I wanted my twelve year old, who is a sensitive soul, to see the movie Billy Elliot, which is currently a hit on Broadway. I had remembered how much I enjoyed it years ago, but had forgotten what a terrific movie it was. As a former dancer, I wanted to share my love for dance with Adam. I also wanted him to see a story about a boy who was artistic and still a real boy, and how important it is to be true to yourself, especially to your passions.
I hadn’t anticipated what conflicting feelings the movie would bring up. I have fibromyalgia, and many days my body feels as if it is encased in a cement cast made of pain. But seeing the movie, I remembered when everything made me jump, twirl, soar. I remembered dancing past exhaustion. In the movie, when one of the judges at the Royal Academy of Dance asks the twelve-year old Billy what it feels like to dance, and he answers that “it feels like fire….I forget everything…I feel like I’m flying,” tears came to my eyes. Yes, that is what it feels like. To be so one with your body, so alive! My tears were for the dancing I would never do again, for the body that had been so supple and strong, so free of pain.
In my enthusiasm, I showed Adam an ancient photo of my sixth grade recital. There I was in front, my arms long and graceful, my position perfect. But on my face I had the most anxious look. “Why do you look so weird?” Adam said, and I said it had something to do with not wearing my glasses. But looking at my partner, her arms not so perfect but her face suffused with joy, I knew the expression wasn’t just the product of myopia. It was also a product of anxiety, of wanting so badly to get it just right and the fear of being imperfect.
Later that night I looked at recent photos of myself. I am overweight, not young, but there is a softness to my face. There is enjoyment. There is acceptance. You would be hard put to put the photo of the young girl with the one of the woman. Kat Duff, in her wonderful book, The Alchemy of Illness, talks about the transformations that can occur in the crucible of illness. I know that for me, I’ve been forced to give up the illusion of perfection and the need to constantly prove myself. And that is a grace.
I do dance, sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself and I am well enough. And sometimes I feel the fire and forget myself.
And yes, Adam enjoyed the movie.