I started dancing in the summer of 2008.

There is a huge Deaf community that loves to go line dancing, and I went with them.  While many Deaf people love to dance, especially in clubs where the music is loud-loud-LOUD so that we can feel it, line dancing is also fun for Deaf especially because it does not depend on hearing the music and is predictable in the steps.   Some of my Deaf friends are AMAZING at line dancing, never missing a beat and even famous at the Tulsa clubs for doing the line dances so well.

I, however, was not awesome at line dancing.  I could follow, and it was fun, but it was not my thing.

An interpreter told me about ballroom dancing.

I laughed at her.

I am a giant whale.  Giant whales do not ballroom dance.

That’s what I thought at the time, which was ironic because it was before I got sick and so I had lost 80 pounds and kept it off for five years and was the healthiest of my life.  But I was healthy and strong, and I was looking for another activity to stay healthy and strong besides just my mornings at the gym and my evenings at the river.

I never agreed to ballroom dance.  I remembered stories my mother tells about being in dance when I was a toddler, and how the whole class did their little toddler dances, and I just did my own thing in my own world.   Yes, me in my own world, if you can imagine that.  So if I could not do it as a child in formal classes, I knew I could not do it just for fun as an adult.

But this interpreter friend, Diana, tricked me into it.  She invited me to watch a class she was going to help teach at Ballroom Dancers of Tulsa (BDT).  They let me sit on the stage, leaning against the speakers so I could feel the music while I watched the class.

That was the moment I fell in love with dance.

It was an accident.  I fought it.  I tried to ignore the arrow, but it was love at first sight.

I started going around town to all the places I could find, taking the cheap classes just to learn some steps.  I had to learn by watching, and it was hard because the teachers often showed both the wrong way and the right way, and sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.

But the people in the classes were sweet and kind and hospitable and patient, and taught me even during the classes with the teachers also teaching me.  They practiced with me, encouraged me, and became my friend even when we did not speak the same language.  It was amazing, and made me love dance even more.

I began to swim in dance, and loved it like I had never loved anything before.

It surprised me, because I would have never-ever thought I was a dancing kind of girl, or that it would be fun for me.

But it was, for the first time in my life, something I was *not* good at, something that did *not* come easily or naturally to me, and something I did not have to be perfect in… and so it was very, very good for me.  Because of this, I found it the most challenging thing I had ever done, but also the most relaxing thing I had ever done.  Every lesson, class, or practice dance drove me to work harder, but each dance made me love dancing even more.

I loved it.

I finally became such a fanatic that it was time to get serious, and I wanted private lessons.

I called all the studios in the Tulsa area, and only Allstar Ballroom Dance was willing to talk to a Deaf girl via relay.

This is how my teacher, Jon Hamilton, and I spent a year dancing around his studio along with my interpreter, KT.  It was the three of us making the rounds of that studio.  KT ran along to keep up with us, interpreting Jon’s detailed instructions, and my brain hurt with taking it all in.  By the end of the first year, I could at least dance all the basic dances at a very basic level, and Jon knew enough sign language we didn’t need an interpreter for my private lessons anymore.  It was amazing.

I only wanted to learn to dance for fun, but Jon always says that we learn better if we have a goal or project we are working on, so slowly my “social dancing” shifted into “competitive dancing”.  I learned my first routines, worked on the Peabody, and rehearsed dances for competition.

That’s when I got sick.

I was on mostly-bedrest for a year, fighting for my life, and missed more dances than I can count.  Sometimes I went, just to lift my own spirits, because I loved dancing that much.  But at some point, missing so much began to make me sad and it was harder and harder both physically and emotionally to keep going when I could not dance.

When I was better, I was very glad to get back to dancing, even if I had to start over.

Excepting then came my cochlear implant surgeries, which were six months apart, which means it has now been another year.

So this is me, starting over again for the fourth time.

Excepting I love it that much.

And I have missed it.

My mother was saving dance shoes for me on her DVR thing-ey, and I told her I didn’t want to watch them because they made me sad.  That led to a conversation that helped me see how much I missed dancing, and that it would be good and healthy and right for me to go back to dancing.  I am well now, and it is time to get back to dancing.

And so I went!

Thursday nights are the regular “practice” dances, with a monthly Saturday night dress-up dance.   BDT has Saturday night dances, too, including one this weekend, and so that is another time for dancing.   I haven’t been in ages because of all this health drama and time I spent with friends instead of dancing last summer and fall, while adjusting to being on my mission and enjoying their company.  So my mother was right, and it was time to reclaim me, my health, my enjoyment-ness, and dancing.

So tonight I went!

And it was amazing!

It was the first time I danced with BOTH cochlear implants working to where I understood the sounds I heard.  Sometimes I could even chat with whoever I was dancing with, understanding both them and the music that was playing.  It was surreal!  It was amazing!  What a gift, what a miracle.  I got to dance many dances several times: Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Swing, and even one Tango.  Oh, it was amazing!  To hear and feel the difference between the dances, understanding the words of the songs, understanding the chit-chat of my friends as we danced – to me it was such a miracle!

I got to see my ballroom dance friends, and I have missed them so much!  They have been so very good and kind to me, and I do not know where I would be without the support of that community over the last two years.  And tonight, they welcomed me back with open arms and one dance invitation after another.  It was good to be back!

My dances tonight were all little warm-ups, like memories from a dream last week, with my body trying to remember what it knew a year ago.  I remembered more than I thought I would, and was even proud of a few tiny things that I did well because of all the time we spent on those specifics in lessons over that year.  But everything else was sloppy and choppy and a mess, like a dance slacker who hasn’t been dancing for a year.  That’s the starting over again part.

But it’s okay.

Because I went.

And I did it.

And I had a blast.

It made all those days of running worth it, and all the days of cardio and weights in between running days worth it.

Being able to dance and keep up showed me how much healthier I am than before, and that I am really well.

The euphoria and good-brain-chemical-juice that flowed through me conquered whacky-ovary-pain, and left me laughing in delight… delight, I say.

Oh, it was amazing, and it was very good for me.

They are already saying if I stay well, that I could compete in November, or February for sure, but we will see.

They say it will help make me strong and stay healthy and well.

They say having that goal will help me work hard and remember fast and move forward better in my learning.

Mostly they are being nice and welcoming, which I think is part of what makes dancing so relaxing and fun.

Mostly I just love dancing with all of my heartz.

Even if I am not very good at it.

And I mean that as an honest assessment, not as self-disparagement.  It just is.  But I think that’s part of what I love about it, because even when you are making progress, it doesn’t necessarily get easier.  There is always a challenge.

Isn’t that what mortality is all about it?

I am so glad to be back, so glad to be healthy and well, so glad to be dancing.

Oh, I do love dancing!  Really, really!

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


#Dance — 2 Comments

  1. Emily, I wonder if you know what you’re doing when you write. Everything I read makes me feel more endeared towards you and I just want to put my arms around you and give you a big hug (either a happy one or a sad one). And I have to say, I’m not a “touchy-feely” person, which means that I love you. Ugh, I’m so girly in my old age.

    Anyway, I love dancing too! And one of my goals in life is to learn lots of Latin dancing, so now I know who’s gonna teach me