The notion of ‘home’ becomes a rather tricky concept when you find yourself in the midst of your college education. Us college kids will say that we’re ‘Going home for the Christmas/summer holiday.’ Upon finding ourselves amongst our families in the places we grew up, however, we also might find ourselves referring to our college towns–the places where we spend the majority of the year, where we have an entirely different group of friends/families-we-chose, where we actually live–as home. It is a strange place to be, moving between the homes we were born into and the homes and lives we have made for ourselves.
Being a dance major, for me, sometimes makes this dichotomy even trickier to navigate. Because let’s be honest, in pre-professional dance training you often see your teachers and classmates as much as, if not more than, your parents. Those people and that studio can be a massive marker of what ‘home’ is for you–that has always been true for me, who from the age of twelve has quite vocally defined home as, “Anywhere with music, mirrors, good space, and a decent floor.” That was certainly true of Lafayette Ballet Theatre, where I danced as a student company member for my final two years of high school and where I return to take class during school holidays.
Two years since I left the company for college, however, returning to take class has a certain sense of surreality mixed in with the normalcy I have always felt walking into the studio. Same floor and mirrors and barres and art on the walls; same directors, with the same quirks and particularities and absurdly quick petit allegro combinations; even many of the dancers I used to perform with are still there, doing their plies in the same room I left them in. And yet the two years has somehow also changed everything. Some differences are obvious–dancers who have come and gone, new company members who were gangly students when I was dancing here, the exponential growth of certain young dancers who have gone from tentatively feeling out their bodies to fully embodying them. Others are subtler–a new CD for technique class, a pointe warm-up I’ve never seen before that is now referred to as ‘the usual’, the ways the girls I used to see on a daily basis have grown into women.
But, perhaps most striking of all, was the realization of just how much I have changed as well. The minutiae could not be of interest to anyone except me, but the past two years, one in London, one in New York, have helped me to become more myself.
It’s funny, because when you start living away from ‘home’, part of you expects to come back and for nothing to have changed at all, as though there is a time lock on the entire place, preserving it as it was when you knew it intimately and called it, without hesitation or qualification, home. Though you know intellectually that time has passed, going home is made strange when you observe the differences; even stranger is when you observe them in yourself. You might breathe just a little easier when you find yourself once more in the home you have made because there, at least, all the ways you have been becoming seem less strange and more a matter of course. I walked back into Tisch Dance last Tuesday for my first day of being a second year BFA student, and something inside of me settled, never mind that I was utterly confused about the class schedule, had never worked with four of the teachers with whom I was now facing twice-a-week sessions, and was surrounded by more than fifty brand new BFAs and MFAs. I was home, where I knew exactly what to expect in that I never really knew what was going to happen once I showed up.
It’s occurred, of course, that one day I might find myself walking these halls and internally marking the strangeness of being in a place that I once considered home, that I will graduate and move on and this building will still be here, subtly changing with the program and with the students. I have certainly found alumni in the elevators, heading to a rehearsal, remarking on how odd it feels to be back years after graduating. It’s a bit terrifying, I admit, that I only get two more years here.
And that’s okay. Because I have realized that there is a sort of certainty in the act of showing up somewhere every morning and convincing your body and soul that you can get through another class, another rehearsal. There’s a certainty in taking class, in not quite knowing how things are going to turn out on this particular day but listening to your body and finding out. It’s been true of every city or studio I have called home: as long as I am in the practice of moving and of listening, everything will be okay. I do my first plie of the day and the rest of the world quietens. I know I’m lucky that this is true for me, that I can carry my ‘home’ to anyplace that I am able to move. A few of my non-dancer friends have even expressed a modicum of jealousy over it. But I think that everyone should have that, in some form; if we’re not at home with ourselves, then where? And I hope you find it, whatever it is, whoever happens to be reading this. I really do.
So what’s the point of this rambling nonsense? I’m not entirely sure. Just the feeling that, for now, I am happy to be home even as I am missing home.
Here Or Maybe Elsewhere