Crooked Souls Tryin' to Stay Up Straight

September 27, 2010
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“You look like a dancer.” Were the first words Kristen Noonan said to me as I meekly approached the elevator.

Fresh off an airplane, I found myself lost and trying to prepare for placement class at the Glenda Brown Choreography Project. But Kristen’s words caught my attention. I’ve always fought so hard with myself in hopes I would turn out looking like a dancer. Could she really have just said that at first glance?

“Yeah.” I replied to her, in an timid voice. I could tell she was one of the choreographers, but out of fear, didn’t say so. Having always been to ballet summer programs, my insides were churning at the thought of being at a more open dance program. It felt unorganized and strange, and I was lost. I longed to see a ballet barre and start class. Ballet class is always the same pattern. Home.

The next morning when the cast list was posted, I saw I was in Kristen Noonan’s piece. I could feel the excitement and fear rise from my toes to my throat, taking my body hostage for several seconds. I knew that she had probably chosen me from the placement class last night, but I was afraid of her. I felt I had to prove to her that I was a real dancer. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted her to be happy she chose me.

My mind is wired to please others. Whenever a choreographer walks into the room, I want to mold myself into what I perceive they want. If I don’t feel I’m absolutely perfect for them, I tell myself I’ve failed. It’s the same routine in class too. I always watch the teacher or choreographer while I’m dancing, and scrutinize their every expression towards me. It kills me, although I don’t fully realize it at the time.

It didn’t take long for the teachers and choreographers at the project to notice my mindset. At the end of one ballet class one morning, the teacher hugged me and told me to “have confidence, because that was beautiful.” I looked down and uttered an okay. Then as I walked back to my bag, tears welled up in my eyes. I made sure nobody noticed as the tears rolled down my cheeks.

As the week continued, I became closer and closer with the choreographers at the project. I anxiously awaited their return to the dorms every night so I could hang out with them. I had never been in an environment where so many people believed in me and my dancing abilities. They always told me I did well in the nightly performances, and made me feel more than wonderful. Their comments were so reassuring and solacing that I was actually starting to feel good about myself. That never happens. My heart was warm, my thoughts weren’t completely negative, I was surrounded by people who believed in me. I was in heaven. Pure bliss.

But this happiness was only a mask over all of the troubled memories haunting the darkness. When everybody went to bed, I was left lying awake. Memories playing like a movie across the ceiling. Visible only to me. No matter how many times I reminded myself of the choreographers’ love and appreciation of me, the memories played on. Haunting me until daylight.

Sunday was our dance free day. That evening I tagged along with a few of the choreographers to a coffee shop for lack of anything better to do. I sat with them, simply enjoying their company as they checked their facebooks and answered emails. I was seated next to Kristen, and we began to talk a bit in between emails. It was the first time I had really talked to her, and I was intimidated. But as we talked, I felt myself relaxing quickly. I found myself wanting to tell her things. My secrets. Somehow, I felt she would understand.

It was almost like she was reading my mind as I debated over the calories in a drink I wanted to get, which led to a discussion of calorie intake. This, in turn, led to me revealing I had been to therapy. But I didn’t want to continue the conversation anymore while other people could hear. I sat there for another hour, mostly saying nothing as my mind raced and insides churned. I was going through different scenarios in my head. Deciding when, how, and what I would tell Kristen. I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted her to understand, and somehow knew she would. I modified and replayed, over and over, what I would say to her and how.

My opportunity arose when Kristen offered to walk back to the dorms with me. I tried to act casual as we walked across the street, despite my racing mind. But when we reached the elevators, I took a leap of faith and brought back up the topic of therapy. I think she knew I wanted to talk about it, because she started asking me questions. Questions I wanted to answer. Finally she asked me why I went to therapy, and I knew it was time to tell her. Tell her everything. I was going to explode.

I waited until we were safely in her room with the door closed. We sat down, and I spilled my guts. I felt relief. More than relief. It was a combination of consolation and pure excitement, because she completely understood what I was telling her. She had been in my shoes before. I wanted to jump up and hug her for understanding, I was so happy. We talked for hours, and I shared everything that came to my mind at the time. Therapy. Lack of confidence in dancing. My haunting memories. All of my horrors.

Although it was a sweet relief to tell my story to someone who understood so well, it had the negative effect of bringing back up all those emotions, memories, and feelings that I had been trying to repress. My memories were so poisonous to me, that vividly describing them to Kristen seemed to put the poison directly back into my veins.

The next week of choreography was the most emotional time of my life. Any little thing set me off, and I’m not one to cry. You could probably say that I was a mess. But somehow, it was one of the absolute best weeks of my life. It’s impossible to describe, but I was truly happy, and still in heaven surrounded by these wonderful people, doing what I love. My body and mind were happy, but my soul was trapped in a thunderstorm.

The combination of dancing, talking to Kristen, and allowing myself to cry felt to be much more healing than therapy had ever been. By Friday, the last day, I was still a wreck, but I was a healing, happy wreck. I had a plan of action for how to deal with things, and I had Kristen and the other choreographers on my side. Knowing that technology makes long distance communication so easy was consoling to the fact I would be leaving them all in the morning.

The whole experience was the most eye opening, healing, happy experience of my life. Now, when I lie awake at night, the movie of memories is of my time at the Glenda Brown Choreography Project. I learned so much about myself, and made life-long friends. Whenever I start to have a bad day, I know Kristen and the others are only a text away. I feel safe. Even as I’m writing this, I can’t believe it all happened. And I wouldn’t change a single second of it. My heart skips a beat as my soul lands on cloud nine every time I think back on those two, amazing weeks.

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Camelot said...
Oct. 6, 2010 at 9:25 am
Wow. It hit's me every time. This is AMAZING!
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