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dancing

Modern dance performances and amber stones, by Eline Van Wieren

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Last weekend I went to a modern dance festival where young dance makers get to share their work with the world. One of the pieces I saw was choreographed and performed by a girl who I think was somewhere in her twenties, just like me. She was wearing oversized soft pink track pants and a black t-shirt with what looked like a heavy metal band logo printed on it.

In the festival folder, it said that her piece is research on the pre-consisting ideas and images of the female body. An exploration of how her body deals with loneliness, rage and sensuality.

Her dance isn’t what you’d expect dance to be. It’s not elegant and flowing. The movements mimic daily life motions so closely, it’s hard to know what it is that you’re actually looking at. You could even argue if this is dance. But I don’t want to be like the average close-minded fifty-something theatergoers that I’m surrounded with. I’m an art school student. I’m cool and I have a well-curated Instagram account. So I tell myself: Dance can be whatever it decides to be.

 The girl on the stage has long blonde hair in a ponytail high on her head. The music intensifies and she starts head-banging. The music softens down and she starts to undress. The black shirt and the washed-out white sports bra. The track pants she doesn’t take off completely; she lets them hang around her ankles.

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She starts rubbing body lotion on her legs, her arms, her belly and her chest. I know what she’s doing. This is a performance of self-care. A performance I’ve do every Sunday night, without an audience, trying to make it look natural. She rubs the lotion on her perfectly formed breasts. Breasts that would do well in a black and white photoshoot with a girl between freshly washed sheets looking into the camera caught off guard, showing everything but the nipple.

There’s also bouquet of flowers on the stage and the puts them in her neon pink panties. I look at her, sitting on stage under the bright lamps and think: I know what you’re trying to do. Being naked on this stage, trying to show the world that you’re allowed to do whatever you want with your body. But this is not a statement. You’re pretty. You have the body and the breasts and the pretty face. You’re exactly what people want a girl to be.

After the show I go to the bar and order a drink. I look next to me and there’s the girl with the blonde ponytail high on her head. She smiles at me and says, I love your necklace.

Thank you, I say. She reaches for the gold chain with the amber hanging from it.

She holds the stone between her thumb and index finger. Her forehead is about as tall as my collarbone and I look down at her bright blue eyes. Standing here in front of me, she looks so much more fragile than on that stage. She’s the kind of girl a man could wrap his arms around, pick up off the ground and there’d be nothing left for her to do than wait until he puts her down again.

She says, amber is supposed to turn negative energy into positive energy, but I don’t know if I believe in that kind of thing.

She is so nice and smart. I feel like maybe I should say something, about how I call myself a feminist, but still manage to judge brave girls who happen to also be pretty. But that doesn’t seem like a fun thing for her to hear, so I keep quiet. We talk about other things and her eyes whenever she speaks, her eyes glance down to my chest, where the golden-brown stone is laying between the folds of my t-shirt.  

At night before I go to bed I look at myself in the mirror as I take of the necklace and think of all the work that little stone has left to do.

 

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The gods you pray to/by Eline van Wieren

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A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to in a while asking if I wanted to become her pen-friend. I find staying in contact with people who aren’t standing right in front of me incredibly difficult, but I love writing letters to whomever and whatever. So I said yes.

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Her first letter arrived in a grey envelope, sealed with a little red heart sticker. In it she wrote about the monastery she’d been to for a weekend to talk about the meaning of mercifulness and what it means to be a good person. How someone asked: If you had to describe God in one word, what would it be? And how she answered: calmness.

I felt so privileged to be reading these words so carefully written down on paper. I felt like I was let in on a secret, something very real, but contained in a different universe. And when she wrote that she realized that instead of praying to God Calmness, she often prayed to God Productivity, I felt it resonate in my entire body.

When I finished reading, I thought about how I’d started taking ballet lessons when I was three years old and fell in love with dancing immediately. I loved the music and how my body flowed along with it, how I got to be different characters from one of the 101 Dalmatians to a witch and even a seahorse. In dancing, I didn’t have to think, because my body would just know.

By the time I was fourteen, I danced twenty-five hours a week. And what I loved about it started to shift. At fourteen, I thought the greatest thing about doing ballet was the control it let me exercise over my body. I was forcing my feet into impossible shapes and it looked beautiful. I was the one who decided what emotion my face displayed and whatever was happening on the inside was nobody’s business.

In the second letter, again sealed with a little red heart sticker, the friend asked how many different versions of me exist. I wrote back: I am an abundance of Elines and that’s something I have mixed feelings about. Like with ballet movements, I’d like to have control over who I am in which situation. Most of my prayers are to God Certainty.

I also wrote her that my favorite Eline only seems to come out in cases of emergency. I only one hundred percent know what to say to someone, when they’re hysterically crying in my arms, weeping the shoulders of my sweater wet. When their emotions are happening so close to my own body that there is nothing else for me to do other than stop and acknowledge what is happening in front of me.

Following my gut, bones or other body parts that could offer any kind of guidance didn’t and most of the time still doesn’t come naturally for me. I like to blame the dancing. But like praying, dancing is just a vehicle. And it’s not the words and movements I carefully formulate but the ones that seem to arise out of nowhere that let the unimportant things crumble and make space for me to be.

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