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.