Growing up, everything was painful. Walking up the stairs. Raising my arms to brush my hair. Smiling when a classmate made a joke. Everything was an effort for me. But I was young and embarrassed about who I was. I wanted to be like everyone else and that meant pushing aside a part of my identity that I was determined no one could know about.
None of my pain mattered when I was dancing though. I started dancing at the age of three in an attempt to make my muscles stronger. I ended up falling in love. It wasn’t young love, it was an old love, something that I felt in my bones. I spent every single moment dancing. When I tasted good food, I danced. When a song came on in the grocery store, I danced. Any time that I could, I did.
Dance has changed my life. It has made me into the person that I am today. I am strong because of the ballet lessons that I took when I was three years old. I knew that I would dance forever and nothing could stop me. When I went to university I joined the dance company and met some of my best friends and spent every spare moment in the dance studios. Of course, with a neuromuscular condition and years of steroid use, this came with a price and I have broken more bones than I can count on two hands, but it is all worth it.
When coronavirus hit, I lost a little bit of this love. It seemed so strange to dance by myself in isolation. My best memories of dance include being with other people and messing around during classes and rehearsals. This is taken away in lockdown, and it just didn’t feel right. I was still taking university classes on Zoom, so I had my weekly dance classes also on Zoom, but I just felt as if I was faking it. My heart wasn’t in it.
I discovered dance classes on YouTube by some of the most famous dancers in the world, and my motivation shifted. I had to learn how to rephrase this time frame as an opportunity. Normally, I would never get to take class with the principal dancers of the Royal Ballet or the American Ballet Theatre, but in this setting, I got to take classes even if it meant in my small bedroom.
COVID has been a challenging time for me and Disabled people as a whole. It has been difficult to keep my body moving in my apartment and continue doing the exercises that I know keep me in shape, but dancing has kept me feeling like myself. I have been able to schedule in times during the week in which I dance in order to keep myself active both physically and mentally. Dancing has helped me a lot throughout lockdown, and will continue to be a part of my life even after.