Why Do I Write? Because I'm A Dancer...
Ina takes us on a trip down the strangely curvy path that led her to writing.
As a kid, I was a dancer. Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern, you name it and I took classes in it. I was quite the natural too – was helping to teach adults before I was officially a teenager. I was passionate about dance, but I also took voice lessons and learned how to act because the musicals that thrilled me so much seemed to be what I wanted to do for a living on the days where I didn’t want to become a veterinarian. Sadly my fast growing, tall, body didn’t cooperate – one day I suddenly had curves where curves were NOT useful to a dancer. My body, my medium for my art at such a young age, betrayed me with puberty. Soon my knees were causing me problems (too much stress on joints that were too young to handle it that then grew too fast) and I found myself not able to even consider dance or musical theater as a profession. I turned to the violin (an instrument I’d been playing for several years already) as a hope to keep some sort of link to the theater but sadly, while I was fairly good, I wasn’t great and that is what it takes to make a living at it. So it became simply a hobby…
Fast forward to me not being able to stay away from dancing – I started going out to clubs and dancing like a fool any chance I got – body be damned. In my heart of hearts, when I think of myself and what I most identify with, I am a dancer…who couldn’t pursue her dream. I started taking art classes – visual art classes – playing with painting, playing with drawing…all of it was such an effort. It’s so much harder for me to attempt to express emotion by creating something with my hands and a brush or a pen, than it is with one’s body. I went back to dance, but this time something that was easier on my body – belly dancing. I loved this new outlet and the simple joy of movement it offered me but it was simply a way for me to keep myself happy, it wasn’t a career option, it wasn’t even a performance option for me. To put it mildly, I found that I have to dance in some way shape or form or I am miserable.
Fast forward to the opportunity to learn how to make jewelry - it’s a version of visual art but incorporates ones hands in the making. I could feel how the metal should move to create what I wanted to see. It was a sort of tiny dance on its own where metal was my partner. I loved the fluidity of the metal so much that I also learned blacksmithing – an art where there’s a physical
element sometimes as strenuous as dancing and included that partner I’d grown to love – metal. To some, the link between metal work and dancing might be tenuous but to me, it was a better way to physically express myself than painting or drawing could be…it required physical interaction with something that flowed and ebbed – just like one’s body moves with music when one dances.
I would write letters of stream of consciousness thought simply to get the thoughts out of my head. No one ever saw any of these writings. On a rare occasion I’d share some of the thoughts with a lover, or a very close friend, but they were not for sharing, for the public. They certainly didn’t make me a “writer” – any more than the ability to write wonderful research papers did. Some of my friends thought differently though…
Fast forward again to my going back to school to finish a degree started ten years prior in the sciences. I wasn’t interested in pursuing a science career anymore so I entered the college of fine arts to continue with metal and sculpting. Funny enough – I found myself at odds with my sculpture professors based on my aesthetics, and realized a new love – photography. My brain engaged with my photography professors, they understood the need to follow what one’s heart insists on sharing outwardly. They supported their students in their personal aesthetics and, more importantly, understood my drive to try to still the inner muse that was still fighting to get out and dance. Photography offered me a kind of stillness in the chaos of the rest of the world that was like finding nirvana. My personal visions could be shared in a way I hadn’t found since I was dancing as a young girl. I could show people what was going on inside me. I could find ways to express who I am through the images I created. It was an epiphany. But it was art school – one has to be able to speak to what you create there…and for me, what I was creating was a mix of “real life” and that which I found deep inside myself – a mix of autobiography and fiction, if you will. So my artist statements started to reflect this.
During this whole time, and indeed all through my high school years, I always found writing to be a thing that came very easily to me. Using words to share my thoughts and ideas was something I took for granted. I always knew that if there was an essay section on a test or a research paper required for a class that I would ace it no matter what else I did. I wrote small snippets of thoughts down in notebooks all the time. I kept notes for myself on relationships, on friends, on art, on everything that touched me. I would write letters of stream of consciousness thought simply to get the thoughts out of my head. No one ever saw any of these writings. On a rare occasion I’d share some of the thoughts with a lover, or a very close friend, but they were not for sharing, for the public. They certainly didn’t make me a “writer” – any more than the ability to write wonderful research papers did. Some of my friends thought differently though…
I received an email from an old friend out of the blue one day and in the course of refreshing our friendship, she asked if I still wrote things down like I used to. She was doing a lot of writing and was excited about a certain web site that she wrote for. I took a look at it and thought to myself “hmmm…this stuff is really fun. And very well written. And I wonder what it would be like to try my hand at this…” I had been enjoying my photography but felt that I was missing something. Something vital. I have so many thoughts, so many ideas, so many THINGS running around in my mind and photography wasn’t the right way to get them all out. Not like dancing had been. If I was happy, I could show it in dance. If I was sad, I could show it in dance. I could do the same thing when I was angry, depressed, ecstatic, melancholy - EVERYTHING. I could express everything I felt/thought/saw with dance. I missed it. I missed it terribly.
Taking a chance, I tossed together a sample. To my surprise and glee, I was deemed worth a try. Finally, I took an honest look at all those things I’d always jotted down without a thought. I took an honest look inside at the way I process things, at the way I see things, at the way I communicate things. I decided that I had finally found a way to reclaim the expression that dance had brought me so long ago. Writing, for me, is something I’m compelled to do. I have to write things down that I’m thinking just as I had to dance. The same reasons I had to dance were the same reasons I have to write – but with a big difference. When dancing, often the dancer is the only one really aware of what emotions, what thoughts are being shared by their body. With writing, there’s a feedback possible and an actual interaction with an audience that can respond in kind to what you produce, to what you share. Once your thoughts are “out there” you can grow and change and evolve your writing and see how it affects others. You can choose to share everything, or select thoughts. You can choose to write what is in your heart or you can choose to write from a challenge or an assignment. Most importantly – you have complete control and you are the art, just like in dance. It’s your brain, your thoughts that are the art. The words are simply the expression of it. It is the dancing of one’s mind.
So there you have it - I write because I am a dancer.