For a long time (many years) and to this day, whenever I listen to music, I don’t just hear the song. I always see something connected to it in my mind like a scene from a movie. I always see myself performing the song through singing and dance. Sometimes, it’s just dance, but usually it’s a hybrid. This must have to do with the fact that I started dancing at a young age and I connect almost every song I listen to with choreography. That was how I found music.
I didn’t have an Ipod or a cell phone I could listen to music on. The only thing I had was my Aaron Carter CD, the Bieber of my MUCH younger days. At first, it was the DVDs from old recitals at a place called Dance Xplosion. My favorite recital CD was actually titled Songs of Yesterday. I was dancing in the lates 1990’s and early 2000’s, so that’s why I can sing songs like ‘Simply Irresistible,’ Shai’s ‘If I Ever Fall in Love,’ or Outkasts “Hey Ya!” Those were the songs I locked in memory. My favorite part of the DVD was a medley of songs by an artist that I didn’t realize was an icon. My favorite part of the medley was the “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Yeah. Dance was how I found out about Michael Jackson’s music without even knowing his name. Other than that, I could only get creative by listening to the assorted lists of ringtones on my first phone, a sliding phone, in middle school.
Fast forward to college and I’m writing, actually writing a book with hopes of publishing. However, something was missing and it was movement. In Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry,” he writes about how teaching students to write poetry is difficult because they want to wrestle a meaning out of the thing, instead of enjoying the elusive in between nature of it. We’re to “walk inside the poem’s room/ and feel the walls for a light switch.” He wants us to “waterski/ across the surface of a poem/ waving at the author’s name on the shore.” It seems that he was on the cusp of saying that writers need to feel the in betweens of writings, the things that could not be captured by words, the things that had no perfect meaning for the analysis, or maybe did not even need to be so harshly analyzed. It seems that part of the problem was that the students he was referring to were slaves to the rhythm of a dichotomous relationship between the body and mind. It’s like what Christine Giancatarino says about imagining “a head for ‘thinking’ and arms for ‘writing’.” Yet, writing is a physical act and much of my early learning was physical as I told you that I started dancing in a studio at a young age. Much like Giancatarino said, I felt locked up behind my desk and chair in my classes after I stopped dancing, even if I wasn’t always consciously thinking about my imprisonment. Yet, Giancatarino argues that if we take our writing and embody it, then we can open new doors for ourselves.
So, I realized that movement was missing and I tried to compensate with Blogilates by Cassey Ho (which is great by the way) and trying to teach myself choreography. Yet, I am still writing. Then, I tried to allow myself to discover how I thought of my story. Much like how my listening to music manifested into a performance in my head, my stories have their own playlists with their own songs. I see the characters moving in space and I hear their voices. I realized that it was not just meant to be written, but performed. Then, I let myself doubt about the years I missed on dancing in a studio and what would happen if my book also became a performance, but I reflect on a Martha Graham quote. “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist…and it will be lost…It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
Now we’re at the present and I’m 22 still writing my book and still planning on making it into a performance. Whenever the fear comes for me, I think about WildaBeast a dancer and choreographer who started learning at 18. I also think about Langston Hughes’ “Dream Variations” where I dance with freedom and no chains to hold me down in my fear of expectations.