As I struggled to get up, my body trembled. I still had no clue what had happened, I was just in fear. Fear that I had used my own hands to destroy my career before it even began, fear that it was all over. I had been on the floor for 20 minutes, petrified. I tried to stand but the fear didn’t let me. Somehow, staying on the floor seemed safer than finding out what had happened. How was I so stupid? Why did I think I would be able to do that?
I laid on the floor a little while longer, my heart was racing. What if I never dance again? What if I just ended my career? I closed my eyes trying to recall what I had just done. My heart dropped. What a dummy you are! Slowly picking myself up, I got up, hands first, putting all my weight on my arms. My stomach was filled with butterflies, my heart was beating faster than ever before. Finally, I stood up and started moving my body, slowly checking and hoping for a miracle. I started walking around, taking slow and steady steps as if the heaviness of my step would determine whether I was injured or not.
After a few minutes of gently moving around and not finding anything broken or misplaced, I exhaled a long breath that I didn’t even know I was holding in. I was too scared to complete my training for the day. I just went to bed, hoping that I was perfectly fine. To this day, I cannot, for the life of me, explain what had happened that day, I am just grateful to have walked away unharmed.
I woke up the next day and got ready to train. I, very gently, had my ballet class. I didn’t push myself, I didn’t try to execute it perfectly. I just wanted to get it over with. My body was calm and steady but my heart was beating so fast I could hear my own pulse in my ears. It was time to stretch. I didn’t know where to begin. What if I got injured for real this time? I couldn’t take that risk. I’d just skip today. One day turned into a whole week. I had started to ignore my stretching routine. Whenever it was time to stretch, I would replay the whole scenario in my head and literally feel the incident happening again, from the crack to the fall.
Weeks turned to months and I am fairly certain that at that point in my life, I wasn’t able to do the splits. The splits are the most basic show of flexibility and I wasn’t able to do them. I wasn’t bothered though. I had somehow blocked out the feeling of drive and passion. What was the point anyway? I would only end up hurt...
I stopped stretching. I would only do the basic ones that require little or no effort. Physically, I wasn’t hurt by that incident but my mind was scarred. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Better to stay safe than to get hurt. I thought I was protecting myself from hurt, but I was preventing myself from improvement. My mentality was this; if I didn’t stretch, I wouldn’t get hurt. So no stretching for me. Ever. After all, I wasn’t part of the lucky ones who started dancing at three years old, maybe I wasn’t meant to do this. Accept your fate and move on with your life, Ijay.
The more I watched videos of other dancers stretching or flaunting their flexibility, the more scared I got. The fear fueled other aspects of my dancing. I focused more on technique. Trained harder, scored routines and some companies’ repertoires. Thankfully, flexibility doesn’t really matter in contemporary dance, or so I thought. My training got more intense. I focused on my turns and gave it my all. You could equate my situation with a girl who just had her heart broken, looking for a distraction in hopes that it would heal her. It didn’t. It never does. Delving more into technique only showed me how much I needed flexibility. The more I studied other aspects of dance, the more I realized how everything was intertwined. I needed flexibility more than I thought I did and the mere thought of that made me more depressed than ever because somehow, I had convinced myself that flexibility was not for me. So if flexibility is not for me, what am I even doing?