Into the dance studio we go!
My eyes are finding it hard to adjust to the dark shadows of the wide dance studio space interspersed with occasional dazzling pools of sunlight. I am, however, prepped and perky and I am wearing ‘gear’ for the unknown, i.e. doubled sports bra/ tank top combo (experience has shown it to be almost as effective and certainly less painful to remove than duct-tape), track suit bottoms and huge cotton knickers. (All ladeez understand why we don’t do anything thong or nylon when unsure about potential sweat levels.)
I am already nervous-sweaty. I can feel my underarms slickening. Please don’t make that farting noise when we do pirouettes, I beg them. This is my first dance workshop since those Jesus Christ Superstar try outs in Zambia over 20 years ago. My armpits were younger then…
We (my visually impaired colleague Sarah and I), are met by Katy Dymoke, the work shop leader and Holly Thomas, one of the VI dancers. They look disarmingly ‘dancerly’, normal, scarily lithe and very kind BUT my spider senses are telling me that, sprawling across the wooden dance floor and just inches from our feet, are several bodies, flat-out, cheek to floorboard, arms outstretched. Some of them are letting out occasional low groans, although whether in ecstasy or pain it’s rather hard to tell. It is slightly disconcerting. Sarah, I notice, is trying to make enough eye contact to ask me if we are at the right workshop? I nod reassuringly just as one of the floor people flops heavily over with a slightly too orgiastic breath release for this time on a Saturday morning. No one else seems to bat an eyelid.
The weekend is wonderful although…
Interestingly, no one ever thinks to explain to us why the other dancers use the hefty groaning, sighing thing. All day, as we learn to move differently, intuitively, instinctively – and for me with the joy of being able to shut my poor eyes completely and allow my own body to make and keep contact, trusting the other bodies and just move, – no one thinks to explain the haarrrammmpppphhhss and ooohhhhhhsssssss. After a while I just join in. It feels as if my body rather expects it. (Not you, I remind my armpits…)
I loved the workshop weekend. I loved not only working with professional visually impaired dancers, but the sheer physicality of the days, allowing my body to roll and bend and slide and glide and play, almost like a child but with rather more clunking. And most importantly, I spent much of the time with my eyes shut, trusting myself, my body and whoever was working around and with me. These days, when my limited sight means I am grappling to see every moment and focussed all the time it is wonderful to have some real space to move ‘blind’ but without fear or judgement or anxiety (armpits allowing), was incredibly refreshing and very, literally, moving. It hurt later but damn it was worth it!