Inside the studio, time passes with ease, and we take no notice of it. It’s unnecessary, for the thin piece of wood lining one wall provides us with all the structure and discipline that we care for. The forgiving floorboards accept our flaws and imperfections, allowing for progression as often as our bodies and minds truly commit. Mirrored walls provide reflections, carefully correcting both minor and key inaccuracies, while simultaneously bearing congratulations for that which we do well. Color in the space is superfluous, because by means of our movement, a rainbow is created, superior to any shade artificially fabricated. On rare occasions, the moment of beauty is achieved, each body unified, in motion as one. In these instances, we seek refuge from harsh realities. Each day in the studio is one of bliss.
Alternately, time is the most crucial factor as pertains to the success of a dress rehearsal. Those hectic hours are indiscernible to everyone but trained dancers. Screamed requests for impossible technique penetrate the air, causing everyone’s muscles to tighten. A toe that is not pointed, a limp arm, a leg that is not fully extended, a hip that is not properly turned out; these are cardinal sins at a dress rehearsal, and are to be reprimanded as such. Only the occasional breath of relief from the choreographer reassures the performers. Small catastrophes emerge: a torn costume, a blood-sodden toe and shoe, a twisted ankle. We deal effortlessly with these minor tribulations, as they are common, trivial, and we have no extra energy to expend upon them. As the call to end rehearsal resonates off the walls of the theatre, the backstage is engulfed in a state of entropy. Leotards fly through the air, costume bags are stuffed mercilessly, and dance shoes are broken in. It is not until we pause long enough to gather our breath that the anxiety for tonight’s performance finally percolates through our minds.
The show begins. After what feels like an agonizing wait that stretches for hours (but in actuality is probably more accurately recognized as a few minutes) the emcee wraps up her speech, and we hear the audience begin to clap their hands, forming a sound that is simultaneously familiar and enthralling to us. The curtain opens in direct timing with the first few notes of the song, and our moment has arrived. Together, our bodies and the music evoke a pure beauty, one that neither would be capable of expressing alone. We are aware of nothing, not the spectators, the pressure, or our critics. Visually, the audience is imperceptible; they are merely a blur, as is the rest of the low-lit theatre. We are solely conscious of how we interact with the tune and stage in space and time. Exhaustion is ignored, because it is impossible to recognize or diagnose while performing. Energy is shared and reserved collectively, for in this instant, we cease to be individual bodies. Despite differing origins of emotion that drive our movement, our performance unifies us, allowing us to move, breathe, and express as one. Every motion is brimming with vitality and it forces the piece to a higher level of intensity than we had thought possible. The music is our canvas, and we illustrate a beautiful creation. Just as we begin to notice the immense weakness that is surfacing in us, the music winds down, and our vision slowly clarifies until the audience is visible again. Approval from the audience in the form of applause does not come gradually, but rather, much like a summer rainstorm, occurs suddenly. The familiarity of the noise is gratifying, and we react to it as such. Though the clapping is unessential to the validation of our performance, it is nonetheless appreciated and rewarding. It seems to last for an eternity, and can be heard even as we exit the stage and retreat to the dressing rooms.
Each phase of the dance process, from the sweat in the studio, to the stress-ridden dress rehearsal, to the satisfying performance, are uniquely sacred and significant to me. I thrive on all of them and cherish each aspect to no end, for movement provides me with a sanctuary. It grants me moments in which I may escape the pain of being human. In such instants, I am relieved of personal turmoil, as well as of the often-harsh realities of life on this planet. Dance’s pristine beauty transcends any dilemmas I face, and reduces them to trivial concerns, while coincidentally granting me permission to rejoice in my triumphs.
Dance additionally allows me an outlet for expression. It liberates me entirely, by endowing me with the means to create. Choreography is infinitely expansive; there is no threshold at which nothing more can be produced. Expression through movement frees me from the confines of shyness. It is the only action I can execute while existing entirely without inhibition and suppression. Having not been born a master of the canvas or a gifted musician, I have chosen my body as my proverbial instrument, and use it to coherently communicate and illustrate emotion. As a result of this, dance has been a savior to me in times of suffering and of happiness. It is the most effective method through which I can purely and accurately convey my sentiments. I am able to articulate, without words, any emotion that suits me, whether it is joy, remorse, despair, or inspiration.
Undoubtedly, dance is as imperative to my existence as food, water, or even breath. It gives me a purpose, and allows my day-to-day living to feel substantially worthwhile. I dance because it lets me both conceive and actualize the world I want to live in; a world where great value is placed upon self-expression, interaction, and communication. The reason I must dance so consistently? As one acclaimed dancer put it, “The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself.”