Monday, 15 July 2013

I was born to be a dancer

I'm currently writing a zine about dancing which I hope to finish by next month, but in the meantime I just want to take a minute to give my classmates and Irreverent Dance a shout out for making me love dance classes again.

My amazing grade 1 classmates. ©Jon Topper

I started dancing aged 3. I did ballet, tap, and modern dance from age 3 to age 12, stopping when  I decided that I was too chubby to dance anymore and also because my dancing hobby was now expected to get serious and my family couldn't afford the crazy amount of lessons I was expected to do. I had got to grade 4 in ballet and my ballet teacher encouraged us all to go to grade 5 which would mean way more lessons and a serious attitude. Later I did dance at school, performing Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation and Backstreet Boys Backstreet's Back in school assemblies and choosing dance as my specialism for performing arts GCSE.. I then did dance at A Level, performing an abstract piece about consumerism to Massive Attack (it was a low point) and also learning street dance and jazz. And so ended my dance education. I now just dance in my bedroom or on dancefloors and I bloody love it.

Initially I was put off going back to dance classes. I didn't want it to take over my life again and become a boring chore that I resented. I also couldn't afford for that to happen on account of being BROKE. I also felt apprehensive knowing that as fat queer with hairy legs and arm pits, I might feel out of place and weird in a conventional dance class and didn't want to feel like my body was being restricted. I began dance classes again with Irreverent Dance last year who promised a LGBTQ-friendly body positive space. I'm currently doing my 3rd hip hop dance course, I've completed a beginner's tap course, and last week I finished my grade 1 ballet course. 

Smashing it ©Jon Topper

 Ballet was way out of my comfort zone. I associated lots of bad things with it as I remembered ballet classes as a kid but I decided I wanted to push myself and learn to love ballet again. 

Some aspect of muscle memory kicked in to an extent as I had done grade 1 before, and when I finished ballet aged 12 I was at grade 4.  During my reintroduction to grade 1, I soon remembered where my feet and arms were supposed to go. The only problem was that it had been 17 years since I'd last done any ballet and so my body is now made up of bad habits and bad posture.  I no longer have that flexibility and ability that was drummed into me from an early age and even though my feet kinda knew where to go it felt like I had to work extra hard to be able to put them in the right place. 

We rule! ©Jon Tooper

I love Irreverent Dance because bodies are not restricted in terms of movement. While being chest, belly, and arse heavy means that sometimes I have to work extra hard to achieve balance, it doesn't necessarily restrict me, and it makes me feel strong when I get things right. In terms of gender, you aren't limited to the types of movements you can perform. For example, Allegro - a typically male gendered form of movement, and Adagio  - a typically female gendered form of movement, are taught to the class both equally, and we are told we can choose which movements we prefer to perform ourselves. Little things like being told we can either curtsey (female) or bow (male) at the end of class makes a difference as I never really liked the way a curtsey felt at the end of dance class and I was envious of the boys in my ballet class as a kid that were able to bow and look so awesome. 

Ballet makes me hella strong. ©Jon Topper

Grade 1 ballet was super challenging but super awesome and it made me remember why I loved ballet so much as a kid because it's fun and it makes me feel hella strong. I can't wait to do grade 2 and get better, seeing the improvers class at the open class last week was so inspiring to see people that had been in my shoes the year before, performing pointe exercises and looking fantastic. 

You can find out about Irreverent dance here:

And my dancing zine will be out at the end of August!

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