Nathan Laundry's Blog

The Point of Dance

I can dance if I want to

I don’t dance. Never have. And i’m adamant that I can’t.

To no fault of my loving and accepting parents, I grew up a little repressed.

Some people refer to it as “Gifted Kid” syndrome. Personally, I was never given the title but I over-achieved and felt that paralyzing need to be correct - more than any authority figure could ever place on me. Even at that young age the need to be perfect had settled deep in my bones. And what does one do when their need to be perfect cannot be assuaged? They simply do not act at all.

I never found a way to be right at dance. I couldn’t grok it - what it meant, what I was supposed to understand from it. And so I did not dance. I do not dance.

Funnily enough, i’ve played music all my life. What two things could be more intertwined than music and dance? Yet one was for me, and one was not.

The difference is that something about music clicked with my young notion of Correct. So, I was afforded another space to be right. In that space, I fought myself, my fingers, my body, my mind, to be on time, on key, faster, cleaner, more and more complex. I strove and struggled to be technically correct. And all my technical success afforded me no joy - only a moments relief from the fear of failure.

But even that didn’t last. Eventually, I couldn’t strive anymore.

School demanded of me an amount that lent no room for advancement in the technical aspects of music. What I had left, however, was just enough time for play - to play music.

I couldn’t find the hours i’d need to improve but I reached for my guitar and my voice moved without prompting.

Somewhere between right and wrong I’d found play - and I learned to love play.

Music had become what it had always meant to be - an outlet. A way I could express myself. I sang the bitterness I’d built up under all that pressure to be right. I sang karaoke with my family and felt a part of them. I wrote about teenage heartbreak, and boy, it was bad, but it was music.

It was all music no matter how many notes I missed and how many cliched lyrics I’d strung together.

I wrote and played my way through high school and my undergraduate years.

After years, nearly a decade (an exceptionally long time if you’re 26 ) I found play in music, and yet dance remains blocked to me.

As I grow older, and thanks to my partner and her incredibly talented and artful family, I’ve found myself aching to figure out dance. To witness such joy fully embodied in my loved ones and not be able to participate, it’s almost enough to move me - almost.

But the shackles of correct are powerful and they weigh heavy on a much younger, much more fearful part of myself.

Still, I have hope.

Yesterday, I was visiting my partner’s family and we gathered around to watch their old family videos - videos which largely consisted of old dance recitals.

Over and over they recounted the backstage stories. The screw ups, the dances they learned the week of, the lifts that almost weren’t. Yet all that was “wrong” with it could not muster up even the thinnest veil to obscure the art, the joy, the play. No doubt they were beyond talented, but I was most enamoured with their capacity for play. To give themselves to the art fully - when it was silly, when it was difficult - they were given to it and it was given to them.

I wanted to join them. Somewhere between right and wrong of dance, even if I danced far far closer to the latter than the former, I wanted to find dance with them.

Yesterday I wanted to dance. I think I might again soon.