What the Body Knows – a resolution and an embarkation


I’ve become so aware of what my body knows. Body knowledge. The body can think and feel, and it doesn’t think or feel in the same way the mind does. Renee gave me the words for this idea, and Matthew the arena, the opportunity to practice. We can tell a story with the position of our sternum and the grounding of our feet. Biologically I understand this, it’s animal in nature, a social signaling. Like facial expressions. But I realized this semester that there is unfathomable depth to that communication of which the body is capable.
What does it mean to physically tell a story, using your bones, muscles, skin? Renee would ask us to lower our arms slightly or to widen our stance, but she would also say things like, “smaller” or “easy” or “show me” which didn’t correspond to movements our minds knew how to make happen. But she wasn’t talking to our minds, she was talking to our bodies, and often (miraculously, it seemed) they would adjust to her feedback. Doing ‘One Grain of Sand’ during tech week I suddenly felt so many…things…that I don’t have words for. I was only encouraging my body further into the story, deeper than my mind could reach, and my body…it felt. It thought about the story and responded and it was like air whooshing out of me like the exhales we do. It amazes me the rigor of Renee’s awareness, of her ability to converse not only with her own body, familiar terrain, but with ours too, who had never talked to anybody before. And then to translate everything into words, so that our minds would understand!
When Renee and Matthew talk about the ‘story,’ the story we strive share with the audience in our arms and neck and legs and chest, they aren’t talking only about a narrative told with words, I think. The body isn’t dancing a literal translation of ‘House of the Rising Sun;’ rather, it’s acting on a different plane entirely. It tells a human story, a universal story, one that accompanies the lingual narrative but ultimately spreads beyond, flooding into new realms of significance and sensation, catching up the heartstrings of the audience in its surge. It is this universal story that emanates so clearly, I think, from Renee and Matthew when they dance, it is this story that they share with their audiences, that they taught us to share as well. The story of being human. And it passes only between bodies; the dancing bodies speak directly to the bodies of the audience members, waking them out of their somnolence in the soft dark of the theater. No longer any meddling minds playing middle-man, no longer are meanings lost in translation from movement-story to word-story. The communication is direct.
That is incredible.
And I think that’s also why we can’t pinpoint, a lot of the time, what a dance makes us feel when we are watching it, or why we feel anything at all. Because our mind is trying to figure out something that only our body knows, and we haven’t learned how open the lines of dialogue between our two parts.
This is all a long winded way of addressing my initial blogpost and my unease at the outset of the project. I was afraid of taking a story that did not belong to me and forcing my way into it; of stifling another’s voice; of being unable to connect with the material and therefore unable to learn. But Renee and Matthew gave me my access point: the human story found in the movement. My mind was afraid because it only knew the words; but my body connected with ‘House’ through dancing it, through the choreography. This semester I learned that my body knows more than I thought possible, and I learned the beginnings of how to converse with it. It is that conversation, unconscious or not, that makes us human. I found my way into ‘House’ through the humanity in its movement.

On making yourself, on moving, on letting be


Rehearsal demanded letting some things go – perhaps for the better. Only now do I come back to them, now with these words that try to pin something down, capture.

I have gone through such an identity shift in the past year. A crisis? At the beginning of this year, at least superficially, I was not a dancer – especially not of the high legs and ballet arcs. In fact I was moving away from that, because I also came out, cut off my hair, and entered the queer and complicated world of destabilized gender. A world where the scripts were thrown out, new ones were offered, to leave or take, where masculinity and femininity wrestled in my gaze, in my fantasy, in my body and in my closet. A world where nothing was automatic. Where everything is a negotiation, a measuring – even the act of measuring. I’m still going through it, definitely, and so perhaps I’m not going to be able to explain or retroactively summarize but what I experienced was not dysphoria nor specifically dissatisfaction with my gender as it was but rather flexibility, and inability. The realization of categories, the desire to find my place, the experience of wandering, unsure, and restless.

Which is all to say: do I wear pants or a skirt? Eyeliner or none? How do I walk, talk, hold myself? What do I feel and how do I perform it and must I perform it at all? The stakes are different when they are supposed to impact the way you conduct your social life – romantic and otherwise. I never really wore skirts, I do look good in eyeliner, I am strong, I am short, I am discovering queerness and I have cut off all my hair.

At a point where “traditional” femininity seemed both ill-fitting and like giving up, how did I approach dance? And not just any dance, but dance with a base in ballet, that feminized and feminizing form?

Who am I supposed to be? What is true to me, and is it viable? I can argue easily against much of my discomfort: you can be someone else, in performance, identity is fluid, multifaceted, ultimately not that important. Don’t worry, be happy. Be yourself. It is okay that no one has taught you how.

It is one thing to decry labels. It is another to try to shake them off my heavy arms.

But I did let it go, for this. I think it was a letting go, rather than an ignoring. By the time we got to costuming, I was calm. Whatever it is, I thought. I can wear it. I can be it. Perhaps there is an empowerment in that, rather that a surrender. Surely it is better not to be preoccupied with self. Self-image, identity. Instead, find your leg. Stretch your consciousness to the tips of your fingers, through your hips to your toes. Isn’t that another way of being? Expand to the very reaches of your body. Let their perceptions melt away. And dance.

Embodiment as Ownership, and Dancing Away Alienation


(This was originally written for a lecture class with Elizabeth Alexander, one of the speakers on our symposium panel. As I drew directly from my experiences with YDT, I thought it relevant to share here.)

One of the things I have begun to think about is the idea of black culture traveling without black bodies. Scholar Gina Dent (whom I must credit for first introducing me to this as a concept) explains this by tracing the movement of ragtime music through James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man from the Deep South, to Europe, to the Northern United States – an argument I cannot fully reconstruct here. In other writing, I have spent some time dealing with the sense of rupture, even mistrust, one feels (myself and Jonathan Holloway included) when first laying eyes on the (lone) white dancer in Revelations – dealing with both the legacies of cultural appropriation it may call up and the tendencies towards racial essentialism it may expose. But though this concept and its complications have become more familiar to me, today’s class actually allowed me to see dance as a medium that contains some pushback to this phenomenon.

Thomas DeFrantz writes about the almost footnoted influence of black movement idioms on early modern dance, a space that both he and Professor Alexander indicated was mostly about a new white female subjectivity. (And as I learn more I see this kind of dynamic cropping up constantly – there is a similar relation to be found if one looks at white women learning from their work in movements for black suffrage in the late 1800s and then applying their skills to (white) female suffrage). Dance forms, it seems, like musical forms (jazz being a prime example) are by no means insusceptible to this kind of migration(/alienation) from black to white bodies.

And yet, something Professor Alexander said in class struck me: she spoke of dance as a medium reliant on human presence. Perhaps oral histories can now be recorded or transcribed, maybe the fundamentals of music may be written down, but dance, even with the advent of video, is still transmitted in person. When you learn dance, said Professor Alexander, teachers put their hands on your bodies.

My experience in YDT has allowed me to specifically attest to this. Renee often starts rehearsals with floor barre – a balletic exercise done – meticulously – on the floor, which she calls “organizing the body.” In between instructions she will stop, tell you to release your hips, find the space in your ankle. She will come over, feel your feet, guide your leg, tell you to “come with her energy.” How she can see from across the room what seem to me to be nearly entirely psychic shifts is absolutely beyond me, but if you can figure out how to do what she is telling you, it is clear she knows exactly what she is talking about. In fact, even without the physical touch, rehearsals with these two have taught me the importance of physical presence. One day, I forgot my contacts, and danced horribly. Matthew was choreographing in real time, and though I could see where his limbs were going, without the full 20-20 3D experience of his movement – a fullness of facial expression, movement quality, emotion, affect – I could not embody it.

So from the perspective of learning there does seem to be a certain inalienability about dance, a necessity of direct connection from person to person that may guard against appropriation or, at the very least, forge a kind of community around the work. But even for the non-dancers, this seems to be true. Though DeFrantz, in Dancing Revelations, describes in detail the televised version of Alvin Ailey’s classic ballet, Revelations, I feel fairly confident in saying that dance – at the very least, this kind of dance – is most often experienced live. Unlike with jazz records or hip hop mp3s, which, while certainly distinct from live musical performance, may nonetheless permeate people’s homes and spaces in their own way, few people really watch – or do! – dance away from the bodies who dance it. Thus, as can be seen when Jonathan Holloway writes about going to see Revelations as a standard part of black middle class life, there is a different dynamic with dance, both of production and consumption. When experiencing dance, it is actually necessary to share the physical space – both for the dancers and the audience – and this, while perhaps changing, and while by no means an answer to the many questions of appropriation and essentialism involved in race, bodies, and the living world of art and culture, may be a conduit to creating tangible communities, whatever their racial lines – places where alienation is harder to breed, and possibilities may take its place.


DeFrantz, Thomas. “Revelations 1962.” In Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture, 3-25. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Holloway, Jonathan S. “The Black Body as Archive of Memory.” In Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America since 1940, 67-101. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

What Renée Said


or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 


Let’s remember the words that started this: beauty, diversity, inheritance, love.

“I don’t do pain.”

Once upon a time I was a bluebird or a fairy or a French peasant girl and I had no body but an engine and my heart was an ember that burned, burned away the body I did not have so that I could have “spark,” so that I could have “special,” so that I could blaze bright through the haze of stage light and through my cocoon of tulle and satin and false lashes and warm the people out there so that they could applaud and say “lovely.” But fire burns until it runs out of fuel, and when I’d run out I’d slouch back to the body I left in the wings aching, unprotected, ugly, a ragged hole in me where that tremendous vitality had been ripped out, had been ripped out by those people out there so that they could applaud and say “lovely” while I ached. How could I love people who took so much from me? How could I love my body and take so much from it?

“I’ll tell you what your body is telling me.”

As much as I bitch about the construct of mind/body dualism, I’ve stopped fighting it. The model may be wrong, but it’s useful*: each is so adept at ignoring the other, so accustomed to wanting what the other does not, that they are often forced into opposition. They cower in fear, or they lash out and fight. My mind thought my body was ugly; my body thought my mind was ugly. And at the time, I think they were both right—beauty cannot live where discord does, after all. Beauty is cooperation and beauty is clarity. Ugly is something that doesn’t want you to see it, that fights you when you try.

“Don’t fight it. Come with my energy.”

It was hard to get my body and me back on speaking terms, but Renée showed us the way. Though the relationship remains rocky, at least we’re talking. We start talking in the studio like old friends getting reacquainted; we step on stage smiling, saying “just like old times” even though everything’s totally different now. It’s amazing how far a little kindness, a little patience, can get you. On the best days I tell my body, “it’s alright, you don’t have to extend the legs so high, you don’t have to jump so big” and it tells me, “but I want to.” My body carries me easily and I care for it easily and together we tell the story. Other days, it’s not as easy: we can’t extend, we can’t jump, we misunderstand, we quarrel. But we forgive, too, and it’s that capacity for forgiveness, that desire for understanding, that enables us to work together. And together we tell the story.

“Stay in your body. Stay in the story. The audience will forgive an off day, technically, but they will never forgive you for not telling the story.”

Once upon a time… This story isn’t really about me, but I’m telling you because it’s kind of about me and it’s also about all of you, too, so please stay with me. We come from different places, but now we’re gathered here and it’s time to share what we brought. I’ll start. I’ll share with you something better than True, better than Real. I’ll share with you something simple and clear and beautiful.

Between lines there is stillness, coolness, space. Space within and without. There is no burning now. Instead the energy is here in the space, here in the story and we need only claim it—the first piece of our inheritance. It’s the electricity of when cocoons and other constructions fall away leaving just the space and the flow of something unencumbered through it, between my humanity and yours. It’s the electricity that only happens because we’re all really here, really here in the story, picking up the bits of ourselves we find and building something beautiful. It’s a partnership, an exchange, an unspoken desire to understand and to be understood. Perhaps it’s the thing that allows us to love.


* “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” –George E.P. Box. Sometimes people who aren’t Renée say good things, too.

we must name our dance teachers


the dreams of the native
fanon says
are always dreams of muscular prowess
he says again
are encouraged
and black girl dreams of grace and sublime reckoning beauty
are deflated not deferred  
after beige flesh colored patches 
on costumes
on black skin


i barely call myself
a dancer
renee and matthew were my first dance teachers with brown skin
they are of course
so much more
than that
renee and matthew were my first dance teachers with brown skin
because black life
where i am from
has but a few institutions
and really
no institutions parallel alvin ailey american dance theater 
and call black dreams to shed beige flesh on white stages
black hearts to set their feet on the ground knowing
bodies are 
blood memories
in montreal
what bodies
know how
marie-thérèse zémire marie-charles mcgill marie-josèphe angélique
moved à montréal
white flesh covering blood history sounds like
“je me souviens”


i barely call myself
a dancer
something of a born-again-come-to-jesus-
came with modern
into a studio where we danced facing not mirrors but
facing the lachine canal
(not far surely from where on the morning of august 5
mohawk warriors rose to set fire to french settlements)
modern dance
where I stayed
meant drums
but mostly
it meant that
when the heart reached towards heaven
the head no longer turned away


i barely call myself
a dancer
“we must name our dance teachers”
was elizabeth alexander’s injunction
i name
the eyes that returned to the studio
to repeat
as though
in a lab a field a court a club
an experiment with exhilaration
with time with timing with gravity
with metaphors
with repetition
of layered shapes
and breaths
of flesh marked with
an incontrovertible drive for rigor, rhythm, beauty, and abandon
i carry with me
linda marchand
michelle raimbert
benny dryer
nathalie huot
amanda chicoine

Black Lives Matter: Inheriting Ailey


As I rehearsed in New Haven this spring for Yale Dance Theater’s Inheriting Ailey, I keenly explored and proudly exalted my identity as a black woman. For over a decade I advanced from primer classes to a pre-professional ballet company member, for years I had studied movement passed down from mostly white bodies and performed by mostly white bodies. This year, I’ve had the thrill of studying movement as passed down from black bodies with Renee Robinson and Matthew Rushing of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Alvin Ailey, an iconic African-American choreographer who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, choreographed “House of the Rising Sun” (Blues Suite, 1958). In 1957, my grandfather graduated from Yale and stood with his fellows Elis as the only black graduate in his class. When my grandfather came to visit me during the 2013 Yale Family Weekend, he was amazed by the vibrancy of the Yale black community from the arts, to the fellowship, to academia. My father, who graduated from Yale in 1986, loves to relate his Yale years to his father’s and to mine, those of a member of the Class of 2016.

It’s been only a few years since I was one of two black ballerinas attending a summer intensive program in New York City. In my dance pursuits, I’ve often surveyed my peers and wondered, as Gia Kourlas’ 2007 NYT article surmised, “Where are all the Black Swans?” Before college, I studied ballet at the School of Ballet Chicago and attended summer intensives at the School of American Ballet in New York City and the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. In Chicago, I found comfort dancing across the stage from my younger sister. In New York and in Seattle, I found community in the mere presence of one other black student.

At Yale, I was amazed by the energy at the Afro-American Cultural Center (AACC). New Haven, Yale, and the AACC have all enriched my connection to heritage and culture. Life, as always, transcends academia or art as I and many others tragically heard the pain of black men and women whose lives have been touched by disproportionate police brutality and racial profiling. I exclaimed as my kindred shared stories of police brutality. A sad resonance of “black lives don’t matter” threatened to erode the progress made since my grandfather hustled to class at Yale almost 60 years past. With education, with inspiration, and with expression, I am proud to assert that Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter in my studies as a philosophy major. Black Lives Matter with my aspirations to practice entertainment law. Black Lives Matter with my dancing in Yale Dance Theater’s Inheriting Ailey. Black bodies dance…Black Lives Matter.

Unexpected Intersections


Dance and language relate more than you think. They relate more than I thought.

Yale Dance Theater sings the gospel of a combined dance and writing practice. And it’s a good gospel to preach. Writing about dance augments a movement practice by allowing one to express more, access more, research more than dance alone would allow. Writing about dance allows us to process movement in a novel way. But language is relevant to dance beyond our writing about it. Language is found in the studio, when we transmit movement from one person to another; it’s found in articulations of “inspiration” and reflections on our experience.

The many metaphors:

When teaching movement, you can only rely so much on demonstration. We all see through different lenses. There are gaps between what see and what we can do. To fill that gap, Matthew and Renee gave us images.

You’re running through a field of flowers. Point at a distant star. Dance it like you’re a child, telling a halting story. In Matthew’s choreography, it mattered less that we did the movement identically and more that we owned the movement individually, making it belong on our unique bodies. So Matthew would demonstrate and explain his choreography, but never too much. When those means fell short, he gave us metaphors, shared images we could all see. These gave us access to the essence of the movement…because dance is much more than physical mechanics. You can turn and point without pointing to a star. You can stop in all the right places without having the energy of a child. The images Matthew gave us thus allowed us to dance his movement; they allowed each of us to tell a story in our individual way, through our bodily memories and imaginations.

Your body is a race car; don’t lose control of the wheel. You’re building a house; if the foundation is weak, the whole house falls down. You each have the key to access your bodies—use it. Renee is the body whisperer. Through regular floor-bar warm-ups and consistent, clear corrections, Renee helped us to know our bodies and control them. During a pause in class she would look one person in the eyes: “Your body is telling me to tell you…” she’d say, and proceed to give an instruction that that particular body was ready to hear. Renee understood the power of words. In any given moment, we need some words and not others; there are some we can hear and some we can’t. Renee knew what words our bodies needed in order to process them. Sometime those words were individual, meant for one person alone—these were our specific keys. Other times, those words were spread throughout the group—these were the images we could all use to visualize, understand, and maintain the progress we were all making.

Four words:

Beauty. Love. Diversity. Inheritance.

These were the four words that inspired Matthew’s choreography. These were the four words that inspired our writing. These were the words we discussed—sitting side by side in a tight circle, sharing stories and tears—to ground our work. All of these words shaped Matthew’s dance and gave it life.

A reflection:

Sometimes you just need one word to help you understand an experience.

Considering our four words, the first three were the most generative for me. I struggled with the idea of inheritance. When we had talked about it in a discussion with Matthew, we all turned introspective. I thought about my Mexican heritage—the one I take so much pride in, yet feel so disconnected from; the heritage no one can see. Others shared their stories—stories of foreignness, stories of belonging or wanting to belong, stories of uncertainty. This was the aspect of inheritance most apparent in our final work.

But there was also a broader manifestation of the idea, present throughout our entire process. While working with Matthew and Renee, we were inheriting their bodily memories of Ailey movement. They carried so much embodied knowledge with them and we became the lucky repositories. What a privilege. I didn’t recognize this process of inheritance at the time, but as we talked about our experience post-show in a Q&A, that’s when I began to see it.

At the beginning, we were all like sponges. Out of respect for Matthew and Renee and out of respect for the movement itself, we appropriated what we were taught unquestioningly. We tried to stay true to the movement as best we could, and in that sense, started to embody a whole new lexicon. This was one mode of inheritance—the initial one.

Then, as the rehearsal process progressed and we started inserting ourselves into the project more and more, the inheritance became one of ownership. Matthew and Renee had already passed on the movement and it was now our job to make it our own, make it true to our bodies, our experiences, our narratives. This is the process that made our performance what it was.

Finally, I began to see one last level of inheritance. From the beginning, Matthew and Renee seemed to see something in us that we couldn’t see in ourselves. As we worked with them over the course of the semester, I think they taught us how to see ourselves how they saw us. We inherited their eyes. And through those eyes, we saw our own beauty, individual and collective.


On Sharing


“You have nothing to prove, but everything to share.” – Ulysses Dove


Projecting so many of my personal frustrations and emotions in front of an audience through spoken word and dance was an incredibly overwhelming experience. The YDT Inheriting Ailey project was the most meaningful performance project that I have been a part of and I gave myself fully to it.


Sharing my personal story is a choice that many times I struggle with. Sometimes I feel like I am exploiting my experience as “this is what makes me unique.” Especially at a place like Yale, it is one way to distinguish myself. Other times, I feel like it is really no one’s business. Being adopted into a multi-racial family is not really that different. Except when it is.


While being an international adoptee is a very important part of my identity, it is not something that I think about often. I am lucky to be where I am today and I almost feel a moral obligation to focus on gratitude. I’ve written about my experience many times – and the thoughts and feelings behind those writings are genuine – but they have never shaken me to the core as this project as.


Given the opportunity to express my confusion, frustration, and sense of loss in such a public way, incorporating an art form that I have come to incorporate into my identity, was immensely emotional. After the performance I spent two hours on the phone crying while my mother talked to me. They weren’t really tears of a specific emotion but a combination of sadness, frustration, confusion, anger, happiness, love and relief. I was utterly overwhelmed.


After the performance I met Renee’s mother. She complimented me and told me that I performed so well I must be an actress. While the first few times I did have to consciously think about projecting and emoting, by the time of the live performances I was no longer acting. Everything I felt, I portrayed.


Unfortunately, I do not think I reflected upon the experience as much as I should have. I never fully processed my emotions. While I am proud of the work and flattered by the positive audience response, in a paradoxical way, the experience highlighted a sense of isolation for me. Although people have expressed how moving and powerful they found the dance, although we all shared in the experience of the production, it doesn’t change the fact that others will never truly understand my story.


Even though I was very conscience in what I wanted to share, I know not everyone took away from the performance the message I wanted to communicate. The most difficult take-aways from this project was coming to terms with the fact that I have no control over people’s perceptions and the ultimate isolation in my experience.


The opportunity to have a space in which I could explore these emotions, work with such talented and humble artists, and be truly valued as a dancer and human being is one that I will be forever grateful for. I am honored to have worked with Matthew, Renee, and my very talented peers. While I may not have affected people in the way I set out to, the project certainly affected me.


“You have nothing to prove, but everything to share.”

Thank you for letting me share.

Who Are My People? Where Is My Home?


The following is a collaborative piece by me (Hannah) and Luna.  We combined selections of our previous writings.  In creating the dialogue, our choices were specific in an effort to  convey key aspects of our experiences.  We performed the piece as spoken word within the ballet. 


Who are my people, where is my home?
Some diseases are left only for poor countries
And I was born in one so
For my own safety they had to vaccinate me against everything
The United States had already gotten rid of


Are you, rather are we, from Hangzhou? Sometimes I make up stories. I envision you, a shadow veiled by the darkness of the night, gingerly placing a bundle on what you hope will be a well-traveled path. You don’t look back. I choose to believe that your decision was a wish for a brighter future. Maybe there was a death in the family, or maybe money was tight. But likely I was an accidental extra past the One Child Policy quota, or I wasn’t the son you desperately desired. I am one of China’s lost girls, found along a fisherman’s path as if delivered by stork: no family history, no time of birth, no name.


they slipped cold metal into my skin before I had even boarded the plane
Needles, science
had to protect me from this heat, from these tropical monsoons
protect me from these brown skinned people from
Papaya fertility, mango-sweet acidity
These people with their coconut tree resiliency
these poor people


Some have debated my American-ness with a slight tug at the corner of their eyes, while still, others have tried to undermine my Chinese roots. Why do they think they know more about me than I do?


At night, when I flip through my thousand-page history textbook and find the Philippines mentioned twice, I crave mangos. Sometimes, the hallways of my school and bright eyes of my peers recall other eyes, other places, old eyes in thin faces, children threading through honks and exhaust selling sweet smelling sampaguitas, the highways of Metro Manila.


In search of answers, I returned to China. There I realized the could-have-beens and would-have- beens that I taste in duck tongues and hear in bicycle chains are simply snapshots fluttering in the breeze. I can chase these photos, maybe even catch a few, but they will never be a motion picture. Standing at the gate of my orphanage 18 years later, there was no grand welcome home. When I finally approached the guard, his eyes scanning across my face, I could hear the whirring in his brain as he seemed to read what everyone seems to read: “Foreigner.”


Who are my people?  Where is my home?


Speaking + Vulnerability = Fear


It’s taken me a long time to find the words that could describe my thoughts on this project, and I still don’t think I’ve found them, not all of them anyway, but I’ll try. It is common knowledge, at least after our wrap up session, that I am a nervous talker. I begin speaking in public and I just won’t stop because I think I can fix the tragedy that is occurring, but I never can. I have little to no confidence in my speaking ability and find that my articulation is usually subpar, thus I dance. Movement has allowed me to express my thoughts without having to utter or write a word. Then Matthew Rushing walked into my life. I was asked to write, something personal about beauty, identity, inheritance. Could I submit a movement video instead? After weeks and weeks of avoidance I wrote a little piece and sent it in. It felt good, I accomplished something outside of my comfort zone. But then I was asked to speak in the performance. I was given the most articulate, powerful, beautiful poem and I was supposed to share those words with the audience. Movement was no longer my only tool of communication and I was terrified. 

My voice was quiet, robotic, and unable to communicate the spirit of the poem while we were rehearsing on the stage. I feared that I would be unable to share Karlanna’s messgae hours before the first performance. Renee took me in her arms and repeated in my ear “I know this is vulnerable.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that the vulnerability was holding me back. I needed to just tell the story to one person as Renee said and not try and perform it, I needed to open myself up. Karlanna’s words did not need any flourishing or additives because of their power, but in order for them to be presented in a just manner I needed to let them pour into me until they began to overflow into space. I felt like a little bit of a cheater because I wasn’t having to read my own thoughts and message, it wasn’t as if I were Hannah, Luna, Natalie, or Holly reading my words, my personal story. Their graceful vulnerability was such a joy to observe because of the ease they seemed to possess. But I was afraid of disappointing Karlanna, afraid that I would misrepresent her message and butcher her original intent. So I attempted to remove myself from the poem, to a degree, to try and keep Karlanna’s message the focus. Thus I had to try again and again to remove that wall and let myself fully embrace the message and become vulnerable with Renee’s and the dancers’ support. However the real support came from knowing Matthew trusted me with this poem, and if he believed in me that I could do this well, then I believed I could as well. So thank you to Matthew for giving me the confidence to overcome my fear of speaking on stage and thank you to Renee for helping me begin to overcome my fear of vulnerability.