Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dancing with myself

So. Did you know I used to dance? No? Well, I did. I danced a lot. I was in gymnastics since before I have memories. Then I dabbled in a bit of ballet and then I joined a drummajorette team which is hard to explain, because where I come from (did you know I'm not actually originally British? No? Now you do!) its a Big Fucking Deal. Like, national and international championship big. Like almost as big as Cheerleading is in America. Which is kind of how I explain Drummajorettes to English people. It's like Chearleading, except with 5 foot tall flags. And I was 4'9 at the time. It's 7 minutes of precision routine wearing a ridiculous uniform. You're performing a mix of marching, dance and propwork on a field with 30-50 other girls, some of whom are throwing mace's (a mace is like a baton, but hardcore. Like if a baton is Adam Lambert a mace is Ozzy Osbourne) 15 feet in the air. You have to be split-second in-sync with every single other girl on that field. You have to be PERFECTLY in time with your music or the whole routine looks unbelievably shit. I practised every single day for years, and I was at official squad practise 5 days a week, with competitions almost every single week, on top of going to school, on top of school sports teams I was also a member of, including the netball team in which I was an inter-school competitor. You have to be dedicated, and determined, and strong. You have to be really strong...we're talking about tiny 9yr old girls carrying 5 or 6lbs of metal and fabric onto a field while marching in time and formation and keeping on-choreography.

It was fucking hard.

And I loved it more than I can even explain to you. I loved it so much that when I watched this video I cried. It was the first point in my life where I had a group of friends. And when I won a place on my team's elite Indoor squad, it was the first point in my life where I felt like I was good at something. Where I felt important, or valued, or proud of myself. The indoor side of drummies was, as it's name would suggest, competed in indoors. It was much more like the group dance-acts you see on TV talent shows now...kind of a mix of chearleading and gymnastics and street dance. It was my life and I loved it.

When I moved to England, there was suddenly no more dancing. I tried to keep up my routines and my dancing by practising at home, but my parents said they would no longer be paying for me to attend classes like they did back home. Without any sort of formal structure, dancing slowly drained out of my life. Sports did, too. In England, sports isn't really valued at a state-school level. Not in girls. My brother would later join his school's basketball team and help win competitions within London, but for me, there was no more moving. There was no more belonging. There was just no more. The eating disorder that had been brewing for a couple of years exploded and took over my life; the more I lost the order, structure, and control that dance and sport had given me, the more I tried to claw it back, take it out on the body that I now felt was useless, surplus to requirements. I hated it. I called it 'the body'. I refused to consider it a part of me. I refused to care about it. What did I care if it was hungry? What did I care if it was weak? What did I care if it collapsed? What did I care if it didn't work right? I didn't. It couldn't do what I wanted it to so I would punish it mercilessly. I would starve it, cut it, beat it. Let others use it. It was no use to me. It was a hideous thing that trapped me, held me down. It was slow and stupid. It was ugly.

When I was older and wiser and better, I decided to take up dance again. I enquired about beginners ballet classes and joined my university's cheerleading team. But weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. And we all know what happened after that.

I love to watch dance videoes and movies now. I have come to grips with the fact that I will never really dance again. I have come to terms with the fact that my body is sick and broken. Of course it makes me sad. Of course it makes me angry. Of course I would love if dancing was possible for me without pain, or a very real risk of injury (fun fact: I pulled my wrist out picking up a fork the other day. Tell me how to do a pirouette without breaking something. Go on.) and people think I'm being negative when I say that, but I'm not. I'm being realistic, and I'm trying to come to terms with dancing not being part of my life anymore, or ever again. I don't want to 'think positively', as my mother puts it, when thinking positively means giving me false hope. I want to think realistically, and rather than think 'hey, maybe one day I'll dance again!' I want to think 'Hey, maybe one day I'll go a whole week without needing a 'bed-day'!' or even 'hey, maybe one day I'll run to the beach with my daughter.' Now the role that dance and gymnastics play in my life is strictly from-afar. When I watch dance video's, it does give me hope, but not that I could dance again. It gives me hope when my shoulders start twitching, when my hips move, when my foot taps. It gives me hope that I'm really coming to terms with what my condition means for me, and that I can still be positive and still enjoy the memories of my past, not look back on them with bitterness and anger like I used to. It gives me hope that my body and I are one again, a co-operating unit.

The Body did one thing right in it's entire life. It turned out to be the last right thing it would ever do, but do you know what? Looking at her sleeping next to me now, with her tiny red baby-curls and Hello Kitty pyjama's? Kind of makes up for all the shit we pulled on each other all those years ago.

Truce, Body. Truce.


  1. You gave me goosebumps!

    I used to be on a dance team in high school, and I LOVED it. Sometimes I miss it so badly.

    : (

    It stinks when you have to be an adult and stop doing fun things like that because you're busy working and going to school and raising a family and being lame.

  2. It's hard to explain what it means to be a dancer to someone who's never danced, isn't it? It's hard to explain how your body aches for music and movement. For precision, routine, choreography. And even for hours and hours of gruelling, hateful practising. I would give up my car, my closet, my SHOE COLLECTION, to dance again. To feel my body move like that!

  3. Drummies - the highest intelligence in the freest body!
    Have you joined the tertiary team?