I danced blindfolded today. A silk tie was wrapped around my head two, three times, and tied in a knot. I was led by my hand to the dance floor and instructed to lie down on the hardwood. I remember feeling acutely aware of my limbs, and the sensation of my feet on the floor, which felt so strange after dancing the last song in 6-inch stilettos. And I also remember being aware that I had no idea where anything was around me – not my classmates sitting on the bench, not the poles, not the overstuffed chair where we did our lap dances. I had been turned in a circle several times before being asked to lie down and a vague dizziness was still fluttering around my temples. One of my teachers gave a last minute instruction to my classmates, who were watching me from the bench: “Remember ladies, no cheering for the blindfolded dance - just silence.” Oh.
Alice in Chains came blaring through the speakers. “Heeeeeyyyyaaa IIIII ain’t never coming home…” My body started moving, pushing against the music. “Breeeeeeaaaathe, Claire!” A teacher’s voice floated across the room. I tried to take a breath in and realized that I hadn’t exhaled in a while. I pushed hard, arching, twisting, extending, asking, begging to be heard, to be felt, to be seen. I felt exposed, deeply vulnerable, and my heart was splitting inside my chest. My blindfold fell off early into the song, but I kept my eyes firmly shut, determined to keep that achiness in my heart alive, determined to move from that place, determined to make the world feel my pain, the pain that poured out of every finger tip, the grief that came every time I arched my back open, splaying my legs, pushing my ass back. I was dancing out my loneliness, my feeling of immense isolation, my rage at the stupid bitch of an ex-girlfriend, who, five years later, still couldn’t figure out what a boundary was, the plasticized Barbie who cut me off in her Mercedes this morning, the boyfriend who could never in a million years be everything that I wanted, because nobody could. I was dancing out my anger at my own destructive impulses and my conflicting need to keep them close, to burn it all down. I was dancing out my insecurity, tangling it up with my strength. I pulled from the earth into my body. I wanted to shake the ground with my anger so you could feel my power and be terrified. At the same time I wanted to throw my head back, arch my chest, open my soft belly and legs and invite you in. I wanted you to reach out to me, to see me – all of me - all the contradictions, all the confusion, all the beauty, all the awkwardness, all the pain and joy, all the rage and vulnerability. I wanted you to feel it with me, to see that it was real and true. At one point in my dance I remember wanting to connect with something, anything- a pole, a chair, someone’s foot. I wanted to feel another person close by; I wanted to know where I was. I crawled, slowly, feeling each muscle fiber, every sensation in my body, for what seemed like eternity and found nothing but empty space. Accepting the solitude, I slid my belly back onto the floor, dancing out the rest of my song.
The vulnerability in dancing blindfolded is not just the sense of disorientation, but the absolute silence and solitude that accompanies your dance. There is no one to push against, to flirt with, to torture, to impress, to be embarrassed by. There is just you, and your body, and the music and the movement. By the end of the dance, I was emotionally raw. I could feel the tears pushing up through my throat. My teacher sat down with me, as she always does after we dance. “How was that?” Very emotional, I responded. “Did you see the story? The heartache?", she asked the class. I can’t remember exactly how it went, but the next thing I knew, I was climbing back up into my head, talking, talking, and talking. My teacher stopped me. “I don’t want to you to talk. I want you to stay in that emotional space.” I suddenly became aware of just how resistant I was to that vulnerable space at that particular moment. How truly letting my body take over (for today anyway) had meant letting all of that vulnerability come out. In the past, my dancing has let the torturing, vengeful, dirty, angry side of me out. That is a part of me, of my sexuality, so I don’t think it will ever disappear from my dancing. But today there was another part of my body and my psyche speaking to me. The part that wanted to be touched and held and loved. The part that felt immense sorrow and loss. The part that was terrified of being alone but even more terrified of being let down.
I was the last to dance, and so class was over. As I got quiet and moved back into that vulnerable place, the tears spilled out. I got hugs from my classmates. Dancing is hard sometimes, said one of them. Indeed.