Its that time of year again. The days are cooler, the leaves are falling, and crisp autumn winds are blowing. AKA cue the sweaters and boots. When I think of going to dance class in the fall I imagine myself crawling into my coziest sweater, zipping up my boots, and wrapping myself in my warmest scarf. With my hair pinned up in bun, I’m ready to face the elements and trek to the dance studio.
A vest, sweater, leggings, boots, and a scarf encompass my outer shell as I walk or bike to dance. This armor is necessary to survive through the chill some winds of the autumn season. The transition from place to place is where the elements are most harsh and therefore is often when we are most guarded. The most recent transition for me was from high school to college, from my hometown to a new city, from my family and friends to new faces. No matter how calm, cool, and collected people act, it’s truly a nerve-racking experience for all. So instinctively we put up walls to protect ourselves from the unknown of what is outside the familiar. But these walls can’t stay up forever.
Before class starts, when I’m stretching, I leave on leggings, wool socks, and a sweater. This is the adjustment period. When we arrive to a new place or a new situation, we leave on a protective layer. This layer protects the vulnerable skin underneath. It is not as if we are hiding but rather staying cozy as we adjust to the new environment. Freshman orientation serves a similar service as stretching does. The first week or so of college is a time of testing the waters and trying new things. This period allows us to discover where we will fit in to the larger picture. In dance class while I’m stretching, I’m waking up my cold and nervous muscles and conversing with those around me. As I physically become warm, I also become comfortable with the dance studio and the dancers, allowing myself to shed my socks and sweater.
The next stage is when the class is warming up together; I will wear leggings and a T-shirt, which act as my outer skin. This skin provides a safe environment for my body to move in. After we are first introduced to an environment we start to act like ourselves. A few weeks into college I have become accustom to the people and places I see on a daily bases. We begin to make our normal movements in character but keep the personal, slightly weirder sides, still covered. After dancing along with others, I make connections and feel a sense of communities. The college environment that was once a foreign place to me, now feels like a community. I can see where who I am and my talents can fit into the community. I feel ready to let down the final wall.
It is the middle of class when I notice an ache in my muscles and the sweat on my forehead. This is when I am in my final layer: my leotard and tights. The room is warm and I am constantly moving around. This is when I am most comfortable. When we are truly are accustom to a place, we feel relaxed in our own skin. It is the middle of my first semester at Dickinson College and I am feeling comfortable in my own skin. Just as I get into the rhythm of a song for dance, I have gotten into the rhythm of my life here at Dickinson.
Each layer acts as a wall and although I had many walls up in the beginning, I think it is important to realize that with time those walls came down. We may be guarded to protect ourselves but we also let ourselves be vulnerable at times. Because it is when we are most exposed that we learn the most about not just ourselves but also others. Dance, for me, creates an atmosphere where my walls can come down and I can be myself. My emotions don’t need to be restrained but are actually encouraged to be releases and expressed. So I ease into the process of sharing who I am with others. Brick by brick, layer by layer, my walls come down so that who I am can shape others and vice versa.
This autumn season I will bundle up, but I will also dance free from layers.