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My Thunder Within

[There is a deepening sadness within me -- existential in nature. This sadness has been creeping its way into my life and my passions, including dance. I am dissatisfied. I wrote this in the hopes of personal clarity but also so those around me understand me a little better. I hope this is evocative. Please let me know your thoughts.]

There comes a point in every artist’s career in which they must ask themselves a very important question: Why do I do what I do? What drives me? My past attempts at finding or constructing an appropriate response had all proved futile; however, an answer occurred to me quite suddenly the other day:

I do not dance for love. I do not dance for connection. I do not dance for purpose. I dance for relief. Not for catharsis, not for expression, but for the type of relief a wounded animal yearns for: an acute pain only alleviated by intense action, which in my case is to dance. For this reason, I believe I am cursed. I believe I am cursed with a dreadful compulsion to move through and choreograph space – an insatiable desire to impart realities. My body is utterly obsessed and eternally infatuated. There are nights I cannot sleep because it vibrates with desire. I am constantly aware of every muscle, bone, sinew, and fluid in my body. It is overwhelming and occasionally unbearable. The only way to relieve this pain is to dance. This is not to say there are not moments when I enjoy my craft. Of course there are. But the driving force for my engagement with the art form as a whole is because of a deep pain within my physicality I fervently need to relieve.

Although this answer is somewhat useful, it is not satisfactory. It is devoid of one important part: my intellect. My mind and body are not harmonious. My body lights a fire my mind refuses to comprehend. My mind refuses to acknowledge this internal pain and desire. The two are in constant conflict. My intellect is disgusted with my emotions. I believe this is the root cause for my deep dissatisfaction with the art form. Only the reconciliation of both parts of myself will allow me to fully engage.

Consumed by an obsession with logic, I attempt to push my physical desires – or more completely, my emotions – away. As a result, I have created a great chasm within myself. Logic inhabits the surface while my emotions reside in the deepest parts, rarely floating to the top. Over time, this split has only become more pronounced; however, it has also become weaker. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. The harder I push down my physical desires, the harder they push back. And they have been pushing harder than usual lately.

This is why I rage. This is why I scream and weep and moan and choke and fall. I call this my “thunder.” My thunder rushes from the deepest parts of the chasm to the surface, in turn fulling coating all logic and reason. A rebellion. My entire being becomes saturated in its darkness. The episode first begins with an irrepressible catatonia, marked by nausea and complete apathy. This stage usually lasts the longest, around twenty minutes. Suddenly waves of despair surge through my stomach, chest, and throat accompanied by wailing, slobbering, writhing, shaking, rocking, and hair pulling. I become hyperaware of everything. The emotion causes physical pain. I feel like I am going to burst open, all of my vulnerabilities spilling onto the floor. Sometimes the pain is so great it causes me to violently shake, similar to that of a seizure. My heart feels too large for my body. I utter unintelligible sentences in the hopes of someone hearing. Something triggers me and I become irate: I curse the room I inhabit, the clothes I wear, the face I possess. I am angered by everything. Every sensation on my body becomes unacceptable and must be avoided. I rip my clothes off. I cover my face with my hair. Lastly, a maniacal laugh erupts. I laugh about nothing in particular. But this is the final stage: ecstasy. I experience a joy I rarely encounter in my reality. Not a conventional state of happiness; in fact, it is far from that. It is more a joy of my soul, one that is not as easily described. A pure joy. One with no traceable cause. At this point, the terrible episode has run its course. I begin to feel normal again, whatever that means to me.

I am plagued by my thunder, but I believe it is the cause of my obsession with dance. It is the pain I yearn to relieve. It is the part of me I have repressed in hopes of feeling secure – except it simply will not allow that. It has to reveal itself, it has to make itself known. And the only way my true and complete self will come to fruition is if I am able to reconcile my thunder with my intellect. Only then will I be satisfied, and only then will I be able to engage in the art form that my body loves yet my mind hates.

Emily Robison