If you would have asked 10-year old Annabelle what she wanted to be when she grew up, I would have told you that I wanted to be a backup dancer for Britney Spears.
Honestly, I still kinda want that sometimes.
I really love dancing. It’s the only time I felt most like me. The dance studio is the only place that really feels like home.
The only place I found refuge after being sexually assaulted in my first year of college was in between turns and leaps on the hardwood floor of the oddly shaped yoga & dance room on the second floor of the school gym. It was where all of the tears and emotion inside me could be released. It’s where the most vulnerable parts of me could be held, seen, and loved. Dancing was the only time I could be exactly who I was.
When I was 19, I decided to start taking my dancing “seriously” so that when I graduated I could pursue a career as a professional dancer.
And I was very serious. 2-3 times a week I would drive 45min to train with the best teachers I could find and then 45min back home again.
And then something odd began to happen.
I started forgetting choreography. I started freezing during class. I started worrying about my form and technique. My male dance teachers hit on me after classes and then criticized my form and technique inside the studio. And the very real fear that it was too late in life to pursue professional dance training took over my brain.
”I have to work harder” ”I have to be the best one in the room” ”I have so much caught up to do.” ”Why won’t he pick me to do a solo”
The mental stress became so overwhelming that I started having panic attacks during class, and after my college graduation, I stopped dancing altogether and gave up on my dream.
For about 2 years I pretended dance wasn’t even real and I threw myself into business & marketing.
I’ve been trying to heal my relationship to dance ever since.
But I didn’t really understand what was going wrong and I didn’t really know where to start.
Eventually, I began to notice that the thought work I was doing with a coach of mine had freed up a lot of that mental pressure. As I practiced new thoughts and new ways of speaking to myself, I began to heal the inner critic (this is still an ongoing process) and I began to take classes again, but it still didn’t heal my movement.
I allowed myself to move again, but I was stiff and ungrounded. I still felt unsafe. The few times I danced again alone in my living room, I would rarely make it past the 0:20 second mark on any song without crying out of frustration or feeling really stiff.
That went on for a few years. And then something happened this month.
I danced to a full song.
and it felt AMAZING.
And the movement that came from me was different than I had ever seen before, and yet, it also felt so familiar.
I lost myself in the movement. I had given up right and wrong. I had given up technique I had given up good and bad. Instead, I followed the feeling.
I followed what was true. I asked my body how she wanted to move. Instead of focusing on what would look good, I focused on getting out of her way.
I’ve been wanting to share the movement with you so badly but I have found that there is a sacredness in these moments that need to be respected as part of the healing pross. My movement and I are healing our relationship.
I’m finally listening to her now.
And she’s not interested in being watched She’s not interested in performing. She’s not interested in being right or wrong. She’s been waiting all this time to express herself freely.
What I can share with you is what I discovered in this process and the reason why it took me so long to heal this block…
Dance has always been a place where I’ve shared my truth. Dance is where I’ve always been the most open and the most vulnerable.
What I realized today as I was journaling, is that my experiences with my past teachers made me feel really unsafe to share that part of myself. I felt criticized and ridiculed for what was honest for me, and I began to believe that my natural way of moving was wrong.
I felt like I only way that I could be a good enough dancer and pursue this dream was to do it “right”. So I shut myself down and prevented that natural honest expression from being shared. Which is why I felt stiff. and why I couldn’t dance even if I wanted to.
But now….. I have created a ton of safety in my body. I have the capacity to withstand being “wrong” as far as technique goes (Well…more than I did before lol still growing here) I trust myself.
And most importantly, I trust that my movement is right because it’s true.