Reminiscence can be treacherous. In a time where external hard drives carry volume upon volume of family photos, the Internet acts as an unburied time capsule, and self-publishing is commonly practiced, it is all too easy to remind ourselves of the past. As I’ve indulged in a bit of sentimentality as of late, I am surprised to note the reshaping my life has undergone since my memories were forged. As the ache of nostalgia settles stone-like in my stomach, I wonder which changes I am glad for and which I am compelled to reject.
As a dancer, many of my fondest memories have been formed on stage or in the studio. In the midst of my prior training, I unwittingly assumed that my staple dance experiences would remain forever constant. I’d always spend hour after hour in ballet classes, corrected relentlessly and rarely complimented. I’d rehearse endlessly for some beloved classical production and somehow have the stamina to power through. I’d feel a sense of calm, of liberation, in dancing away from The Studio with my friends at school. When I choreographed, it felt like slipping into a flow, a space for inspiration to appear on its own time. When people set choreography on me, they named themselves “choreographer.” When I choreographed for them, they’d acknowledge my contribution. My technique was evident in my appearance and movement, my jumps were high, my landings soft, and life was good.
Life is still good, but many of these assumed constants have all but disappeared. Questions arise: Would I be embarrassed to stand next to my former self at barre? Is my choreography progressing or receding? Are my performances now closer or farther from what I’d really like to do given the choice? Do I like my current, more solid form or do I wish the pounds would fall away to reveal that skinny ballerina underneath? I don’t know the answers to these questions.
While much may have been lost to time, still much is being gained. I am finding release in my movement as I’ve attempted to do for years. I am becoming more comfortable playing with falling and inversions. I am gathering data about what aesthetics I am drawn to and which I am not. I am being made to work under abstract rather than clear direction, which in turn reveals to me how my body tends to “think.” Growth will come of my new experiences that would not have under my old routine. While I refuse to live with regret, I know I’ll eventually seek to strike a better balance between my then and now. In my future, there is space for both.