Who/How I?

Michael - Columbus, Ohio
Entered on November 18, 2011
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I believe that dancing is an action of forming, deforming, and reforming the body/self, a belief that turns back on itself, calling into question this very “I” whose belief is professed. Dancing has taught me that “I” am my body, even if “I” exceed my body and even if my body exceeds “me.”

Language is limited—and limiting—in this way: to articulate myself in speech is always to simplify and to reduce myself within the term “I,” an anonymous first-person that accounts for myself only in ways that are presumed to be shared with all others who have described themselves with this term. Indifferent to whatever words might surround this “I,” it is the perpetual declaration of a self that remains the same with each repetition; each time this term is deployed, “I” represent myself as unchanged. This is not the only limitation of language: to speak of “my body” is always to figure it as separate from myself, as property—“mine”—which, in order to be possessed, must necessarily be distinct from the “I” who claims it. From within the boundaries of what is speakable, “I” feel myself questioning, “What of myself is excluded from this term ‘I?’” and protesting, “No! This body is not ‘mine,’ it is me!”

Dancing is not limited by these constraints of language. In dancing, “I” am never separate from this body that moves, nor is this body unchanged by its motion. Dancing reveals myself as more fluid than solid, more transient than persistent, continually mutating with each gesture, often in ways uncertain and unforeseen. Through these bendings and flingings and fallings and collidings and tumblings and sinkings; through fleshy places become firm then flaccid, finding firmness once again to only again inevitably become flaccid; through the touch of skin against skin, the calm and sudden disorientation of giving and taking weight that confuses “you” and “I”; through encountering your movement as my own, taking in choreography that becomes yet another version of myself; through focus that transforms cells into galaxies and becomes a prayer in the gaps of body-becoming-universe; through calluses and tears, surfaces pushing and opening outward, clarifying the uncertainty of my boundaries; through sweating and bleeding and crying, flowing beyond myself: through dancing, “I” am made as this body, a making that is always both unmaking and remaking.

Dancing reveals myself as a matter of repetition with difference, each moment of movement becoming both this body again and for the first time, each “again” not quite the same as it emerges from the cellular and neural residue of actions that came before. Regardless of whether the movement is thought of as rehearsed or improvised, it is always both, a reiteration of how “I” have been before and an enunciation of how (thus who) “I” am now. As this body moves in so many ways through so many forms, its dancing displaces and replaces this “I”—and this nearly ineffable fluctuation becomes my most fervent belief.