Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach?
Not just the "am I nervous or could this be calmed with a digestive supplement?" butterflies.
I mean the "I really should cancel everything and spend the day in the bathroom throwing up" butterflies.
Because of nerves... (which is a real thing).
I had a mentor tell me once that we get nervous because it (whatever it is) matters to us.
On this particular day, I was invited to present some of my research in conjunction with other scholars and academics as part of a professional symposium. I wasn't the only artist, but I was the only dancer.
And so often, as I dancer I hear things like:
"I don't get dance"
"It's cool to watch, but I could never do it"
"I had a really bad experience with dance when I was growing up"
"Um... I don't really have a great relationship with my body..."
I especially hear this in places outside of Philly and NYC (which maybe have more exposure to different types of dance or movement experiences? I have a strong tendency to doubt this, but I'm still doing research on dance in rural settings).
But, I also choose to be in these (not Philly or NYC) places and spaces because I believe in the power of dance to empower individuals to engage creatively and physically.
Dance is important.
So, on this particular day, when I wanted to hide under my covers, I still went to my class. I asked my class to hold space for me as I shared my fears of being judged and of not being enough. Of putting my headspace and heartspace on display through my bodyspace. I told my students that I was afraid of not being understood, or of being ridiculed because of what I looked like or what I presented.
But, I told them, it's because of my own fears that I really, really need to do this presentation/ performance. It's because I don't have the "perfect" body that I need to allow my body to be seen. It's because I'm afraid of being vulnerable that I need to put that vulnerability on display. There's power in being true to oneself and power in being authentic. There's power in the female form - whatever that looks like. There's power in taking ownership of one's voice, whatever shape that voice takes.
And it was because I was so scared of all of these elements that I needed to share this experience -because I'm probably not the only one. But I might be the only one to speak up.
And... that's exactly what my students said.
"Wow... I'm totally scared to do this solo that you assigned to us, and exactly because of all the things you just said. But I never thought you'd be scared. I'm terrified. I don't want to do this. But I do want to say something... and hearing you say that you're scared too makes me feel not too alone"
"Dance is the only place where I feel comfortable - as myself and in my body. This class and this work is so important"
"You tell us everyday that you trust us to trust ourselves. I trust that you'll be awesome! I trust you!"
And, a message later in the day...
"Thinking of you and your performance. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks! How did you think it went?"
Do you know that story about how the flap of a butterfly's wings in one part of the world can cause a hurricane halfway around the world? Yeah... I totally believe that too...