The dance studio is closed for renovations right now. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing for my state of mind. I can't go down there and faff about in a rehearsal room if I really need to not stare at the walls in the apartment anymore, but all I ever do in the rehearsal rooms is faff about -- I stretch a lot, I do a lot of drills, and then I'm at a loss. It's choice paralysis in part; there are an infinity of things I can do, so how do I choose? But it's also a matter of cognitive dissonance.

I used to dance a lot. My mother and her sisters took a lot of dance classes when they were kids, and it was one of the few after school activities whose cost she never bitched about. My sister and I had a long string of group, semi-private and private lessons while were growing up. My grandparents had framed photos of each of us in recital costumes up on their wall -- me in a star-spangled leotard with a foofy headpiece and an enormous tulle frill on my butt that would have made a showgirl proud, and my sister in something that involved a lot of sequins and a blue tutu that was almost bigger than she was.

I had to quit when I went off to college. I couldn't afford to pay for lessons on my own, and the performing arts program at my alma mater was full of a lot of people who were mistaken about their chances at fame, to put it mildly. The music department was the same. I tried to take beginning guitar once -- you know, 101, the big group class were everyone sits around in a circle and has the idea of C ground into their heads for three weeks before moving on to the exciting new concept of G? And I was told that unless I was a music major or a music minor I should quit wasting their time.

I volunteer at the studio in Cambridge in exchange for time, essentially. They were the first place that came up when I looked for "free dance lessons" on Google, and they're a co-op with a work-study program. I can book a studio for the aforementioned faffing about, and I've done it a few times, but it never really works how I want it to.

I keep wanting to capture the particular feeling of a motion I've seen. So I'll go through motion A that I think will produce the sensations that watching that step evoked, I'll run an internal check and figure I look like B, but then I'll catch myself in the mirror, and I immediately conclude that what other people will think of that is more like C. Nothing meshes, and I grind to a halt. A minimum of one of these assessments is very wrong, I don't know which one(s), and I have no ready way to fix it.

I'm shit at abstract orienteering directions, but I normally have a rather good sense of my immediate space. I used to go bananas when I was restocking things at a department store and they rearranged the pegboard full of hosiery, because the way I did it so fast was to pick up the hideous puce argyle knee socks and bring up the muscle memory of having found their tag down at knee level to the left last time. I don't generally trip over myself, I can walk in runway stilettos (and run in less ludicrous heels), I can both catch and throw things with reasonable accuracy, and I can flip pens around without dropping them. Why my 'dance sense' is so badly off is a mystery, but it's incredibly disconcerting, and when it goes on long enough, also very distressing.

The only way I have ever figured out to fix this is the exact opposite of the thing most dancers do, and the exact same way as I learned to cope with my modeling proofs: I convince myself the image I'm looking at isn't me.

I don't like pictures of me. Or, rather, I don't like when someone attempts to take a picture of me, because while I'm perfectly groovy with being me when I am in my head looking out, I don't think it comes across all that great on film. My modeling photos come out well, because they aren't pictures of me -- they're pictures of a character, or a concept, or a mood, or a moment, that I have pulled up and am conveying for the photographer and the audience. That is the skill people are actually paying me for when they hire me to pose. Otherwise, I'm just some rando in front of a camera, and if that's all you want, you can find them much cheaper in the nearest college bar.

Some of my port pics look like me as I am in real life, but most of them don't. When I first started doing this, looking through proofs -- the whole run of hundreds of pictures, including the 95% that the 'tog doesn't use because the light was wrong or the prop was crooked or the model blinked weird -- was a disaster, because I kept trying to assess all of the disparate images as myself, and Jesus, it was a terrifying, soul-shattering trip into the Uncanny Valley. It can be surprisingly difficult to take photos that don't look like distorted messes; three dimensions do not necessarily translate very nicely into two.

What I had to do was stop trying to parse the image I was seeing as if it were my body. I had to stop parsing the image as if it were a body, in fact -- it had to become a collection of lines and shadows and shapes before I could make any kind of reasonable assessment of how the proofs had come out, where 'reasonable assessment' is pretty much any assessment other than JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH BURN THEM ALL. I still don't exactly jump for joy when I have to shuffle through raw shots -- I try to get the photographer to do it whenever I can -- but it's tolerable now, and I can do it if I have to.

And so it is with dance. I can do anything I want if I can manage to knock myself into a head-space where I consider the creature in the mirror to be a collection of curved solids that I can control from some monstrous plugboard in the back of my head. Tugging wires, lifting strings. The rules of performance are different from the rules of real life; I can do a lot of things for an audience that I couldn't initiate by myself. I need a spectator.

I might also note that all of the above is probably super-special strange for someone with an anxiety disorder. The symptoms of panic attacks commonly include an element of depersonalization, which is what I'm attempting to do on purpose here. My panic attacks do no such thing. I wish they did. It would be rather handy. I tend to want to punch people who suggest I deal with anxiety with 'mindfulness'; I am mindful about 451% of the goddamn time, because that is the only way to do the Sherlock thing with any accuracy. The switch is quite broken, and in the on position.

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