Can I just say that it is so fucking nice and refreshing to finally be able to associate dance with freedom. To associate movement with self care and love, rather than punishment. To be able to accept new opportunities and experiences, while taking breaks every now and then, and be emotionally okay with that, is truly a blessing. The love and passion I have for this beautiful art form is not a new found experience. I recognize this feeling. The feeling of moving, simply for the magic of moving. The feeling of community and safety, and never wanting to part from the studio. The feeling of pure happiness and gratification. I remember this feeling from before I was severely ill. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I thought I had lost this feeling. I was completely hopeless, and genuinely thought that I would never be able to get it back. Little did I know, the feeling never left. I just couldn't feel it because it was buried so deep within me, along with all my other emotions. The eating disorder was so loud and pressing, that everything else became secondary to it. My illness took up so much space, that there was no space left for the things I actually needed (dance). There came a point, where I would take a dance class and feel absolutely nothing throughout it. It was as if I was a robot, being completely controlled by my eating disorder and its' wishes.
When I was pre-maturely discharged from Toronto General Hospital, I was so lost. I knew that if I kept dancing unwillingly, I would eventually lose my relationship with dance. And if that had happened, I would lose myself. So, I took a break. I listened to my dietitian, and worked extremely hard with her. Every session, I would ask, "Can I PLEASE dance now?!". Like a child, begging for approval, hoping and hoping she would give me the okay. Eventually, we came up with an exercise contract. In order for me to dance, I would have had to have all meals and snacks (with no compensatory behaviours) 48 hours prior. Plus, I was only allowed to take a maximum of three classes a week. When my dietitian gave me the okay, I literally beamed with joy. You never really do realize how much you take something for granted, until it's taken away from you.
The break was exactly what I needed. It gave my body time to heal, and it gave me the chance to re-evaluate why I was dancing. Was it purely for exercise? Or did I crave dance because I missed dancing?
When I went back to dance, I took it slow. My first class was a beginner contemporary class, and I swear, I genuinely enjoyed every second of it. Not once did I think about the eating disorder. I was fully immersed in the class and choreography, so much so, that I did not body check once. I felt stronger, and my concentration had improved drastically. My endurance was better, and I no longer felt unsteady. I could move without worrying about imperfections, judgments, and most importantly, without worrying that I would collapse. After that class, I decided to stick with contemporary, because it brought back that magical feeling I had described above. Don't get me wrong, my relationship with dance is not linear. There are days where I can't see past the exercise portion of dance. On those days, I decide to sit down and reflect. I dig and dig and dig for that feeling I once felt, and it is not easy. Most times, I have to dig past my eating disorder... Past a loud, obnoxious, toxic voice in order to find the passion and love I have for dance. Although it's exhausting, there is one thing I know for sure. That feeling is not gone, it's simply inside me, and my job is to find it.
Choreography: Ming Bo Lam
Dancers: Izumi Ishikawa, Jennifer Li