Reclamation: A movement-based exploration of the individual and collective narrative of apology in women
Personal experiences with body image dysmorphia and an eating disorder necessitated that I do a thorough investigation into why they happened and why I felt this way about my body. For this project, not only was I motivated by my own struggles, but I noticed that these experiences were shared among my family, my friends, and my fellow peers in the dance community. We had been struggling since childhood. I began to realize that these behaviors and thought patterns were manifestations of apology, an apology that women have been learning, living, and spreading since our beginnings. Why do women apologize? How does this apology affect how we view, treat, and navigate our bodies in space? In what ways can dance be the mechanism by which we remove apology and individually and collectively find joy, freedom, and liberation? Not only was I interested in understanding the ‘why’, but I was deeply interested in finding a solution. Research for this thesis came from written materials, stories that the dancers and I shared, and choreographic research in the body. The final goal was to create a community-based performance of dance, spoken word, and storytelling that demonstrated the findings from each of those questions and catalyzed a conversation about how we can liberate ourselves. We used rehearsals to explore our own experiences within apology and shame, while also exploring how the ways in which we practice being unapologetic in the dance space can translate to how we move through the world on a daily basis.
Through a deep analysis and application of Sonya Renee Taylor’s book The Body Is Not An Apology, I discovered that apology is learned. We learn how to apologize through body shame, the media, family/generational trauma, and government/law/policy. This apology is embodied through gestures, movement patterns, and postures, such as bowing the head, hunching the shoulders, and walking around others. Apology causes us to view our bodies as things to be manipulated, discarded, and embarrassed by. After recognizing why we apologize and how it affects our bodies, we can then begin to think of how to remove it. Because the body the site of the problem, it is also the site of the solution. Dance gives us an opportunity to deeply learn our bodies, to cultivate their power, and to heal from their traumas. By being together in community as women, we are able to feel seen and supported as we work through uncharted territory of being free from apology in these bodies. By dancing in ways that allow us to take up space, to be free, to be unapologetic, we use dance as a practice for life. Through transforming ourselves, we begin to transform the world and rewrite the narrative of how we exist in and move through our bodies as women.