what’s terror* anyways?

So here’s the thing about this All** Bodies Dance Project i’ve been going to. While there are some things about it i don’t connect with and/or that don’t reflect me. i pushed past that and went. And to be honest, i’m mortified to be there, to be moving around a room with these strangers, to be waving around, moving my body these ways, even to call it dancing. It’s public, it’s open, there are floor-to-ceiling windows in the room through which passersby can -if they choose- watch for a moment or the entire time as they make their way to other activities in the rec centre. It’s embarrassing and exposing, and physically daunting (even within the context of uncommonly broad understandings of “movement”, where one person’s full body twirly thing can be another person’s finger bend, and is just as beautiful and celebrated and understood).

And i fucking love it and can’t wait for the next class.

i’m not a dancer, in any context, and i’ve never moved my body (this incarnation of this body, which is currently composed of: my flesh body, this scooter, and my crutches, this ADHD PTSD CAPD brain, this chem sensitive body, this white immigrant body, this fat body, this trans body, this queer body, this survivor body) the way i have in these classes. And i’ve sure as hell never moved these ways with others. i’ve navigated this incarnation/incantation, this gimp/imp, through tear-gassed cop-overrun demonstrations, busy downtown streets filled with suits and cars and a hundred freaked out pigeons, through raucous stuffed-past-the-walls concerts, malls of ambling unpredictable shoppers, dungeons with whips and sweat flying, moving buses, darkened slippery sticky bath houses, trains, broken up sidewalks, pools, gimp porn shoot, beaches, walls of linked arms/ legs/ wheelchairs/ canes/ etc at protests, grassy fields, you name it, i’ve rolled it (including some mishaps, to be sure, including throwing myself off a curb into a busy street then running over my own foot). While that all likely prepared me to be able to navigate this purely in the technical sense, it didn’t prepare me for navigating with these people. My people. [A wave of overwhelm writing those last words. Some of that overwhelm comes from the fact that some of these people are not disabled, and it takes so much to trust people who are not disabled with my body. Yes, particularly able bodied people, but really, ALL people who are not variously disabled. And the thought of, the act of, considering these people among “my people” is striking to me.]

i’ve done a lot with my body, and have struggled with and loved my body for a very very long time, including getting used to each change in its functioning while trying to keep up with other’s responses to it. i’ve struggled (and still do) with feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, grief, of feeling utterly un-attractive and unlovable as this body. And i’ve worked hard to show [and not-show] parts of that because holy fuck there is enough, there is just so already enough of that, and because i’m sick of the way able bodied people so often look at me with those cartoon welling up pity eyes, grief eyes, embarrassed eyes, disgusted eyes; when i want to be looked at with joy eyes, and lust eyes..]

Weaving in and out among other folks on wheels, and/or with canes, and/or who do/don’t use other supports, and/or who can and can’t hear and/or process and/or see and judge distances in different ways etc; some people who are able bodied, who can leap and dive and see and hear everything and spin, who are not looking at me with those fucking pity eyes, we all moving in ways that feel weird and scary and comforting and awkward, and unlike anything else i’ve navigated.

i passed by someone during one exercise where we were moving through the space only in curved lines. We were forming and moving our whole bodies/ individual limbs/ fingers/ devices/ etc variously in curves, and doing it in such utterly individual and yet thoroughly connected ways. As we passed one another, her version of curve met and briefly -just a couple seconds- played with my version of curve, and then we moved on. i thought i’d burst into tears.

i think the thing about living in a sometimes terrifying body for so long is that… i don’t know… maybe the terrifying becomes… passe, day to day, status quo, usual, familiar. So familiar that i can’t imagine it any other way (and why should i / would i?), can’t remember most of what it used to be (which is sometimes a blessing actually). So familiar that the terrifying is still terrifying (and still embarrassing, still nerve wracking, etc), but it stops freezing me in my tracks. Maybe it’s about getting older too, i don’t know, the combinations. Of being cut open, of being broken, of surviving. But whatever it is, i do know that this seems to be a time in my life of trying terrifying new things.

i’m not suggesting this broken body is a “gift” or some other cliche bullshit (another post on that for another day), but isn’t that an interesting thing right there? Without this broken body, without this reality, this terror, what experiences would i not have had? What emotional tundra might i never have felt poke at and soothe and cool and burn and tickle my bare toes? Without this body, would i have ever imagined in my wildest that what looked like simply passing by someone and sharing our curve for a couple seconds could cause me to feel and connect with something so deeply that i nearly burst into tears in a room filled with strangers? i don’t know about you, but i’d rather be terrified and enjoying the wonder of that than just sitting with the festering wondering of “what if?”

If it took this broken body to get me here, all i can do is reach my hands up, groping the furthest i can muster, whether in a curve or angled, whether with others or moving through a space by myself, and thank every. single. fucking. star. that ever was or will be for this, for me, my broken.

[*“terror” is a loaded word, i know. i don’t use it lightly; and when using it, i think about the huge range of possibilities of terror, and beyond, lifelong, inflicted. How it’s attached to certain bodies like a series of stick pins, and how it is thrown around like flotsam by others. i don’t use it lightly, i use it to express the emotions i feel when it comes to my body and being in the world with it.]
** After some refreshing conversation about it, i’m changing this from “All [sic]” to “All**” because the former seems unnecessarily snarky/judgey in this context, makes a definitive statement that something bad has happened, some mistake has been made, and kinda closes off conversation about it.  i’m not going for that here, even though every space/ event can use some more examination into who that “All” encompasses.

Learn more about the All Bodies Dance Project here:

The All Bodies Dance Project is starting up again this thursday and saturday!

This really was one of the most amazing things i think i’ve ever done, so fantastic in so many ways, and i cant wait to do it again. Super encourage folks to come try it out… i’d love to see you there! It’s free; in fully w/c accessible spaces; they ask for folks to come scent-reduced and have been responsive when it hasn’t been (it’s a community centre with a lot of folks going in and out, and it cant currently be guaranteed that the entire space is scent reduced, but the classes are supposed to be).

You can register through the community centres or through emailing the project directly (that’s what i did because i didnt want to deal with the still gendered forms with the centres)

Here’s a little promo video (captioned by RAMP, though there’s literally three lines lol) they made for it: OMG please ignore my socks-and-sandals combo.


All Bodies Dance Project : A free community dance project for mixed abilities at the Roundhouse and Trout Lake Community Centres

Winter 2015 session

Jan 8 – March 19, 6:30-8pm
Trout Lake Community Centre
3360 Victoria Drive
To register:
troutlakecc.com, 604-257-6955

Jan 10 – March 28, 2:30-4:30pm
The Roundhouse
181 Roundhouse Mews
To register:
roundhouse.ca, 604-713-1800

This project is for anyone with or without a disability interested in exploring movement as a means of creative expression. Participants will experience the joy of dancing, performing and choreographing in a diverse community of movers. In mixed ability dance, differences become creative strengths as we explore the amazing choreographic possibilities of wheelchairs, crutches and canes, and celebrate diverse ways of moving and perceiving. No previous experience required. FREE thanks to funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

For more information contact allbodiesdanceproject@gmail.com



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