Updated: Feb 22, 2021
We are defined by our periphery.
This statement has echoed in my head from my prepubescent years until now, but it is just becoming clear to me who the “we” actually is.
Structuralism as a philosophical theory purports that the way folks move is a result of “invisible” forces and institutions that limit said movements. As a Black woman, I never really noticed that the “we” was not all-encompassing, but that I was becoming aware of the small world that I was sanctioned to inhabit.
Folks who have known me as a young’n would tell you that I loved to dance. Feed me - I dance. A commercial comes on - I dance. No music? And still - I dance.
Yet, my adulthood calls for a different perspective. It now seems this proclivity is a part of a grander chicken- and - egg conundrum: Do I love to dance, and so I weave and react throughout time and space with energy and a body that enjoys responding to its environment? Or has the environment contorted my existence for so long and so thoroughly, that the only way I know how to exist is through a perpetual jig?
My words dance as I enter rooms that have decided raciolinguistically that my language is already inferior. My hair dances away from uninvited touches. My emotions dance within my body and fall out as subversions in mixed company. My teaching is the ultimate dance, as I respond not only to the limitations of institutional expectations, but to the needs, identities and varied pacing that will ensure student successes.
As I reflect on how and why I move the way I do, I realize that not everyone perceives the dance to be so critical to my existence. But that’s a move as well. It’s hard to see the writhing body of another and not turn away. So while we are not all defined by our periphery, we are all subject to local lenses that interpret and commute our full expression in feeble attempts at homeostasis. Therefore, whether your beautiful movements are a release or a reaction, a reflection or a response - dance, I say.
Dance for your lives!
(photo credit: Cree Summer's Insta)