands. Curtain call. Take a bow.
It was just my thing, I said. Some people played rec soccer. Some took piano lessons. I danced. Whatever. It was just an extracurricular to keep me occupied.
That’s what I thought Friday night, that dance was just “a thing.” I mean, it has obviously grown since then from “a thing” to “THE thing,” but why was I so quick to downplay my foundations?
As if guided by some spiritual guardian, yesterday morning—as I went into my closet to retrieve a shirt to wear for a 5Rhythms class later in the day—I noticed the program from my college graduation sitting on the closet floor; must have fallen when I was retrieving some old yearbooks last week. I picked up the piece of paper, thumbed through it quickly, surprised to see my name. Totally forgot that I had won a creative writing award my senior year. Hmph.
I opened a random box in the closet to return the program, but it was the wrong box. Instead, this one had a portfolio of writings from my past, essays and short stories and poetry from my youth, things I don’t even remember writing or items that I had thought went out with the recycling long ago. I found a myth I wrote in high school, a charming story about the origin of stars that my teacher said had potential as a children’s story. A horror “book” (15 loose-leaf pages stapled together) about a group of teens vacationing on a beach with a homicidal maniac on the loose. Stories I wrote when I wasn’t even an official adult yet that still speak to my 31-year-old self.
But, most important of all, was the handwritten poem I found. It was written when I was in 8th grade, 14 years old, braces on my crooked teeth and awkwardness in my gangly limbs. I may not have been the most graceful or elegant dancer at that stage of life, but—contrary to what I had just expressed last night about not considering my early dance a “passion”—dance meant a lot to me.
This has been tucked in a closet for the past 18 years; today is the day “My Passion” emerges from the dark.
Take me on a wooden floor,
Where I’m not human anymore.
My mind is far away, a distant place,
While my body is dancing in the same space.
My legs are moving; no thinking is involved,
I just keep moving; it helps my problems get solved.
The music is playing, the music I can see,
No one is around; just let me be.
I do all my turns, I stand on my toes,
I am lost in the Land of Sweets, but nobody knows.
Now I’m Odette, flowing along in a river,
And then I’m Aurora (who almost dies); I give a shiver.
My mind is not here, it is far away.
But my passion for dancing will always stay.