“Leave everything at the door before you enter my classroom…”
A phrase that is said by a good majority of any teacher in any profession…but very rarely can a dancer leave their emotions at the door.
Emotions fuel dance. Sure we can leave our drama at the door (hopefully). We can leave our judgement at the door. We can leave just about any problem at the door, except for our emotions.
I absolutely hate it when a dance teacher says, “I need you to leave everything at the door…” I know they want a class that will be smooth and flaw free, but when a step is taken back they should be able to see that emotions fuel a dancer’s motives in the dance studio. Whether it be a way of letting out anger from home life, grief and sorrow from a loss, or happiness due to a little bit light shed on a tough situation, a dancer needs emotions to fully feel and energize the space around themselves.
Emotions may be defined by science as a state of mind, but to a dancer the emotions are a gateway to the heart for their art.
Because here’s my story of how I couldn’t leave my emotions at the door….
You see, there was this guy and, well, I’m going to leave it there…It could be a long story but there are certain details of my past I do not share with every single person. I have a history with guys, but this one was different. At first I did not think it would be a good kind of different, but as it turns out, it is probably the best thing that has happened to me and my dance career.
It was February 15th, 2016 and the day before did not go as I would have thought it to have been…
I woke up from an exhausting sleep, the kind of sleep where you toss, turn, and thoughts are running through your head but still asleep. I did my usual routine. Wake up. Drink Water. Brush my teeth. Wash my face. Eat breakfast. Get dressed for dance and make sure my bag is packed with the essentials that I need for my first two classes of the day: ballet and modern.
I walked to class in a blur. I can’t remember if I warmed up or not that day. I have no recollection but the thoughts that were going through my head, specifically these two: “Are they going to know? Are they still going to love me?” “I am not the person I thought I was, will they still take me as I am?”
Ballet class started. I went through bar as best as I could, but it wasn’t until I got to center where I was fully aware of myself and my well being. I was angry with myself. I was distraught over so many things. My heart hurt so very much. It felt like a boulder had smashed my innards to the point where they were bleeding. And all I thought was “You have to dance this off. You have to make it part of the dance because that is all you can do for this moment in time.”
Because “what is bad for your heart is good for your art”.
So I let anger fuel my way through the center. I let it take me away.
In the end, I cried. I don’t mean a few tears. I broke down, completely. Like ugly cry. At that moment the anger left and I felt the ache in my gut and the breaking happening in my heart…I knew that the healing process was going to be a prolonged amount of time.
Which brings me to this:
You see, many people view dancers, specifically ballet dancers, as robots who don’t emote in their usual routines but only as those who act. In reality, our emotions are what fuel the dance so there is no way we can “leave them at the door.”
I couldn’t that Monday morning and so many weeks after that so why should the rest do it?
No one wants to see a non-emotive dancer on the stage. Everybody wants to see and feel the rush of love that the Romeo feels for Juliet or the grief that Albrecht has for Giselle.
Without the use of emotions in the dance studio, what kind of people are the dancers going to be?
So how do those dancers come to life? They have to dance with their own personal emotions and not leave them at the door like a pair of muddy shoes.
The emotions should be felt and worn like a pair of worn in ballet shoes: dirty with a couple little holes, but always there help ease the flow of movement.
A dancer cannot be a dancer without emotions. So do not leave your emotions at the door.