Dance Away The...

Hello! So there have been good and bad things about my new found exercise/calorie counting shtick. Good: I’m feeling more energetic, more positive, less self-critical, just generally, for lack of a better word “healthier”, in both mind and body. Bad: I have been sort of flighty when it comes to blogging, I don’t know why. My mind is sort of “la la la”, even more in the clouds than usual. Oops, sorry!

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight, but I feel better, because my body is starting to feel stronger. I’m seeing hints of my old shape. My shoulders are a little sharper, my waist ever so slightly more defined. I may have lost two pounds, or six pounds, or no pounds; I don’t know, and oddly, for me, I don’t (much) care.

Because, and please don’t hate me, but I have to say it, it’s actually coming from inside. I just want to feel healthier and happier in my shell, and for the first time in I don't know how long, my mind isn't undermining me with unhelpful heapings of self criticism. I don't know if this will last, but I am going to do everything in my power to try to nurture this feeling, because throughout my life it's been an occasional, fleeting butterfly of a visitor.

I was in town this week and tried on a bunch of clothes, quite foolishly in one shop where the clothes never fit me (Oasis), and mostly they didn’t fit, and mostly, I didn't feel bad about that. There was this one dress, a bright, block coloured striped t-shirt dress on the sale rack, one of those “I know this dress is not going to fit but I have to try it on anyway” type deals. It was super form fitting, even in the large, it was just meant to be skin tight (hence why the large was still there – most girls my size don’t want skin tight anything).

And I put it on, and yes, it clung to my belly, but when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see just the “flaws”. I saw how my waist looks incrementally smaller. How much I (forgive me) actually like my butt, even though whoever had designed this dress had perversely put a thick white stripe right across the hip/butt area. It was like a joke, almost: “Look at my butt!” What was that old SNL skit…(found it!).

A few weeks ago I might have let something like trying on an un-flattering dress put me in a real funk. Of course I still have an inner self critic, I'm sure I always will, but she has gotten a lot quieter, a lot more like a tiny voice in a box I am capable of ignoring.

I’m thinking a lot less about my exterior while at the same time feeling weirdly better about it, which I know sounds…odd. It's a sort of separate, almost as if seeing myself from outside myself sort of feeling. My body is my body, perhaps it is changing, but I don't feel, as particularly when I was younger and less healthy of mind when it came to this stuff, as though my calorie counting and exercise are a thing of desperation, of a certain need to fix or mold it in any particular way. 

Anyway, I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was (but I think this ties is with the above hopefully), how exercising, moving, and in particular this week dancing, have been helping me feel this way. It's been on my mind, what a sea change just wiggling around more can make to one's psyche. And how there were times in my life where I maybe knew it but forgot or shelved it for some reason.

When I was 20/21 years old and living in New York (the first time), I was studying acting full time, which meant I had 5-7 classes a week, mostly on nights and weekends. One of my classes was called simply “Movement”. I think we had a choice of taking it or Fencing or Ballet (we had to take some sort of physical class, were encouraged to be a triple threat with music too but um...have you heard me sing? Count yourself lucky!).

My Movement class was taught by a former prima/soloist ballerina. She was not your typical ballerina; she was more of an earth mother/choreographer/yogi /guru/ your basic all around goddess. She was perfect, and I idolized her, because she was one of those rare people that simply emanate goodness and generosity of spirit.

Her classes were an inspiring combination of dance and yoga and life wisdom. It's not that she philosophized, per se, but the way in which she talked about connecting to our bodies and expressing ourselves was pretty spiritual and different from the overall analytic tone of the teachings at the school.

I looked forward to and savored the feeling of well being and grounding her class gave me every week. I felt in my element, I felt like I belonged, which was a hard thing to find as a young, relative bumpkin living in New York.

Living in the sensory overwhelming city that never sleeps, I vividly remember walking home along Bleeker Street from her class in the peaceful West Village to my noisier, grungier abode in the Lower East Side, and feeling like I could tune out the whole of it for a blissful, quietly centered moment in time. 

She was so encouraging of everyone in the class, we were all ages and sexes and abilities. There was this one guy in the class; he was, as far as I was concerned in my youthful wisdom, awful. He had no flexibility or natural connection to his limbs whatsoever it seemed, which meant he required much extra attention. It always felt like he was slowing us (me!) down.

It was a very slow/creative flow type class, but even so he was always out of pace with everything we did. And I, being a young, bendy twenty year old, wanted my teacher to pay attention to me, to make me better, to be more graceful, to re-discover my latent inner ballerina/dancer. This guy I will call Bill was not a dancer and never would be as far as I was concerned. 

At the end of term we had to choreograph our own dance to music. I’m just a little embarrassed to say I set my piece to Enya, (hey, it was the 90’s!). My dance was well intention-ed but I can’t honestly say I worked very hard on it or felt confident in my finished piece. I felt emotionally scattered/not connected to it, I think because it was actually about something I found hard to express.

We all sat for the last class and watched each other perform. And to my surprise, Bill performed a truly moving dance. It wasn’t graceful or perfect, but it had real, powerful emotion at its core, which stood out from some of the weaker pieces, mine included.

I was completely stunned. Bill had something I didn't as a performer. I might have had some inbuilt grace, but he had soul. He had connected to something deep inside him and found a way to express it movingly.

I had seen my teacher perform her own work at the school, and she was staggeringly, breathtakingly good. I so wanted her approval. And after I danced she came up and squeezed my hands together and said lovely things about how well I moved and she could see my internal effort, but I needed to stop holding back/closing myself off, and it was like she was looking into my soul. And I felt sort of...lacking.

It was jarring and disheartening for me. I already felt like a bit of a fraud anyway as I wasn't really connecting to the acting methodology taught at the school. I didn't stop dancing, of course, but I think I stopped thinking of myself as someone who could ever be a "dancer" in terms of artistic expression.

So this week I was flailing around my living room to Katy Perry’s Roar like a maniac, just for fun/to burn off some calories in a non-regimented way. And there was a moment when I stopped “dancing” and started, I don’t know, really feeling the movement. Something about the lyrics/defiant spirit of it connected with a sort of buried part of me. I was jumping around, punching the air, and crying with joy, with sorrow, with I don't know quite what, but with feeling.

I wasn't trying to look cute or graceful, I was lurching around wildly and expressing something I felt inside. I didn't even know it was there, but it came out and I lost myself. I felt connected with my deepest self and completely in the moment. I truly let go.

So yes... I’ve been remembering that I am a person who likes to move since I’ve taken up this exercise thing again. I feel more confident and sure footed. Moving makes me feel good, dancing makes me feel alive, and I need to find a way to do it more often (even if it’s just by myself, in my living room! ;-).

Because when we move, be it with dancing or running or yoga-ing, anything else that stops our brains focusing so much, self-analyzing or criticizing so much, we do break free from our minds, even for a moment, and for me it has been a great, renewed form of release.


  1. I was very moved by this honest, open and profound post. Becoming the person you are inside; an amazing, beautiful creative person. X

    1. Aw thanks Elinor, you are very kind! xx

  2. I would have chosen fencing, ha. I feel like a dork dancing, grace I have none.

    And don't apologize for liking how your butt looks in something!

    1. It's funny, now that I am older I think I would like to try fencing, too. I think embracing the inner dork is much more fun when it comes dancing anyway! :-)

  3. This is beautiful and it meant something to me to read it.

    1. Thanks Becky! I worked hard trying to articulate my feelings on this one! xo