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Learning to Dance, Learning to Be

Posted Sep 09 2008 4:36am

When my friend D was over on Sunday, she asked to see some S moves. We went upstairs to my pole space. I put on some shorts and India Arie's rendition of "The Heart of the Matter." I did a few moves for D - Swing Walk into a breezy Firefly around the pole, hip circles to the floor, and a crawl from the floor into a climb up to the top of the pole. I flipped upside down on the pole into a Snake, pushed myself into a Pole Cat, and finally slid down slowly in the shape of a Descending Angel.

D watched wide-eyed. When I finished, she blurted, "What strength!" She thought that while the dance movement was sensual, its power was what struck her the most. She asked if doing the S had changed me.

It was hard to convey just how much dancing has taught me about myself. So I told her about one Friday morning earlier this year. I was standing at an intersection when several male construction workers called out at me. Whenever this kind of situation has occurred before, I always felt a mixture of shame, fear, and anger. I would ignore the men and walk on as quickly as possible. Sometimes, if I got angry enough, I would say something foul back. That morning as I was stuck standing there, waiting for the light to change in my favor, I turned around and smiled. It was an instinctive reaction. My smile was not an embarrassed or a friendly one. It was simply confident and accepting. I didn't care what those men thought. Why should I let them make me feel uncomfortable? My body IS beautiful. I've experienced its strength and beauty through dance, my relationships, and all the big and small things it allows me to accomplish. What is there to be ashamed or afraid about? I walked away feeling liberated and empowered.

D said that when she is on the receiving end of unwanted male attention, she too feels ashamed, as if she has done something wrong to invite it. She pointed out that as women, we are programmed to internalize things immediately as our fault. We have this tendency to compensate for others' behavior at our own expense. We also struggle constantly with issues and expectations surrounding our bodies. All these complexities can surface in a single whistle from a random guy on the street. D said that it was wonderful that I was comfortable in my own skin and that I could respond in a way that made sense to me.

It will take me my whole life to discover my body and learn to respect her. But I am grateful that through dance I have begun to see what she has to teach me.

(For more articles related to the S, please check out earlier blogs.)

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