Day 62: Recorded Bodies

by ashleighpenrod

After a three-hour rehearsal yesterday evening, some of my dance friends and I had a little self-image discussion. It stemmed out of the fact that none of us wanted to watch the rehearsal video of ourselves, just in case we didn’t look as good as we felt. We didn’t want to see what we don’t like about our bodies laid bare in a recording.

One of the things I love about dance (modern dance, in particular) is the wide variety of incredible bodies on any given stage. Wiry men and muscular women, short legs, long arms, wide hips, narrow torsos… It’s striking to think that the people who can fling their limbs around with control and pick each other up without batting an eye experience such discomfort and self-consciousness.

But I understand it. For years, I wished my shoulder blades were set farther back so my shoulders didn’t curve slightly forward. Or, that I was just a little shorter so my center of gravity could be closer to the ground. But if I had a different body, I would have someone else’s quirks, someone else’s unique differences and someone else’s wishes. I might as well just have mine.

Dancers train their bodies to be beautiful and strange, ugly and emotional. It takes sweat to power through the uncomfortable movements until they feel natural and good. It takes commitment to show up every day and learn something new. It takes drive to put on those short-shorts, stand in front of a mirror and see the potential for interesting movement, not pale legs and drooping arms.

But sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes nobody wants to watch the video.

Since we all struggle from time to time, I think we all get a pass. We all get to watch the proverbial video and see the structure and intention of the choreography, not our funny bodies. And if we don’t see the choreography, we’ll work harder and try again. We’ll try harder and harder because we love what we do, not because we don’t like ourselves.