My story with dance begins on stage at a derelict House of Culture at the center of my suburban Moscow town. I was seven and I was auditioning for Ballet. I don't remember the crux of my audition, but I do remember being told that I should not have even come through the door. Was it this dramatic? It may as well have been because it shaped the course of my life. It got to me. At the time I didn't think much of the power of the statement "You have bad rhythm", but it stuck. Somewhere along the way the idea that I was awkward, ungraceful, had to two left feet became ingrained. I couldn't even dance when nobody was watching. Not knowing how to dance was my biggest shame. Almost 30 years passed by and I avoided any interaction with dance. I spent my time outside on my mountain bike. After multiple ACL tears I had to rethink my approach to my fitness. I re-introduced Yoga which led me to a common, but a secret path to Pilates. Pilates was so different to anything I've ever tried. It was graceful. It was Pilates that whispered to me, "Try dance". I pushed through the fear and the nonsensical rationalizations about my inability to dance. I didn't realize how big my desire for dance had been, but I have been dancing in my imagination for years. I started taking dance classes 10 months ago and it is absolutely everything I've been missing in my life. Dancing taught me to express my appreciation of music through my body. I learned count and how to structure movement with music, but I am learning grace and lengthening. All of those sneaky concepts only taught in dance. Dance is letting go. Letting go of whatever some lady told you in that House of Culture. Letting go of whatever thoughts have been bothering you and releasing it with every part of your body. Dance taught me that movement doesn't have to be strenuous or non-enjoyable. You don't need to pull weights to loud music and sweat under bright lights. You don't need to lift tires if you don't want to. You can choose an activity that you enjoy. You can be graceful, feel beautiful and get a workout. Dance is the only public class I go to. No straps hanging off the ceiling, no whiff of sweat or regret in the air. Just a beautiful studio with mirrors and nice decor.
Dance taught me about the dancer's body. I have been called a dancer by others before I considered myself a dancer. Just as with every characteristic, I'm the last one to find out. The female experience is about picking apart your body parts and wishing them to be different. We all have our bits and pieces we don't like. Well the bits I thought will remain with me until I die have started changing. Turns out dance was the answer to the body I've always dreamed about.
Everyone needs to dance. There's no reason to torture ourselves in fitness classes we don't enjoy that we will very likely drop. We should be excited for exercise. We should be excited to spend time with our community. Dance is a beautiful way to do that. We don't need to suffer to get a good workout in. We have a skewed perception of value in our society. We keep believing that hard unpleasant work reaps the highest benefits. We need to enjoy doing what we do and be in the moment. If you don't want to lift tires then don't do it. There are so many ways you can move your body.