Society determines that so much of our self-worth is attached to how we present ourselves, especially for anyone socialized as a girl. Yes, we should be smart, strong, and independent, but how do we look while being all of those things? Are we wearing the right shoes? Enough make up? Too much? What will people think if we don’t sit up straight, or if we laugh too loud?
As a dancer (and as a human), I constantly struggle with a complicated state of heightened concern regarding how I look to others at any given moment. I often go to dance classes and critique every move I make in the mirror. Are my tights on straight? Did I wear the wrong sweater? Is there too much tension in my hands? Surely that leg could have been higher if I rotated my hips out a little more.
My greatest choreographic breakthroughs, however, have been in the moments when I turn on some music, let go, and just exist in my body. I allow the movement to flow through me the way it wants to, knowing that there are no mistakes in this kind of improvisation, purely exploration. This kind of practice is the threshold of innovation, when I discover movement patterns that I might not think to create otherwise. It’s an opportunity to get out of my head and simply love my body for all the magic it is capable of.
Although much of my choreographic work is done alone in the studio, sometimes I have to get outside and give myself permission to not care about what I look like to other people. It’s a liberating gift to myself.
One of my most wonderful memories from this past year was taking a morning jog down to the beachfront of Lake Michigan, removing my shoes, and dancing in the sand. For a few minutes, I let go of every “adult” concern I may have had about getting wet and covered in sand, and about what passing strangers on the beach might think of me. It was in this moment that I felt that incessant monologue of self-criticism melt away.