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  • Writer's pictureEmily Royce

Why Here Right Now

I think I have made a surprisingly small deal out of why I came to this part of the world, why dance, why now. I think it was the perhaps the tenth bewildered look I got that led me to shut down my speech around it. But words are powerful and if I don’t claim why I am here, my purpose will not come through with the same strength that I know it can. It is time to destigmatize it for myself.

I came to grieve. To praise. To feel these two powerful emotions intensely and allow them to flow through movement. In my purest form, I have no other agenda but to experience and feel, to take myself back to the innocence and wonder of this existence. To fall in love with myself and this world. To remember my beauty and power. To claim that I can have it all. And allow my purpose to reveal itself, knowing that at that time I will be at ease with my strength and will take this Universal direction forward with joy and excitement around the vastness of possibility and abundance available to us all.

But when I bring up grief, I am asked who died. And yes, my heavy grief comes from the death of my sister when I was twelve. I did not know how to express the sadness I was feeling in a healthy way and I was not exposed to yoga, mediation or dance. I would not know for nearly two decades how useful these tools would be for me. This is the year I developed the chronic daily migraine I still have twenty-two years later. And I picked up cutting, eating disorders and other forms of self-punishment, sympathy-seeking (which felt like the tender love I sought) and grief avoidance.

I see grief as all-encompassing, perhaps most profoundly expressed with physical death but it comes out with the saying goodbye of anything, the releasing or letting go, any initiation where we are prompted to move on. It gripped me as a young child, maybe around eight years old. I paced worrying about the suffering of the world. I developed some OCD behaviours and a chronic pain disorder that I still carry with me. As soon as we are aware of suffering, we are capable of grief. And we are in need of grief rituals that address this grief. Stuck grief, repressed grief, ignored or belittled grief will make itself known in many ways; disease, pain, perhaps even mental illness.

Because my grief was not given an expression, it picked up speed and manifested as my Multiple Sclerosis. My sight and strength were taken from me. I was forced to seek out yoga and meditation as a survival measure. Forced to love myself enough to self-advocate, leave a toxic job that nurtured shame and repression. Then I was taken through the journey of looking at the ways in which I was comfortable in the physically uncomfortable. How the chronic pain was serving as a mask for the emotional pain I had been carrying for so long. How I was keeping myself sick because I had become to depend upon it and to let it go would involve a voluntary process of grief. I had never chosen grief.

So this year as my marriage ended and I was forced to let go of a love that I thought would be by my side for the rest of my life, I was presented with the painful road of resistance or the unknown road of consenting to grief. I was feeling brave and confrontational so I chose grief. And as soon as I made this conscious, layers and waves and colors and such such hard shit. And so many shadows and things that were painful to admit about myself, harmful things I had done to others as self-protection, bizarre justifications rooted in grief avoidance. It was a dance back and forth. Seeing a little, scaring myself, going into my shell, wanting to open a little bit more, scaring myself again. Until several months later I liked myself more. I had deep love and understanding for all these walls built. For the child, teenage and adult me. For all those who had interacted with me as I went through these stages. For all of it and everything.

And none of this would have happened without dance. I have known how much I am myself when I dance since college. But for all my young adult years I used alcohol as the barrier-breaker for being okay with being myself, being vulnerable on the dance floor, being seen. Then my wife became my safety net, as she can make anyone feel at ease on the dance floor. But as I lost her, and really needed dance to heal from this loss, I went out dancing on my own for the first time. And it was here at Uhuru Africa, and later confirmed in Jean Appolon’s Haitian dance class, that I was going to heal myself through dance. I am talking all of it. The chronic vulvar pain, the chronic migraines, the MS. The emotional pain pattern loop, the anger brewing, the heart defense, the false storylines around not being enough or deserving an easeful, joy-filled life.

I discovered that once I trusted myself to safely go through the process, it unfolded in ways that I could not have predicted. There was beauty in the breakdown. Moments where I cried and laughed at the same time. Spontaneous revelations, vivid dreams. And so many beautiful people were drawn into my sphere. Fairies and witches whose energy I was able to play off of and coax myself into going deeper into myself and this experience. It all led me here to West Africa. There were the signs, my intuition and then the gates just opened and the opportunities were presented to me. All I had to do was say yes and I was provided for.

I most likely will not be a teacher of dance, will not open up a dance school. After this month, I have nothing else planned. I may find ways to keep doing formal dance training or I will allow myself to be inspired and led by other beautiful things, here or elsewhere. I am not worried if I will continue to dance. It is who I am. It is how I express my love and my sadness. It is how I connect to myself and then to others. It is how I choose to live, to dance it all. And what of praise say you? I may speak of grief more but praise is merely the other side of grief. There can be no full expression of grief without it. It is the Hallelujah at the beauty of it all as things crumble. It is the bowing in the recognition of our smallness to these big human emotions and connections. It is the Wahe Guru as I am struck with awe at the multitude of teachers that come forth to bring all my shit in the dark to light. When I dance I am moving my grief by using praise. I am a vodun for the divine. I dance in tribute to my body, my strength, this beauty I am presented with every day. I dance to bring me back into connection to what this life is really about. To heal anything that would tell me otherwise. For me, for us all. That is why I am here.

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