In the pandemic, as a dancer and choreographer, I experienced the acute loss of my artistic practice. But more so, I felt the absence of other people’s kinesthetic presence in my day.
I kept thinking about breath. The pervasive fear surrounding breath during Covid. The danger involved in breathing and talking in the same vicinity. People were getting sick and weren’t able to breathe. People weren’t able to be present to feel their loved ones last breaths leave their bodies.
This past summer, as things began to open up a bit, I was sitting on a beach with my kids and some couples down at the end of the beach were doing some partnering dances, I think Cumbia. People were watching them for brief moments and then going back to what they were doing. Then they would look up to watch the dancers again. I loved the feeling of having dance nearby. It was such a huge comfort to simply know there was dancing happening, even if I wasn’t looking directly at it.
What a beautiful thing to consider how dancing had maybe never stopped. How maybe it was still happening all over the world, we just couldn’t see it. I had this image of taking the roof off houses and seeing people dancing in their homes.
Like an invisible joyousness.
They say when you go to see the opera your own vocal cords vibrate in the audience as the singers perform. What does dance do for us when we see it?
It made me think about what seeing dance for brief but concentrated periods of time can do for our own bodies. Like a drive-by chance encounter with someone dancing. . . .what does that do? Does it remind us of a time when we danced? Does it stir in us a desire to dance? Does it just connect us to our own body and breath for a moment?
I asked my friend Janel, a ballet dancer, to record herself doing some movement. I then asked her to record herself breathing afterwards.
I’m curious about seeing lots of people do the same. How can this serve as a prototype for taking the roof off and making the dances of Milwaukee visible? How can it then be amplified back into the world?
Does that multiply for us — the joy in witnessing and experiencing the still-capable-of-dancing bodies we inhabit? Or maybe it just helps us feel what is present, and honor what we lost.