This I Believe

Kristen - Evansville, Indiana
Entered on August 17, 2008

I believe in movement, and dance is my chosen medium for moving through life. I believe dance is about power – the hidden power of bones and muscles that turn an ordinary human being into what Martha Graham called an athlete of God.

The summer after I graduated from high school, I performed in a modern dance piece choreographed not to music, but to a spoken essay called “I Landed on My Feet,â€? written by a dancer whose muscle memory helped her survive an accident that easily could have killed her. When an oncoming car hit her motorcycle, she tucked her chin and rolled across the hood the way she’d been taught in dance class, standing up uninjured on the other side of the car. The piece was a celebration of the way that movement permeates every facet of a dancer’s life.

I have never achieved 180-degree turnout or a perfect arabesque line, nor does this keep me awake at night. This is probably why I’ve never excelled in classical ballet. I no longer worry that my legs are too short or my hips are too curvy; most days, I accept that my body isn’t perfect. This is no small feat for a young woman who has struggled with self-esteem and lives in an image-obsessed society where the ideal body is practically a commodity to be purchased and upgraded. But I don’t dance because of how I look. I dance because of how I feel: strong.

If dancers are the athletes of God, a great modern dance class is a spiritual experience. When I am barefoot, muscles firing with sweat pouring off my body, I am more awake and alive than at any other time. Dancing allows me to experience my body as more than just a shell – it’s an instrument capable of reflecting a spectrum of emotions. My calluses and blisters remind me of my own capacity to hurt and feel. The thick, tough soles of my feet show me my own strength, built up gradually until I could forego both shoes and pain and just dance.

I believe movement is a metaphor for life. I am that sort of restless, hungry person who knows a little about a lot, which isn’t a bad way to live. I will never be perfect, but I’ll also never be stagnant or bored. The last few years have found me bouncing between cities, countries, and continents every few months, but I believe movement, dance, and life are not about never committing. They’re about staying alive and active. They’re about breathing, stretching, flexing, contracting, releasing, and refusing to sit still. They’re about change. They’re about motion. Even though I recently married, started a full-time job, and signed an apartment lease, I carry the spirit of movement with me. If life throws me over the hood of a car, as long as I can feel my bare feet touch the ground on the other side, I know I’ll be all right.