Barefootblogger: thoughts on dance

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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am a dancer with Minneapolis based James Sewell Ballet, a small, contemporary ballet company. I also choreograph independently.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I recently read an incredible book: “A Woman in Berlin – Eight Weeks in the Conquered City” by Anonymous, a female journalist and editor during and after World War II. She was 33 when she wrote it..

The book is in diary form, and captures the intimate details of her experience in Berlin just after Hitler fell, and Russia’s Red Army took over the city. Almost immediately we are matter-of-factly privy to the bare-boned facts of her new life, consisting mostly of incessant rape. It was a matter of course, and through the course of the book, it comes to be laughed at, even bragged about.

I feel a kinship with this woman. Nine months into my crumbled marriage, I find that I too can laugh about my tragedy. Not because it’s funny, but because it’s so very sad, and I need an outlet. Laughter in this case expresses irony and something broader, too spread out for words. The emotion that needs to get out requires something gutteral.

I spent three weeks absorbing her words, and over sixty years later I instinctively echo many of her sentiments. She has become a sort of time-capsule heroine: an astute, dry, brilliant, funny, savvy, curious, diligent, poetic recorder of her time spent losing, literally, the ground under her feet.

Near the end of the account, the author finds herself face to face with her fiancee, a man she had given up for dead. He is appalled by how she’s changed, in appearance, but most of all in manner and conversation. Almost nothing is sacred to her anymore, or at least, in the same ways. “You’ve lost all sense of measure”, he tells her.

Here’s what she has to say: “Love? Lies trampled on the ground. And were it ever to rise again, I would always be anxious, could never find true refuge, would never again dare hope for permanence.

“Perhaps art, toiling away in the service of form? Yes, for those who have the calling…I’m… an ordinary laborer…All I can do is touch my small circle and be a good friend. Still, the dark and amazing adventure of life is beckoning. I’ll stick around, out of curiousity and because I enjoy breathing and stretching my healthy limbs.”

I too am at a phase regarding love where I wonder, I really question, if I’m capable of the fullness of it in the presence of my art. I feel my dance calling, and I will admit that sometimes, when my soul is truly touched, it is enough.

So I ask, is my divorce, that which was imposed upon me, something I wanted all along? Clearly I inadvertently yet subversively made noises to that effect. I engaged in the action of getting married then proceeded to continue to put my art first. And yet, that’s where it is. That’s where it is.

I reach out, way out in the world, my feelers extended, information gathering. But I know the truest work needs to get done right here in my own backyard. I, in my ruby slippers, need to excavate my heart from the rubble, and unearth my true nature. Bits of me are revealing themselves. I reconstruct, reglue. My shards become hairline cracks, barely discernable to my naked eye, yet their history is no less keenly felt. Can my new container hold water? My friend S and I are reassured by that Leonard Cohen lyric, “There’s a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”

Anonymous: “At times I think I could survive anything on earth, as long as it came from without and not from some devious trick of my own heart.”

Yes. I am unearthing that the more I am true to myself, the more I can withstand. My sharpest pain comes from self-deception, distortion, like the view in a fun-house mirror.

I spent a large part of my marriage waiting/wanting to be asked to put aside, at least for awhile, my dancing and all attached dreams. I was nearing readiness for just that. I was nearing readiness to get pregnant, to rearrange my everything. So when it all came crashing down, my soul whiplashed, and is still out of joint, stretched out, like a belly after a late-term miscarriage.

The truth is, the divorce propelled me toward divining what it is I really want now. While I do want to have a child, I know I don’t quite yet. And anyway, it is not enough to wait to be asked. That decision requires an internal shift of my priorities, an internal “yes”. It starts with me.

These are things that I want. I want to believe wholeheartedly in my ability to love (and be loved) sustainably and to do it well. I want to have a child. And, yes, I want to be connected to dance throughout. But until then…

…there is no longer another person between my heart and I. I am no longer distracted by trying to please, or pretending to be something I’m not. How fortunate that I did not get pregnant, that I did not put my artistic dreams on hold. It would’ve all been for the wrong reason: fear. There lies the way of distortion. I was waiting to be asked, and that never would have have happened. When the time comes, I must wholeheartedly ask it of myself.

Me and my heart…

She says of hers, “Maybe we’ll find our way back to each other yet. And maybe my heart will speak to me once more. One thing’s for sure: my life has certainly been full…”

My heart slowly reveals itself to me, emerging from the shadows of anonymity. My wants can all exist at once, I just need to be able to contain them, cracks notwithstanding.