I have multiple dance bodies but faux Kathak some amalgam of belled foot play I put together since 2008 seems to be my most playful conduit, as evidenced by insta views.
My journey with movement is one that happens in open moments: designed, as at house parties with dancy people or the rare club outing, or organically receiving, as when I’m asked to by a friend who knows. I rarely just begin dancing even if I’m inspired to, as when I am hearing an amazing band of musicians perform for the public (unless there is designated space made for dancing) without an invitation (there’s a great social weight not to take up space because dance is connected to narcissism). These open moments feel like gifts because I can be myself. Formally, my movement journey is rooted in a set of dance classes in classical Bharat natyam form and arangetram at 12 because after 5 years my parents had to relocate and weren’t sure they would find another teacher. I was introduced to Anands Shankar by my aunt who thought I was too stiff doing BN. In those days we did not have any access but local news and my parents did not watch popular films so no Bollywood. I watched Mughal e Azam once and awhile clips of Kathak here an there on documentaries on India. In college I would take a demo class here and there by students from different countries but never in a sustained manner. I was once asked to leave the one Kathak class I went to by the white woman te her for not being dressed modestly enough (I was in shorts). Salsa definitely became a social dance outlet that allowed me to be playful and test my interests with sensual display. But most of the dancing I ever did was next to my bed with whatever was on the radio and on old cassettes. My twenties passed with even less dance. In my thirties I was introduced to breakdancing, pop and lock, and Acro yoga and aerials, and most especially kalaripayuttu. I loved the isolationist the best because I could do it due to my BN dance body. One day I was dancing as a musicians jam and my friend told me afterwards he hadn’t seen quite what I was doing ever before. It still took eight years and now so much has become ubiquitous because dance catches! Somehow that stayed with me. Somehow it was validation that my body was creating even in such confined circumstances.
because I’m not usually in front of a mirror, I don’t know how I look. Something happened these past few months which is encouraging me to commit to dance. It’s certainly not for stage but it may be such that I am able to keep close to it for health reasons if the universe permits it for the rest of my life. This is my attempt at retirement planning. It cannot be more clear. I’m my most buoyant self when I dance so fighting for this and sharing the buoyancy with people seems logical. Keeping dance close to me will allow me to be close to other care practices that are difficult to sustain: nourishing myself with food and sun.
This dawning is generating activity to explore how I might pull this off: formally, it’s an application to dance school, more true to myself, it’s developing a community dance making initiative I’ve been dreaming about for years. Both processes have made it clear I need to set up regular studio practice. It may take years to be sustainable but I’ve never made this much time to be dancing. The rooms I have access to have no mirrors. It has also dawned on my that I need to study my improvisations to understand my movement language. This is why for the first time I’m training a camera on myself each time I go in. The process is complicated – the act of recording improvisation or choreography and putting it on social media to assess people’s interest – can easily throw one’s energy to be seeking approval. I’ve been enjoying the affirmations, sharing a part of myself many don’t see often, and being able to ifentify the skill and confidence I have developed to take space when I choose to dance as well as so many places I would benefit from regular practice.
Most evident in this experience: I feel the raw tension watching myself that now I understand is the reason people watch me. Even as it was creating my body was struggling interpreting visioning paths to be easy with itself – i labeled this as dance but it’s just trying to help me be myself.