It’s a funny thing to have a body that makes people cry...
At the end of Everything That Rises Must Dance we each had the chance to find the audience member with the corresponding number to the one pinned to our chests.
For me 149, and it was a really beautiful thing, this interaction. Different every time depending on the person, our moods, the struggle of finding each other, or not.
Anyway, on this performance (not the one pictured, but the one before this one), I had trouble finding my person. As I came down the stairs for the fourth time I saw a little boy at the bottom looking at me, hopefully. And yet, I sensed the fear as soon as I saw him. It was there in the little edge at the sides of his eyes as they caught mine and quickly looked away, the quiver in his lip.
It turns out that he wasn’t my 149 person, but still a person, full of curiosity and interest. And he had been looking for me. Looking for me because he had, at the age of 7 or 8, understood that his fears may be unfounded. When I had walked out to perform he had been filled with a mixture of really very complex feelings, scared for himself and sad for me. He didn’t know how to react but cry.
As his mum recalled the moment he realised I was in need of sympathy I found myself putting on the familiar ‘BUT LOOK HOW FINE I AM’ jacket. Zipping the well-rehearsed words out of my mouth as I hugged him and smiled, ‘but look how cool my legs are, I’m bionic, like Iron Man, touch them if you want, look, look, look, feel’.
I think most disabled people have felt this desire to make non-disabled people comfortable. To relieve fear by making inspirations of ourselves. I don’t blame this little boy, of course I don’t. He’s learnt at such an early age that disability equals tragedy.
But what I wanted to say was that I’m a living messy woman. That putting myself in front of these thoughts still scares me. That the complexity of it, of bodies, of political bodies that defy the expectations, defy the structures put in place that say YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH are still rolling themselves around in my own head…the one connected to this body that makes you scared.
That actually I’m no superhero, but also I am, but not because of how my legs look or the carbon fibre finish of them. That I’m just a human being learning to be kind to myself, to dance in any and all of the scary situation, learning, learning not to be scared of myself.