Model: Aruna Advaney
Swimwear: Bisou Bisou
I am a 42 year old autistic woman. After struggling with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome all of my life, I was finally diagnosed in 2010. Due to my autism – among other factors – I’ve been unemployed for a long time. In my isolation and free time, I recently got inspired to revisit my childhood dream of being a dancer. I was specifically motivated by Maroon 5′s Moves Like Jagger and Rihanna’s Umbrella. I’ve given a lot of thought to why I failed at dancing (hence the blog), and now I’m starting to confront all my childhood obstacles with my new knowledge and insight.
I first became interested in the art of dance when I was 12 years old. In 1981, I went to a local summer festival with my mom, and I saw a group of dancers about my age perform in an outdoor recital. I so wanted to be able to do that. My mom enrolled me in Jazz and Tap classes at Golden’s School of Dance in Schaumburg, Illinois. Little did we know that I was doomed to fail, because…being the sedentary kid that I was, I never in my 12 years developed any of the movement skills I needed to learn dancing: flexibility, balance, coordination, strength, agility, and fluidity. Also, I was dealing with undiagnosed autism. These obstacles were not understood…by anyone. All I knew was that I wanted to move as well as the other girls…and I couldn’t. I was very ill-prepared.
We started with a beginner class, but it was too awkward to be the only 12 year old among toddlers. To learn with my age group, the only option was to join an advanced class. I should have taken this first problem as a sign that I was starting a decade too late , but no…I had to jump ahead to this advanced class, setting myself up for humiliation and failure.
The adolescent class was a horrid 2-year experience. I could not even begin to do the stretches. I did not fit in with the other girls, could not keep up with the class – one girl in particular was a bully – and I always felt unattractive and weird. Outside of class, I did not know how to practice by myself, and I went about it all wrong. My teacher kept telling me that I needed to practice my stretches, but the stretching exercises hurt so much, I couldn’t motivate myself to do them alone without any guidance or direction. My mom kept urging me to put more effort, but I didn’t know how. In spite of all these disasters, I did manage to perform in a recital with the class. After lots of fights with my very supportive mom, we finally discontinued the classes in 1983. I felt bad that I could not pursue this dream after all my mom did to support me. She bought me the classes, drove me to them, made my recital costumes, went to my recital and cheered me on. She tirelessly encouraged me throughout the whole two years, and I just could not get it together. Neither of us understood why. I still feel bad.
Now that I have the motivation and insight that I did not have as a child, I want to revisit my goal of becoming a dancer. I’m making the best of the resources I have – cable TV workouts, internet dance lessons, and flow routines – to re-create my body. I’m still figuring out what work needs to be done and for how long, but in reading a lot of discouraging articles, I wonder if I will ever be able to pull off this self-transformation on my own. I don’t have the money or justification for formal training at this age, nor do I care to again be subjected to the possible intolerance against beginner dancers.
As long as I have the time and the space, I may as well keep at my independent efforts at becoming a dancer. If nothing else, I hope that in sharpening my body movement skills, I can give an edge to my Modeling Portfolio should that opportunity ever return.