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Re-Learning to Dance With Illness as My New Partner

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As a dancer, I’ve always expressed my emotions through dance. I would tell a story of my own emotional battles through either my improvisation or my choreography. Lately I have been really down about not being able to physically express my current struggles through dance. I sometimes hear the perfect song and envision myself telling my story through movements and flow. When the realization kicks in that I most likely will never be able to express myself with dance again, it brings me to tears every time.

I’ve always said that “life is a dance; when you stumble, just make it part of the routine.” However, in my life right now I feel like I am trapped in a constant loop of stumbling, unable to get back up and finish my routine as I so intricately planned.

One of my most meaningful tattoos is the silhouette of a dancer on my foot. For me this symbolizes the strength, passion and confidence dance taught me over the years. It means that where ever I go in life, I will walk with that confidence and strength I felt while dancing. I was never the best dancer by any means, but I always danced with 100 percent passion and emotion and for me that was all that mattered. Even though I cannot dance anymore, this tattoo is more important than ever to me now because it is a constant reminder that I will always be a dancer; I will always walk with confidence and strength and I will continue to be passionate about life.

While I may not be able to physically express myself through dance, I realized I can still express my emotions through dance – with my words.

My routine started out flawlessly, I was hitting every beat and leaping heights I never thought I could. Every line I created with my body was perfect and each movement flowed into the next. The music and my movement were one, coming together to create a masterpiece. I moved high and low, each move as beautiful as the last. From side to side and back and forth, it pieced together a complex but splendid story.

The music continued to play the same beautiful tune but without a moment’s notice I was face down on the ground. I had not tripped, I had not stumbled. I was pushed – forced to the ground by someone else. I turned to look at who had ruined my perfect rhythm only to see someone so giant, I could not make out their face. The music kept playing as I lay helplessly beneath the stranger who held me down.

I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was angry because this stranger had pushed me down. I was embarrassed because my routine was ruined. I was in pain from the damage caused by the fall. I was shocked that a routine I had so well polished could be so easily interrupted. I was scared because I did not know the stranger that held me down. I was frustrated because no one in the audience – neither my friends nor family – could come on the stage and help me. I was confused as to why this happened to my routine and no one else’s. I was fearing the unknown because I was no longer in control of my routine.

As the music played on, I realized that the stranger was not holding me down. I slowly stood back up on my feet. My balance was wobbly and my body trembled with fear as I faced the stranger. As I got up, a change of perspective revealed that the stranger was no bigger than me. Eye to eye I stared at them. The stage lights were so bright I could not make out their face, but their features became clear. The stranger was no bigger nor stronger than me.

The same song played but I began to hear it differently. I began to move with the stranger, creating a dance of our own. At first it was awkward and hard to find movement that flowed, but eventually we were moving in time. The stranger, I came to realize, was my dance partner. We began to create beautiful lines of our own, using both of our bodies to create art. We leaped, not as high as before but in our own incredible ways. Our timing was slower but we still kept to the rhythm of the song. We learnt to dance in different ways than we had ever been taught. There was no choreographed routine, no structure and no disciplined pace, yet we created something beautiful. I was no longer scared of the stranger as we connected through movement.

I tried to ask their name, but they could not hear my words above the music. I asked again and again, but I still received no answer. I got to know my dance partner quite well as we moved together through the music, despite not knowing who they were.

While my practiced and perfected routine was not performed to completion, there was a different kind of beauty in this improvised duet. It was filled with raw emotion, it was passionate and it was real.

This taught me that I was right – life is a dance. However, life isn’t a structured routine which works out exactly how we envision it. Life is an improvised dance, where the real beauty comes from how we recover from our falls and mistakes. The best dancers aren’t those who are the most disciplined and strong, they are those who dance with raw passion and emotion. Those who can turn the worst things in life into something beautiful.

So each day I keep dancing with my anonymous dance partner. They may trip me over and cause me pain, but if we work together we can still create something magical.

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Thinkstock photo via IoanaCatalinaE.

Originally published: May 8, 2017
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