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Dancing to be me

Growing up some people knew me as a dancer before they even knew my name.

My childhood memories are filled with hours worth of making up dance routines in my garden and recreating music videos. Despite academic dance training not being accessible to me I would dance anywhere music was played and sometimes even when there wasn’t any.

As I went through my secondary school years, my love for dance was quickly picked up by my PE teacher who always went out of her way to have me signed up to any and every dance workshop, performance or opportunity going and through each event my love for dance only grew stronger. The feeling of transforming into the character and embracing the essence of a piece made me feel alive. Through dance I was able to feel my true self, I was able to know what whole hearted happiness and freedom felt like in a time that I was really struggling to understand my place in the world. When I was on stage my overthinking stopped and the worries of the world didn’t matter.

As I came to my final term of secondary my health began to take a turn as I found out that I would need to have a thyroidectomy. I knew this would be I would take medication for the rest of my life but I was never fully prepared for how much having surgery would effect my energy levels and mental health in the years that followed and so I did my best to continue to pursue my career as a dance teacher.

Getting a place on a dance degree seemed like a dream come true, entering the studios every morning made me feel like all the professionals I had watched on tv growing up. I found a whole new passion for dance as my knowledge of contemporary dance began and I was opened up to a whole new way of moving from my commercial background.

Being a dancer with a chronic illness brought so many highs and such deep lows when I got motifs right I was on top of the world until my energy crashed and I could barely get out of bed some days. I was living the life I’d always wanted to dance all day but suddenly dance was becoming a strain rather than a joy. After the first year my ability to keep up began to plummet. My stamina lessened by the day and I began to get confused over the smallest motifs. Suddenly the one thing I was so certain I was destined to do was completely out of reach. I found myself sitting out more and more and soon the art that had given me such freedom suddenly made me feel frustrated and resentful.

My inability to be able to perform everyday began to take a toll on me mentally, the one thing that had once gotten me out of the prison in my head had suddenly made me more isolated than ever as my health continued to fluctuate. In the end I had to take a year out and transfer to a different degree on my return. I was heartbroken at the idea that I had failed as a performer. The idea that I had given up and would now always be the former dancer.

But as I have continued to find my new normal, I found that dance would always be a part of me. When I hit my lows mentally I would find a reason to dance. When I want to find my youth in a body again away I dance and so I have realised my ability to be a dancer has nothing to do with a degree but for the love that I will always have to move and be free.

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