It’s hard to share a truth you haven’t faced yourself yet.
I seem to have stumbled my way into yet another sloughing off what is not working to reveal raw and unknown aspects underneath.
My relationship to dance is in a state of disrepair due to a variety of reasons, some that come from the scene and some from within. I am unsure what will be left once I actually tackle it.
I feel scared and unsure these days about what I want from dance and what people think of me. I feel like I no longer fit even into the space I once carved out for myself. Yet I am afraid to do something different.
I’m afraid to leave and there won’t be space for me to return. I’m afraid if I don’t force you to accept me, if I don’t accept the minimum, if I am not ok with surviving on crumbs, pouring my soul to the brim, a shift in priority will be yet another loss.
I feel as if I can’t stomach another one.
I still love the dances I do, and the way following makes me feel. I love teaching and helping people learn their bodies and themselves. I love the music and history and the culture and my connection to it all.
Yet the pull of irrelevance has been wearing on me. A feeling of boredom and apathy has caught me as well as a jaded frustration at a variety of things. …and not just the obvious one of race.
I’ve spent my whole career looking for a practice partner. Looking for a teaching partner. A competitive partner. And despite my efforts nothing has come of it. It’s hard out here for follows. You know how hard it is to maintain joy and enthusiasm for dance when 90% of the time you have to dance a partnered dance alone? To train, alone. To plan, alone. Finding replacements to the connection that drew you to the dance to begin with?
But I am also male. A Black trans one at that. I was used to being overlooked, I wasn’t used to being overlooked at dismissed when I wasn’t useful (Ie leading). The queer subsection of the scene doesn’t even hold me well these days. The only other major queer male following figure in the community transitioning back to solo dance. The loneliness is intense.
These dances are social and so my social feelings matter. The fact that I’m more into art than board games. That most teaching pairs are couples. That dating isn’t an option for me in the scene. That most leads eyes glaze over me and a good 80% of my dances are with follows who are leading me because they want to dance with me as an idea, not because they want to lead the dance or explore movement with me. Subtley and at times unconsciously handing me the lead soon after the dances begins. The fact that most teaching couples have both each other and day jobs so our relationship to practice and earning an income are drastically different.
When the pandemic began I felt a lot of hope because so many people were taking online classes. I felt inspired and although it was hard I was excited to develop things beyond the standard classes. To explore with others and feel connected, and it was briefly financially viable. Then it started to dwindle. And dwindle. Until sometimes it was just me, or everyone just asked for the recordings instead, unaware that a lot of the fulfilment in teaching social dances is SOCIAL.
The work stopped being worth it. Perhaps I was getting a social need met I am only now learning I have.
But I love the dance and the music and teaching.
When my social needs were being met, I could be ok with not making a lot. But when neither are… I’ve found myself in a spiral I’m unsure of how to get out of. Not feeling fullfilled or having my needs met makes me not want to do anything which means I am not providing value or promoting myself, which means things dwindle and I don’t feel fulfilled or get my needs met.
I don’t know what I want from dance anymore. When I am in a good dance with a solid lead, everything makes so much sense. When I am lapping a room of people learning, It’s the only place I want to be. Then, it ends. And outside of spending time with a tight knit group, the feeling of isolation and loss creeps in. Another day of wanting to practice and being limited by my own lack of partner. Another day of not growing as a dancer because I need to work with others. Another day of being looked through and yet objectified at the same time. Another series of moments of awareness that, I’m different. It’s fine to be there but it’s different to feel celebrated or cherished, wanted and desired.
Maybe I never did recover from my experiences with organising…
Another day of struggling to let go of my dream and accept my new one. To find a way to refit dance into my life that doesn’t hurt so much. I’m scared I am making a terrible choice gambling on a new art form I know so little about. I’m scared I am not going to do enough and will end up back here but without everyone I gained through dance. That if I change my giving relationship, because my needs have changed, that I’ll lose everything.
When I step back out of my fear, it’s fairly obvious I will still be talking about the things I always have. I still find history and culture fascinating. I still love to teach. I love teaching private lessons. I still love helping people personally develop and making jokes. Taking hard and taboo topics and making them accessible. I still want to finish the work I did with Ilindy (kickstarter maybe) and potentially do a blues version. One day, I may even be re excited to explore my own movement again, or have my social(or financial) needs met elsewhere and be able to come back without feeling like all my eggs are in one basket and folks aren’t careful enough. But for now, I am at a strange point of wanting to go out more, and wanting more teaching opportunities, and not wanting to prove anything to anyone, and turn my eyes towards meeting my needs and non social aspect of these things that I love.
Recently I was asked a series of questions around this transitional art period I find myself in. The first was essentially what are you willing to give up for this new thing. I cried when I realised it’s dance being my primary focus.
To the outside this changes very little I’m sure. But, for me, it’s a terrifying shift. In the gaping void of the absence of “making it work” is space for passion and joy. I’m not replacing dance, but I am adding something much much bigger to my life that I’m energised with the same energy I was as a young dancer searching YouTube all night with no sleep for “swing dance, no rockstep” lost in videos of expression I craved to experience and explore.