The other day I was in a dance store (is that even a word?), getting some teaching clothes.
The woman working there asked me where I dance and I said, oh I don’t dance.
Actually it was more like this:
Oh! No no no no no. I don’t actually DANCE.
As if DANCE is some concept or thing so far removed from me and my entire life that she might as well have asked me when I trained to be a rodeo clown.
Interesting. By which I mean: kind of hilarious but also disturbing.
Let’s look at this.
About three seconds after I said it, I realized how incredibly incongruous a thing it was to think.
Even though apparently I do think it.
Point 1: I am the number two teacher in the world of something called…wait for it… Dance of Shiva.
And even if I don’t consider it to be dance, it’s still a movement technique. It’s agility and coordination training. It’s flailing and flying, which are dance-like.
Point 2: Plus I’ve taught this method to professional dancers and choreographers in order to help them be better at what they do, namely: DANCING.
Point 3: I have been dancing for my entire life.
Point 4: Actually, I still attend a few dance classes every week.
Point 5: When I was nineteen I had a gig as the assistant choreographer for a children’s traveling folk dancing troupe. I also taught dance at a summer camp. Oh, and I taught Ironic Aerobics and Dork Dancing at last year’s Week of Destuckification program.
But oh god no I’m not a dancer.
My fuzzball monsters were extra sneaky with this one because the sabotage had been so subtle I hadn’t even realized that they were there.
It was so obviously and unquestionably true that dancing has nothing to do with me. That dancer is something completely OTHER. It was easy for me to speak without thinking because I already knew the answer.
But then I remembered that this exact same thing happened last summer.
Here it is again.
The day before I flew to Taos last July to teach at Jen Louden’s Writer’s Retreat, I went to get a massage.
The massage therapist wanted to know what I was going to be doing in Taos, and I said teaching at a writing retreat.
She said, “Oh, you’re a writer!”
And of course I went into instant stuttering denial. Explaining that actually I was going there to teach yoga and other forms of movement cough – dance! and brain training, and that I don’t really write.
Even though this is demonstrably false.
This was the same writer’s retreat at which I had also taught the year before and gone through the exact same thing then.
Identity is funny.
Yes. Yes it is.
Just thinking about everything that comes together to create a sense of self…
The mind-boggling collection of internal rules about who gets to self-define as what. And why you don’t get to be a whatever-it-is.
The way we silently agree to be put into one box or another.
The number of flying shoes and perceived flying shoes that we’ve internalized over the years.
I’m remembering the girl at school who told me that my arms weren’t graceful enough for me to take ballet. “I guess you could always try gymnastics,” she said.
Remembering walking into my summer art classes, looking longingly at the kids doing jazz and tap.
And being determined not to admit that I wanted to be there too. Because I was so afraid of discovering that I wasn’t any good at it.
Identity is also fluid.
That’s the good part. Or at least, the reassuring part.
When we get to recognize the internal rules for what they are, we get to start deprogramming and destuckifying.
We get to stop being impressed by what the old rules say.
And then it’s not about I am a ___________ or I am not a __________.
Hard stuff. But also amazing. Scary. But also empowering.
What happens next.
Here’s the funny part.
The best tool that I know of for taking apart these kinds of deeply internalized rules (“I don’t get to be a dancer because x, y and z”) is Shiva Nata.
So I am going to be using dance to take apart the pattern that says I don’t get to claim dance for myself, and to bring in the new patterns to replace the old ones.
I’m going to dance by doing algorithms with my body and making connections in space. I’m going to dance by whirling and blocking and crossing the midline.
I’m just not going to call it that. Until I am.
And comment zen for today…
Alright. Here goes. I do not wish to be told that actually I am a dancer, even though I know it’s meant to be reassuring.
And I don’t want to talk about how actually we need to get beyond identifying with one thing or another because we’re all one with everything.
Instead I want to think out loud about the bigger theme: the various ways that we deny or hide from aspects of ourselves.
So if you’ve ever had trouble admitting that you are a thing, do a thing, have a connection to a thing, I would love to hear more of these stories.
As always, we let everyone have their stuff and we don’t give each other advice (unless people ask).
Love to the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.
p.s. If you’re considering coming to the Shiva Nata teacher training in September, please know that not being a dancer and never planning on being one is absolutely fine! Disastrous uncoordinated flailing is what we’re going for!