I used to solely be focused on the physical movement displayed on stage. That was it. I moved, contorted, and swung my body like a pendulum, but I was mute, attentive, submissive to my body. I was never focused on the auspicious auditory department. I could never let my voice run wild, that would be mad! One, I am practically tone deaf, and two I am the world's worst singer. (Just ask the casting director when I auditioned for Pippin…) So I ignored speaking and singing parts like the plague.
Whenever I had to slate for an audition or had one measly little line I had to mutter on stage, it struck me with the biggest bout of stage fright.
I felt if I spoke my voice would shatter the glass mirror of the rehearsal studio. If I were to mutter a peep it would feel like I was the only person chomping on potato chips in the dead silence while everyone stared with gaping bulldog eyes at me, I would be the alien. Especially when I was a kid, I was so shy, when my dance teachers asked me a question, I would have to whisper it to my best friend Michelle, then she would translate the message out loud. Even in my early twenties, my not so nice ex-boyfriend told me to stay silent, he said my voice was better off un-utilized.
But fast forward to 2022, when I delivered my TEDx talk in Eustis this past January. I was kinda thrown off balance when I had people come up to me and say, "Yeah your contortion/talent is cool … but I was really impressed by the story behind it, your voice, and about what you had to say.
That was a compliment I NEVER received… I didn’t have to stay silent anymore? Was it a back hand compliment? Was it a diss in disguise? For years I swallowed my voice and prayed it wouldn’t bubble to the surface… my voice wasn’t wretched after all?
I didn’t know how to respond. For almost a decade I was hard wired and conditioned to respond to the same boiled down comments I heard after a performance...
"Wow you’re to flexible! Does that hurt? Were you born like that? How long do you stretch?” It was that broken record skipping over and over again. But when I received a totally different response, how was I supposed to respond?
Should my bendy ego be offended? Am I old? What does this mean? My contortion wasn’t the most impressive thing I was capable of? I was more than my contortion. I was baffled.
This was uncharted territory I am talking about… real, gargantuan, ship wrecking stuff.
My identity is shifting I thought for a brief second, but my identity isn’t singular … it isn’t just my flexibility. It is a lifetime patchwork strewn together, it is more than the physical body, it is the story your body was steeped in that carries, constructs, and reconstructs you. The story is the motivation. The amazing things your body can achieve are merely the story camouflaged as the shiny trophy.
My childhood fear was being deathly afraid to look like an idiot … so I hid. My movement, my body, and the way I danced were my only outlets and the way I identified myself… but there was more, I had a voice, it was just buried deeper than the Mariana trench.