I’ve never understood why I like dance. I’ve never questioned it, actually. Come to think of it, it’s not that I “like” dance: turns out that somewhere along the line I dedicated my life’s work to it. I’ve danced since I could walk, and everything good in my life has come to me as a part of my dancing. The most important people in my life have come along with various dance projects or shows, and most of the beauty I see in the world is in context of bodies moving through space. So “like” doesn’t quite fit.
And, honestly, I shouldn’t “like” dance. It’s hurt me. It’s ruined several very important joints in my body, and has mentally and emotionally scarred me in ways that I’m still discovering. I can tell you exactly how many calories that breakfast burrito has in it, and why, when I'm not in pain, I miss it like I miss a friend I've lost touch with. I have no reason to “like” it. But, I think about it every day, it frustrates me to no end, and there are some days I don’t care if it lives or dies. Hell, it might be love.
Through all that, I’m still drawn to dance: I still seek it out. I fill my weekends with shows, I've subscribed to every major dance e-newsletter known to mankind, and I keep a full drawer of black dance pants just in case I'm called back to active duty. I still actively engage with it, talk about it, and fight to be involved in it. And I never understood why until today, because today Trisha Brown died. If my dance lineage were my DNA she'd be my grandmother. My dance grandmother left, and in her honor I decided to nerd out on dance videos.
I’m motivated by the “logical side” of my brain. I appreciate things that make sense. My pursuit for knowledge and logical understanding of each and every situation I’m in, while exhausting, is my biggest motivator.
Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.
So while watching these post modern dance videos on YouTube, in honorarium, I feel hopeful. I’m near tears. I feel satisfied. I want to replicate what I see, and if I’m silent enough, I can feel what those dancers are doing – I can feel the deep plié in second with a swoopy arm making a full revolution from the shoulder – I feel it while I watch it.
And I don’t understand why.
I don’t understand why I feel any of these things. There’s no logical reason that I feel challenged and awake while watching this video. I don’t have a personal connection to the dancers or choreographer. I don’t know the material. It doesn’t remind me of eating Oreo cookies with my dad when I was six. I have no logical reason to feel these very clear, sharp, almost painful things. I know twisting my spine the way that dancer did would hurt. I know exactly how it would hurt, and I want to do it over and over again to explore different ways of twisting. I know what prepping for a piece like this feels like - I know how shallow my breath gets before I step in front of the audience and I want to know why. I'm perpetually curious about the implications of the various bodies in space and how they reflect our culture.
So maybe that’s the point. Maybe a very long time ago I devoted myself to the one thing I have experienced that I truly don’t understand. The one thing that makes no logical sense no matter how many years I study, how hard I dance, or how many choreographic works I see.
Maybe that’s the work. Maybe the work is soaking in the discomfort of the thing I don’t understand, of these feelings that aren’t grounded in logic. Sharing, researching, shaping, and challenging the one thing I can’t explain is the only way I’m truly absorbed.
And perhaps one day I’ll understand exactly why a duet set in a random time, danced by strangers, in a place I’ve never been can slap me awake. Maybe I’ll truly understand what happens neurologically that makes my fingers tingle when I watch that dancer twist her spine to her limits. Maybe day-to-day I am mostly logic. But today I realized the things that define me, and wholly captivate me, I'm not close to understanding.
Ashley Goos is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and has been in the dance field her entire professional career. She holds a BA in Theatre from Miami University (OH) and an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Florida State University. Ashley has provided administrative consultation and marketing support for non-profit organizations around the United States. Some of her administrative partners include the Cincinnati Ballet, the Kentucky Shakespeare Theatre, and Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre in Chicago. Ashley is the Marketing and Operations Manager at Audience Architects whose flagship program is SeeChicagoDance.com.