This past weekend I went to my nephew Josh’s dance recital, which was a lot of fun for many reasons. But it also got me thinking about my own experience with dance, how things have changed between then and now, and dancing in general.
Starting at age 4, I did the classic trio: tap, ballet, and gymnastics. I didn’t stick that long with gymnastics or tap, but I did ballet up until age 12, when I decided I didn’t feel the need to get into pointe shoes. Plus, by then I had begun gaining weight and felt awkward and self-conscious in the skimpy ballet outfits.
As a young child, though, I enjoyed myself a lot, as you can see from these couple of photos.
Dance also gave a place for some of my “take charge” personality to come out, although I didn’t realize it at the time. For instance, during one gymnastics recital, perhaps my first one, a little boy didn’t get to his tumbling routine quickly enough for my taste, so I pushed him out to do it. I doubt he appreciated it, but it got a chuckle from the audience.
That part of my personality hid for many years, though, once I had gained weight and no longer felt comfortable getting attention. Which is another reason I didn’t want to do dance anymore. Why would I get up on a stage and deliberately exhibit my ungainly, fat body in front of others? That would invite ridicule.
Of course, I only thought about dance as ballet by that point – it didn’t occur to me that I could do other types, perhaps dance that would let me wear more clothes, or that wouldn’t require performance. Perhaps I could simply dance for the enjoyment of it. None of that occurred to me until much later, when I had finally accepted my body and was happy to have it, rather than loathing it.
It therefore made me very happy to see so many styles of dance at the recital – tap, ballet, hip-hop, modern, etc. – with performers of all different shapes and sizes. It reminded me of what I wish I had believed about myself in my younger years, that being large doesn’t mean you can’t be graceful and enjoy moving your body.
These days, while I don’t dance as part of any class, I do like to move my body to music, sometimes dancing in the car or in my chair at work (although that can make typing tricky), or dancing in front of the sink while doing dishes and listening to upbeat music on my iPod. I enjoy it, and I got the sense from the recital that those performing also liked it, even if they might be a bit nervous about being up on stage. I hope it’s something my nephew can continue finding joy in it, and that all of us can remember to find ways of moving our bodies that make us smile.