Friday, June 21, 2013

Dance GimpGirl Dance

Forever a bellydancer....a goofy one at least
Photo on the left was taken about a year ago at a Walmart checkout lane.  I'm using my wheelchair (barely visible in the photo), wearing plastic framed glasses, hair medium auburn & shoulder length, a black hoodie and jeans.  I'm balancing a 16 pound bag of dry cat food on my head while smiling.

I'm a silly person by nature and dancing has been one of the ways that I incorporate joy in my life as an adult.  Without whimsy or other mental/emotional benefit of physical activity, exercise becomes a source of unhelpful stress in my life.

You see, I have a body that has never been part of the status quo.  I was born with disabilities that impacted my vision, my growth, my exercise tolerance, my pain level.  I've been on one of the hard mode game settings of life.  It's's my body, my life, and I can't just reroll my character like I can playing a roleplaying game (tabletop, computer, console, whatever...I'm a geek and it's awesome).  Moving my body in a fun way was hard.  I wasn't the kid that was playing in the yard, and many of my childhood memories of physical activity involved watching my younger brother figure it out first (like riding a bike or skiing).  I don't have depth perception because of monocular (single eye) vision.  I'm short because of pituitary dwarfism (although I'm a tall dwarf at 4'11").  My endurance is crap because of my pituitary dysfunction.  Et al, ad nauseum.

When I found belly dance, it was amazing.  I found something that I was good at.  I have a good sense of rhythm from being a musician.  My pituitary stuff contributes to me being really flexible, so I can do some pretty cool big movements.  Belly dance strengthened muscles in my back that had been injured in a car accident seven years prior and decreased some of my baseline levels of chronic pain.  Belly dance can be flirty, bouncy, and happy, and it made me connect those emotions to my body.

CONvergence 2009, photo by Dave Stagner Photography
Breaking that vertebra took dance away from me.  I tried dancing through it.  I was in a dance troupe when the fracture was found, approximately 4 months after the actual injury.  I would go to 4 hour rehearsals, popping over the counter pain medications, laying on the floor with my knees to my chest when the rest of the troupe worked on skills or choreography.  I ended up pulling myself out of our troupe's annual show and my troupe leader never spoke to me after that.  I tried to take dance classes off and on and performed a couple times as a soloist (see photo on the right).

Photo is black and white with a veil hung behind me.  My hair is short and blonde, my eyes are closed with my right hand at my temple and left extended to the side.  My black top is a halter with sleeves, showing a choker necklace, a thin metal drape from the front of the top, and a kanji tattooPhoto by Dave Stagner Photography.

It probably comes as no surprise that dancing became associated with pain, anger, and frustration.  I would still try to dance at home, but hip movements would grind on the nerves.  I tried to dance using my wheelchair, but despite what I said on that blog post, it just wasn't the same (I'm human...I'm allowed to change my mind!).  Dancing was still my passion, but it was an identity filled with tension.  Memories of dancing made me light up when I would talk about different moments in my dance life.  Taking classes with Jill Parker of UltraGypsy and Caroleena Nericcio and her troupe at the Fat Chance Belly Dance studio the summer I lived in San Francisco.  Jillina of the Bellydance Superstars coming up to me after the show to chat with me because she remembered me from her workshop.  Learning West African dance at my university and jumping, stomping, twirling, hollering with the live drummers. 

This is where the point of my Cyborg Dance Projekt comes in.  While my spine surgery wasn't the rebirth I was hoping for, I still have opportunities to reconnect with both my body and dance.  After my second post-op dance class this past Tuesday at Twisted Dance, I learned some things about this new cyborg body.  I learned that sometimes the wires/nerves that relay information are faulty.  I have body signals that I have no words for.  They are so visceral that they seem to connect directly to my hypothalamus (the brain's emotion center) and my tear ducts.  It's as if the metal parts of me have made me more human than human.

There's still a lot of fear.  Fear of messing up the hardware, fear of the next vertebral joint going bad (I'm already having L4/5 issues that started immediately post-op and haven't gone away), fear of falling in a class.  With the help of my partner and my dance community, I'm focusing on the hope and the whimsy and community.  It's hard, my bodily future is unknown, I still need wheels for distance, but I'm going to cling to my art with all my might.

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