I’ve sat down at my computer so many times over the past week in an attempt to document the three-day “Fire of Love” 5Rhythms workshop with Amara Pagano I attended in late September, and each time my fingers try to translate movement into words, I get discouraged. The hard, clickety-clack sensation of my metallic keyboard feels so unnatural and sterile, a device more fit for writing about a tap-dancing or clogging class, not about a program created to explore the inner workings of the body’s most fragile organ.

Opening night installation

“I wish I were a ballet blogger,” I say. “It would be so much easier.”

If I blogged strictly about ballet, I’d write about combinations we learned, steps that challenged me, the way I wobbled during my fouette turns or how I think my grand jete needs more height. I wouldn’t have to write about the experience of delving deep into the next level of 5Rhythms after Waves—Heartbeat—an act akin to going out for a run with a twisted ankle. I’ve already gleaned so much about myself during Waves practice, have faced questions that only present themselves through movement. My dance has already transitioned from mind to body to heart; dear god, did I really need to take it a step further?

Love is messy

If I blogged strictly about ballet, I’d describe the teacher by how tightly her hair was pulled back, the commands she barked, the feedback she offered on my lines and execution. I wouldn’t have to write about the way Amara Pagano could speak without uttering a word, how her fluid body conveyed more information than any encyclopedia, how her eyes connected with each and every student. I wouldn’t have to explain that when I danced because Amara said so, I was dancing for myself, not because I was trying to impress a superior. I threw myself into the movement because Amara was serious about self-realization; she didn’t care about appearance or rhythm or lines—all she pressed us for was authenticity and the courage to “let it go.”

Amara Pagano and me

If I blogged strictly about ballet, I’d post pictures of my bloodied toes, the result of being packed too tightly into pointe shoes. I wouldn’t have to explain how the purplish-brown bruise on my elbow was from throwing myself into a dance depicting grief, how the skin on the top of my foot was torn after dragging my lower body across the floor, my arms propelling my lifeless legs behind me in an exercise exploring our fear.

A ballet blogger’s description of “center work” would involve small jumps, turns, combinations of 8, 16, 24, and 32. I wouldn’t have to write about a group exercise in which we were told to trust no one but ourselves, to move as though you are suspicious of everyone. I wouldn’t have to describe how fear built up so intensely that when Amara told us to switch the fear to excitement, the outburst exploding from my body was manic, a throaty laughter I didn’t even recognize, wild, wicked, and somewhat lascivious. Back and forth we went—fear, excitement, fear, excitement—continuing the dichotomies with a partner, screaming, baring teeth, grinding pelvises, alternating from witches to whores, criminals to cat-nipped kittens. A ballet blogger wouldn’t have to explain how such “center work” pushed us into the concept of fearlessness, finding the euphoric midpoint between fear and excitement.

“I wish I were a language instruction blogger,” I say. “It would be so much easier.”

If I blogged strictly about language, every day I’d present a new word and translate it into Italian or Swahili, maybe use it in a sentence as well. I wouldn’t have to write about the surprise I felt after hearing a French-Canadian accent emerge from the mouth of a young woman with whom I engaged in an intense responder/revealer partner dance. Our movement was such a rich conversation of fear, empathy, support, and encouragement; I never once thought of her as a “foreigner.” If I blogged about nouns and adjectives, I wouldn’t have to write about how dance is a universal language; when one dances fear, you will understand it and respond to it, no matter what country you’re from or what accent you carry. I wouldn’t have to explain how when one dances love, it translates both as a whisper in the ear and a scream in your face—so subtle and personal, yet so loud and clear and public.

If I blogged about language, I’d describe how X means Y, how A means B, clear definitions for words, proper ways of constructing sentences. I wouldn’t have to write about the language of love, defined by Amara as awareness, being available. I wouldn’t have to write about allowing a partner to touch me, being instructed to just take in the touch, be receptive, before moving and responding to the touch. I wouldn’t have to go into detail about using the floor as a partner and then returning to my human partner to extend this “conversation,” or the disappointment I experienced when my partner’s movement felt tired and distant.

If I were a language instruction blogger, my post on pronouns would discuss nosotros versus vosotros, tu versus Usted, you, me, I, we. I wouldn’t have to write about the difficulties of retaining my “I” movement when dancing with a partner, the pitfalls of too quickly abandoning “I” for “you,” the connection that develops when the right amount of “I” (authentic movement) and “you” (a partner’s movement) equals “we” (a dance of revelation, response, and mutuality). If I were a language blogger, “we” would be just a two-letter word, not a concept involving a group of people ending a three-day workshop as an interconnected mass, limbs linked, hands touching, someone’s cheek resting atop my thigh, my fingers running through a woman’s saturated hair, a circuit of energy looping through our intertwined arms and legs, a current so strong that I swear I could feel the pulse of even those I wasn’t physically touching.

“I wish I were a dream blogger,” I say. “It would be so much easier.”

If I blogged strictly about dreams, I’d describe and interpret the fantastical images that play through my brain at night. I wouldn’t have to write about the stirring visions I experience on the dance floor, like when I closed my eyes and saw not just my classmates’ faces but felt their movement talk through my body, as though everyone had been squeezed into me and I into them, until we were simply a giant concoction of universal movement, no skin, bones, or muscle separating us. I wouldn’t have to write about how that experience felt like I was serving as a kind of medium for my classmates’ stories, experiencing not just their dance but the emotion behind it as well. I wouldn’t have to describe how the experience comforted me, a metaphorical experience for the realization I am not alone, that even after just a few hours of being introduced to these people, they now live inside of me.

“I wish I were a fashion blogger,” I say. “It would be so much easier.”

If I blogged strictly about fashion, a post about evening wear would discuss necklines and fabrics and hems. I wouldn’t have to write about how a little red dress serving as our installation’s centerpiece was the catalyst for my dance of fearlessness. I wouldn’t have to explain that, after dancing out “fear” across the floor—my movements heavy, reluctant, dragging, having to tug at my pant leg to propel me forward—I had no idea how I was going to follow Amara’s instruction to turn around and return down the floor with fearlessness. The resistance was overwhelming, and I stopped at the floor’s edge with no idea of how I was going to turn around and face fear in the eyes. I couldn’t. I was stuck. Expletives ran through my head, and I felt like a failure as my dancemates’ grimaces turned to smiles. If I were a fashion blogger, I wouldn’t have to explain how I stood against the auditorium stage in a panic, looked up, and saw that red dress before me—that was my cue. I want to be that lady in red, a voice inside of me said. I will wear that dress. Like that—BOOM!—fearlessness! I whipped around and returned down the floor in seconds with intensity, boldness, espresso in my cup. My speed down the floor wasn’t an attempt to evade the exercise but rather was me listening to the authentic voice that boomed forth. This fearlessness didn’t want to waste time, it wanted action. NOW.

If I were a fashion blogger, I’d write about which celebrity looks best in that little red dress. I wouldn’t have to write about metaphorically wearing that dress myself for the rest of the workshop, embracing fearlessness, stepping forward and dancing with someone who intimidated the hell out of me, being surprised at how much I gave myself to her, observing my emotions shift from fear to excitement to fearlessness in a cycle. I loved it, I hated it, I was scared, I was joyful. I was.

If I were a fashion blogger, the little red dress would be just a little red dress, not a symbol of sensuality and womanhood. I wouldn’t have to write about the way it touched me to my core, how when I observed two women in the throes of a throbbing, shaking voodoo dance, I stood beside them with my palms open, soaking up their energy, a gnawing, gripping, pounding desire to be in their bodies, feel the way that red dress enveloped their flesh, share their rawness, maturity, and wisdom.

“I wish I were anything but an overly sensitive dance/movement meditation blogger,” I say. “It would be so much easier.”

Wouldn’t it? But I am, and so I dance, and so I feel, and so I write.

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