This should be a fairly easy post for me to write, as prompted by today’s Daily Prompt. The prompt asks simply, What are your earliest and fondest memories of dance?
My earliest memories of dance are from when I was around three years old. I can recall having favorite songs at this time, and not many of them were your typical children’s songs. It was instrumental music that I most enjoyed, and anything with vocals that ran deep. This included haunting melodies in particular. Even at this early age, I would replay one certain song over and over. Satisfaction did not set in for me that my ‘listening’ was complete until I had designed an entire dance to this one song. Choreography was very particular for me, I recall putting on my costumes for my dances, and allowing myself one or two props to incorporate into the dance.
The one that sticks out in my mind the most is a dance in which I wore a red dress, moved the coffee table to the center of the floor, and danced with one of those plastic wobbly clowns that would sway back and forth and make music when you placed them down (anyone else remember these toys?). This dance entailed patterns on the floor that I traced as I danced, around the table, under and over it, and picking up the clown to move around with it and set it down at certain points in the music. I would do this for as long as it took for me to complete the song with my movement, and the feeling of satisfaction of having properly paid tribute to the music, I will never forget. It sticks with me to this day.
By the time I was four, we had moved from an apartment to a larger house. At this point I had my very own record player with a very large music collection, for a four year old. My music tastes were still not typical to a small child. If it was emotionally moving with an intriguing and deep melody, I was all over it. The dedicated desire for choreography was still there, I was still creating dances. However at this stage I was beginning to tune in to what it felt like to let the music move without any set patterns. I would do this over and over until I felt surges of electric joy pulsing from the center of my chest, all the way to the tips of my fingers and toes.
All of my aunts, uncles and cousins regularly commented on how happy I always was, how expressive. Now, it is easy for me to see that I was very consciously doing whatever it took to create my own joy and live from this place. It was at this point also that my mom had placed a large mattress in the basement for me to tumble on and practice some gymnastic tricks. Looking back, she did a very good job of helping me to channel my energies effectively!
My very first dance class wasn’t until the age of ten. I remember a girl in my class talking about her jazz class. The feeling that came from her when she talked about it made butterflies flutter in my belly, and I asked her to show me some moves. I was hooked. That day I ran home and begged my mom to sign me up. A structured dance class taught me a whole new way of moving, how to move with others, and how to incorporate the visions of another into my movement.
After the first year, the teacher told my mom she was afraid I was getting bored with the class (I really don’t think I was), and that she wanted to bump me ahead one year (which they did). This particular year end show consisted of us performing on stage in cat costumes to “Love Cats” by The Cure, and the year before that , we danced to “True Blue” by Madonna.
We moved around a lot after that, and after a few years of no dance classes I realized how important they were to me, in every way. So I made a pact with myself that wherever we moved to, no matter what, I would find a dance studio and take whatever they were offering even if I had to work part time jobs during school to do so. I found myself taking classes in gymnasiums, school theater stages, and drama classrooms.
Ballet was nothing I had ever truly considered until I was eighteen, and then it really hit me how beneficial ballet is to nearly every other movement practice in existence. Truly. The muscular conditioning, flexibility, versatility and grace that ballet gives to one’s body is absolute brilliance. After a year of ballet, my contemporary teacher informed me of a college dance program she thought I had a shot at getting into. I would need to audition, and a large component of the audition included ballet.
I nearly gagged. I wanted so bad to try, but my ballet was so not there yet. Taking a deep breath, I paid the application fee and signed up. Against what I felt to be all the odds, I made it in, and found myself dancing for up to six hours, six days per week. It was grueling, it was exhausting, it was emotional, it was painful… and it was brilliant. Every single moment of it.
Having circled in, around, and back again, nearly two decades later I am still dancing and still designing. Movement is still my best friend, and as I have written over and over again, this quote by T.S. Eliot sums it up for me: “At the very center of the turning world, there is only the dance.”