As a former dancer, I have never felt my body so lightened, steadied, and purged of anxiety as I have at the end of class.

Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker

In her recent piece “Solo Acts: Choreography Under Lockdown” in The New Yorker, Jennifer Homans, Director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, taps into why, for me, moving is so, well, moving.

I have just finished my morning exercise, a combination of a two-mile jog with our dog, a half-hour upper body weight lifting series, and delicious stretching. While it can be a drag at the start, there is no better feeling than that AFTER a workout.

No one ever said, I wish I had not done that.

Anonymous, re working out

A year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed in Amsterdam, thrilled to have regained the use of my arms and torso and working on moving my legs. Six weeks of being immobilized in the ICU following my near-deadly ruptured aneurysm had sapped my muscle strength. I sat in my wheelchair like a rag doll, and collapsed in my bed like a sack of potatoes. I knew that I would not be able to fly home to Florida without being able to walk.

I had spent a decade dancing and another four decades teaching movement of one kind or another. To be disconnected from my body as I came into my senses following my illness was frustrating at best and frightening at worst.

Dancers begin class slowly…and find their “center” — center of body, of gravity, of mind.

Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker

I worked my way in from the edges — my fingers, my mouth, my feet — seeking the center from which I could confidently move forward. Flexing my arms, bending my knees, lifting my hips, sitting up straight, pulling my shoulders down, opening up my chest.

Then came the day I stood up. My legs felt as hollow and weak as the tubes inside paper towel rolls. I did it again. Then again.

Then, I danced with Gemma. That’s what my physiotherapist and I called it when she faced me, holding my torso as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I danced. I brought my iPhone so we could play Angelique Kidjo’s album, Celia, on the fitness center speakers.

The next week, I was walking alone, holding myself up on the parallel bars. And then I got wheels and walked right onto a plane bound for home.

You will not receive calls while driving.

My iPhone while I’m using my Rollator, a walker with wheel

Finally, after six months of work, I found my center. Pelvic floor therapy reconnected my core muscles and I was emancipated from incontinence. I don’t take that liberty lightly and continue to do my exercises every day. Check out Easy Kegels.

In considering how dancers are staying connected to their bodies and minds during the pandemic, Jennifer Homans looks back at the post WWI German Expressionistic dance, an early influence on American modern dance (and on my mother’s dance career). Originator Mary Wigman’s weighted, contracted style was influenced by her work with combat veterans and her own suffering from tuberculosis. Trauma produces art that connects.

Jamar Roberts choreographed, designed, directed, performed, and shot (on an iPad) “Cooped” alone in his basement. The music is by David Watson and Tony Buck. The commission was from the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” series.

Take five minutes and be part of this experience.

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