This past weekend I went to see Spring Song at the Fleck Theatre at Harbourfront – a sweet performance by the young dancers at Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre. I was there with my daughter, a mom from school and her daughter. It’s always a trip for me to walk into the theatre because I have danced on that stage many times and sat in the audience of countless performances. The company we were watching was a company I was a part of in my youth – my daughter now trains at the school. I bumped into old dance friends, choreographers I have known for years and my high school dance teacher (now friend) who has always held a special place in my heart. These people were like family to me at one point.
I started dancing when I was 3 and by the time I was a teenager I was dancing every day of the week. I attended fine arts programs for both high school and university. Summers were dedicated to intensive programs and as a girl who lived in the suburbs I hopped on the subway every day after school to come into the city and spend my evenings with my dance family at one of the best schools that existed for a young contemporary dancer. I performed across the country with various companies and was defined by my peers as a dancer. It’s who I was and what people knew about me. I had a deep love for communication through movement.
Throughout my twenties I started to explore the world and other studies/career opportunities and by my late twenties I had strayed from the dance world. I wanted to focus on other things for a change. I wasn’t interested in teaching dance (I still can’t figure out why). There has always been a part of me that has ached for my dance life. I suffered great sadness during the transition that I chose and for many years I buried my pain around it. For a good decade I stayed away from most dance performances, stopped talking to most of my dance friends and focused on my new direction.
Someone recently asked me why I never talk about my passion for dance on my social channels. She also posed the question, “How did your time in the dance world contribute to who you are today”? This got me thinking.
I probably don’t talk about it for two reasons and there has been great sadness attached to it. The first being there’s still a wound around no longer being part of the dance community. The second is because so much time has passed and my life has taken other significant turns that sometimes I forget that this foundation does indeed live within me and make me who I am today.
As my life in the dance studio was winding down in my early twenties, I stumbled upon an incredible yoga class in Santa Monica, California. This was a defining moment for me. I remember the experience like it was yesterday. My best friend was by my side in a studio by the ocean where students lined up for an hour before they opened the doors. People crammed in to find a space on the floor for their mat. Bryan Kest’s classes were magic. They were incredibly physical, drenched you in sweat, had you laughing, crying and finding space for mediation and opportunity to let go of shit. I still remember the moment after my first savasana when my friend grabbed my hand, looked me square in the eyes and said, “What the fuck did we just do – that was AMAZING”?! We were buzzing and went back the next day. It was summer of 1998. There was not a yoga studio on every corner in Toronto. Lucky for me I ended up moving to Los Angeles and was a regular in Bryan’s class for the next few years. The feeling that I get in the yoga studio can be reminiscent of how I felt in the dance studio. The movement, the expression, the time to get lost in my thoughts and learn to let them pass – it’s the best therapy I could ever ask for. It has got me through every hurdle I have ever experienced and kept my body in great shape. This slowly became my replacement for dance. Yoga was a form of expression for me and a language. As much as yoga is intended for the mind, it is also a beautiful form of movement and physicality. The mind work came much further down the line and frankly deserves its own separate post.
My time in the dance world taught me about passion, dedication, love, community and most importantly resilience. I have learned that resilience is the foundation behind being able to shed the daily stress, disruption, frustration and the superficial in our lives by connecting with our inner selves and focusing on wellness. I carry these qualities with me and they are practiced in work, relationships and as a mother. It’s incredible for me to reflect on how this time as a dancer made me who I am today, taught me coping skills and created a foundation to never stop moving.