Friday, April 12, 2013

My First Dance: Nancy Pottage

A Series of Vignettes ...

Summer.  A field.  A makeshift stage.  Banjos.  Blankets and coolers. I am four or five.  I am dancing.  I feel really good. Wearing my favourite t-shirt which was butter yellow with three sketchy black and white cross-country skiers on the front. One day it just disappears from my drawer.  I really miss it, for a long time.

A big gymnasium with a golden wooden floor.  We are moving in a circle in our black leotards and pink tights.  I have white sneakers.  No one else has white sneakers.  We all fall down.

Christmas.  I’ve got a long dress on: red with little white polka dots.  In  my grandparents’ basement with my cousins, dancing to our parents’ old records.  Chubby Checker on the the orange and brown linoleum floor:  Come on baybeh, let’s do the twist come on baybeeeehhhh  let’s doo the twist.  It is definitely past our bedtime.

Dutch Waltz.  Canasta. I am wearing a blue velveteen dress with matching skate covers that my mom made for me.  My toes are cold.  I live for the Ice Carnival, when they paint flowers over the face-off circles and hang long silver streamers from the lights and we walk the long cold walk under the spooky bleachers in spandex, sequins, feathers and blue eyeshadow.

My cousin’s dance recital.  Holiday! Lucky Star! Off the shoulder neon tops and legwarmers! No cold toes here!  So, back to that big gymnasium again.  Flashdance.   Caribbean Queen.  Freeze Frame.  More sequins, spandex, feathers and blue eyeshadow.  We go on a field trip to see the T.O. Hot Shoe Show.  I see Rex Harrington and Evelyn Hart dance a duet called Belong.  It blows my teenage mind.  That way.  That dance. THAT is what I want to make.

But I’m frustrated.  My heart always wants to say more that my body can.  In a class of 20, I’m one of two who does not get asked to dance competitively.  I grow to hate the classes.  I grow to hate my own dancing, the way my body looks when dancing. I quit.

Theatre school.  Movement class.  Hello José Limón.  I fall in love.  Not just with the technique but, through it, with my own body again.  I feel that I can move honestly and that this is beautiful.  Breathe, swing, release, fall.  Breathe.

20 years later. I still miss that yellow t-shirt.  I still really love dancing with my cousins.  I still hate having cold toes.  I still love sequins.  I still have times when my heart wants to say more than my body can.  And I get frustrated.  But I guess I see what my younger dancing self lost track of for a while:  that the spaces around things sometimes say as much as the things themselves.  If you can’t dance in the spaces, dance around them. If you can’t do that, just breathe.

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