Earlier this week I had a difficult day. I was feeling defeated, powerless, guilty, homesick, and exhausted. It was a day where I sensed being alone in the world, making me prone to self-pity and frustration. But I had planned on going to a dance class I’d seen online (a Contemporary class at DanceHouse Glasgow) so in the evening I made myself get up and go. Simply walking into the studio and stretching, moving my body through those rituals, felt like coming home. But even better, the session was focused on the release method and the teacher was leading us through the exact same exercises taught by my wonderful Bates College dance professors, Carol Dilley and Rachel Boggia. This was a session with an emphasis on trust: fall and I will catch you. Stumble and we, as a community, will run to your side and support you. It wasn’t the athletic dance experience that my body had been craving, but it was exactly the spiritual, mental experience that my psyche needed that day. To feel gentle hands on my sacrum, palms giving pressure guiding my spine into a curve, giving receptive feedback and supporting my lower back, my neck, my head: it was supportive without being invasive, suggesting without forcing. And to return that firm, reassuring touch to others in the room, to be an agent of support myself, was empowering: as I receive support I am reminded of my ability to give it back.
We did an exercise where one person, eyes closed, stands in the center of a circle of people and shifts her weight back and forth, becoming unstable on her axis until she falls—and the group catches her, setting her gently back on her feet until she is upright again. For me, being in the center of the circle was difficult, more difficult than it would have been a couple of months ago. I leaned but did not allow myself to get to the point of falling, even though I knew that the others were there. I realized I have not been allowing myself to fall much lately. I have held myself upright, learning wide-eyed on my feet, each experience a new one, relying on gravity for support but not much else. And this is hard. It is a pattern that becomes ingrained quickly: we learn to hold ourselves up, to bottle fears and doubts. We deal ourselves small indulgences rather than reaching out, meeting up with a friend, going outside. I think this is human nature, and we see it in body language. When when we fear, when we doubt, we are hunched, curled. It is difficult to reach out, physically, from that position. I think I have been assuming that position too much lately. In this class, others helped to physically uncurl me until I could feel the full reach of my spine, allow it to stretch, and to understand that if I allow it to relax – if I allow myself to fall – I will be caught. Sometimes it is as simple as that.