Past Perfomances: Why We Dance

I don’t believe in fate, but sometimes projects pop up at just the right time, when we are in the head space to need them–and I start to understand why there are those who believe their lives are directed by unseen forces. I’ve been debating whether or not the discussion of this particular project falls under the ‘choreography’ or ‘performance’ categories for a while. Less than half of it was strictly set, some was loosely directed, the rest purely improve, but the project was fundamentally not my brainchild, so performance it is.

The year was 2014, the season was summer. I had just graduated from college and was working part-time at a small medical device company, shiftless, bored, and terrified. I was searching for many things–a more permanent job, an apartment, and a reassurance that I wasn’t going to waste my life post-university. I chased away the fear by reading, hiking, and dancing when I could.

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Like many artistic projects, “Why We Dance” happened almost by accident. I got an email forwarded by a friend of the friend, glanced at it, said ‘sure, I’ll be interviewed on my dance background for your video’, and showed up at this funky experimental theater space with my friend Derek (also a talented dancer). I brought my dance shoes on a whim.

Dr. Tehmekah MacPherson interviewed us, asking probing questions about why we do what we do and how it’s changed our lives. I’d like to be able to say that I immediately realized how important This Thing I Do is, but in reality I just smiled, nodded along, and added quips here and there–when I could get a word in edgewise from Derek.

As it happened, interviews from dancers of all flavors were only the beginning. There was to be a live theater performance in several weeks, and I was drawn into it with the inevitability of gravity. Part play, part dance show, part art piece, the performance told a loose story of a woman who had given up dancing years ago but overcame her fears and realized that dance can take many forms in a person’s life and can mean different things to different people. I attended two whirl-wind weeks of rehearsals, dancing…everything: West Coast Swing, Waltz, ballet, hip-hop, and even a titch of African.

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It was, in a word, sublime. That’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in artistic pursuits, but I am committed to that description, not for the lofty quality of the show or the splendor of the costumes, but for the shear authenticity of the experience, and the realization it brought about. I love performing. I always have, and I always will. In life I define myself first and foremost not by my job, or my education, or my relationships, but by dancing. I am a Dancer, and it took a small, quirky theater piece thrown together in two weeks for me to reconnect with that understanding.

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Also I got to dance with an umbrella and walk on the backs of my fellow dancers, so, you know. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.

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