In high school, I was a dancer. I’m afraid I wasn’t born with much natural talent or flexibility, but I knew enough to learn the choreography and perform on stage, year after year, in fabulously cringe-worthy costumes.
No matter the style — lyrical, jazz, theatrical — there was always something I loved about the rhythm. In knowing that my body was supposed to be in an exact place at an exact count. And if I could just keep up, I’d be a part of something beautiful (even if my leg couldn’t possibly kick as high as the next girl’s).
So yesterday, as I sat in the urgent care room waiting for the pediatrician to look at my little girl’s throbbing ear, I couldn’t help but admire a poster showcasing a gorgeous ballerina in a masterful leap. How could I not admire it? There was extreme precision — from her slicked back bun all the way down to her perfectly pointed toes. There was a sense of confidence, power, and effortlessness — as if she were flying. And there was pure grace — with no question that the landing would be as delicate as the pink tulle hugging her waist.
The longer I sat there — and, as these things go, it was a very long time — the more I wished I could be more like that dancer. Not wearing a tutu leaping through a snowy forest, per se, but in life. I wished that I could simply navigate the elements with precision, grace, and power.
You see, lately — ok, in the past eight plus years since becoming a mom, but even more so the past month — there have been moments that have thrown me off course. A stolen wallet days before Christmas. City approval processes holding up a big home project — and all of its moving parts. The internet being down the day I planned to catch up on work. And, yes, a sick little girl who was crying her way through the hours, just wanting to be held by her mama on a day that I had so much to do my head was spinning.
As I sat there admiring the poster, I realized that, for awhile now, I’ve been feeling like I’m an 8-count (or more) behind. Stumbling through the dance, trying to get back into a rhythm. I can practically hear my dance teacher’s voice saying I’m not hitting the moves hard enough. My transitions are choppy. The music is way ahead of me, but I can’t just skip the middle to catch up. No, each count is there for a reason. It’s all a part of what makes the dance work.
My mind flashed to So You Think You Can Dance — one of my favorite TV shows — and I thought about the choreography I love most. I couldn’t help but acknowledge that the perfectly timed waltzes, ballet performances, and jazz dances aren’t what move me. While I appreciate the technical effort that goes into making each of them work, they don’t tell a story that leaves me raw, in tears of recognition.
But the contemporary pieces do. You see, just as my life has evolved in the years since I was a dancer, so has the art of dance. I’ve grown to love watching this new approach to movement. The way all the pieces come together to tell a story — to honor the reality of push, pull, struggle, and triumph. The magic of contemporary dance can’t be seen in a crisp photograph like the one I was admiring. Instead, contemporary dancers paint a sort of impressionist picture as they go. It’s equally beautiful, just different.
Contemporary dance celebrates vulnerability. Contemporary dance requires great trust and outrageous leaps of faith. Contemporary dance begins with movement in the soul that works its way through the body. Don’t get me wrong, each 8-count is of the utmost importance, but the choreography intentionally includes moments where the dancer falters — moments where it seems everything might unravel and fall apart.
The soul-stirring beauty of contemporary dance is actually in those perfectly imperfect moments. Because to really appreciate the high, you have to have survived the low — to have really wanted to be a part of the journey to the other side.
Such is contemporary life, I acknowledged in that moment.
So, on this day that wasn’t going my way, I realized that I truly appreciated having some unexpected time to sit and reflect. I was finally able to let go, moving forward with a bit more ease and grace. Rather than fighting the hard, I collapsed into it. I reached for my hurting baby girl and — together — we rocked, singing the songs that have been the soundtrack to our life lately. We found peace in the music, and in each other’s company.
And by the middle of the first song, I’d found my rhythm again.