By Chloe Alcid
(Daloy Dance Artist and Company Member)
Photo by Jovel Bon Llanza
Long before I was dancing seriously, I had alwaysbeen a mover. According to my parents, I fell into the pool during a barbeque when I was a baby and upon spotting me in the pool, they quickly panicked but, just as quickly,realized that I didn’t need to be saved. Somehow, I already knew how to swim.
Throughout my childhood, I loved activities such as swimming, rock climbing, rollerblading and skateboarding and despite being abysmal at any sport that involved a ball, I participated in them all with joy. Dance was a step above the rest and, fortunately for me, I happened to be good at it. However, as I entered my teen years, I wasexposed to the destructive side of dance, riddled with body shaming and perfectionism, which sent me into a downward spiral of disordered eating, unhealthy bodyimage, and poor self-esteem for many years.
Going from being someone who was happiest when I was moving, to someone fixated, 24/7, with being good enough and skinny enough was a transition made through gradual wear and tear. In the dance world, people who would be considered thin by normal standards being told that they’re fat and need to lose weight is nothing to bat an eye at. It doesn’t matter if they’re talented dancers or if they’re literal children. In addition, nonchalant and negative body talk, whether about your own body or someone else’s, is completely acceptable in the culture I was raised in. Even though I was spared from having negative comments directed at me, I began to internalizeharsh critiques that were made towards my friends, and nasty remarks from teachers whose opinions I respected. I was also influenced by listening to people constantly berate their own bodies and demonize food. It was arecipe for disaster and, sadly, I didn’t think anything was wrong with it.
Photo from Chloe’s FB Page
When I went away to study dance in the US for college, my vocabulary and technique flourished and I opened myself up to radical new ways of seeing the world, but the issues I had were still manifesting because I hadn’t done anything to address them. One of my professors had even pulled me aside to question if I still loved dancing and if I really wanted to pursue it. By that point, I had become proficient at not dealing with things and that, like everything else, got swept under the rug. Eventually, there was a growing pile of stuff in the middle of my life I was moving around seamlessly, without ever acknowledging.
Graduation was impending and I would soon have to audition for companies. I had a sinking, unshakeable feeling that I was not mentally in a place where I could succeed as a professional dancer. Yet, I continued doing what I was doing because even though the pile of stuff was starting to back me into a corner, there was just enough space to continue ignoring it for a little longer.
I embarked on my first yoga teacher training programupon graduating from college. What was initially a side hustle endeavor while I began my dance career became the event that forced me to concede that my love for movement was hidden deep in the mountain of problems I had amassed, and what I needed to do, before anything else, was find it. I had lost connection with a part of me that I had practically entered this world with, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Somewhere along the way, I had also lost my sense of gratitude and my faith. I had been taking so much for granted and had sabotaged so many opportunities that I truly wanted to take and relationshipsthat would have been fruitful. I was anxious and angry, I hated my body and I no longer believed in myself. My pursuit of perfection had driven me to a point where, although I still loved dancing, it was no longer making me happy, and I didn’t know why.
In refusing to acknowledge the intuitive voice that had been screaming at me all this time, I was only making thetaxing journey of teacher training more difficult for myself. But the act of suppression has a funny way of inevitably bursting your seams wide open and when that happens, it’s remarkable how the space, both around you and inside you, clears away without so much as an ounce of effort.
Photo from Chloe’s FB Page
So, for 4 years, I stopped dancing and developed ayoga practice. I slowed down significantly and contained my movements to fit within a rectangular piece of rubber and while I was there, the goal was simply to move, breathe and be a witness to the movement and breath. Admittedly, it took me a long time to achieve that goal. Imostly found myself concerned with making pretty shapes with my body and seeking praise from my teachers thanwith the quality of my being inside of those shapes. Every now and then, there were brief moments of striking presence, of noticing how nice it felt to stretch my back or bend my knees—how nice it felt to get out of my head.With time, the frequency of those fleeting moments increased, and the moments turned into minutes. Little by little, things shifted: through learning how to exhale fully, I learned how to let go of baggage. I discovered the ability to see my body with wonderment; to regard it like the intelligent machine that it is. My strength was improving noticeably and I was creating that strength through thesheer will to be at peace with myself. The idea that movement could simultaneously be a source of play, a tool for research, and a place where healing could occur, changed everything.
Photo from Chloe’s FB Page
Much to my surprise, falling in love with teaching wasthe driving force that actually propelled me out of the depths of self-loathing. Holding space and supporting others authentically was only possible if I was making an effort to do that for myself, too. Teaching gave me ameaningful purpose to devote my energy to, with the effects extending far beyond the surface of my skin. I believed in the work, and in my ability to do it well. I went to bed every night thankful that I was doing this with my life. And I still do. Every single night.
The decision to return to dance arose naturally but a year-and-a-half later, hardly a day goes by without an internal struggle. The anxiety that was once so overbearing is still there but the work that I have done to practice loving movement again makes all the difference. There is freedom now to remove myself from the cage of my mind, and for my body to guide the way in constructing new and better paths. When I start to slip back into old patterns, all I have to do is plant both feet firmly on the ground and remember: I have arms that flow to express what’s in my heart, a spine that can bend and twist in all these different ways, strong legs that allow me to jump, fall and stand back up, lungs that not only provide beautiful, nurturing breath, but also help make everything I do that much more powerful. And the cherry on top of it all is that I get to make this, and sharing it with others, my life’s work. How could I be anything other than grateful?
Photos by Jovel Bon Llanza
Chloe Alcid is a member and dancer artist of Daloy Dance Company. To support our work pls follow us on IG @daloydanceco and @daloymovement and on Facebook: Daloy Dance Company