By Kibi Williams - Brown
My relationship with space is best described as a journey through realizations of the self and at worst an uphill battle. I am Black and I am a woman and have, in many coded ways, shapes, and forms been taught to shrink and remove myself from space. My ability to move through space, both physical and mental, is something that has always been heavily policed.
Many of these dynamics from my social life are repeated if not intensified in my dance life. Growing up, dance was something that I loved but caused me a lot of anxiety. I became obsessively aware of and self-conscious about my body and the space it occupied. As a result, I shrank. Because I felt so hyper visible in studio spaces and on stages, I tried my best to make myself as small as physically possible, especially in terms of the way I moved through space. One day in class, my ballet teacher came up to me, grabbed my leg and yanked it up to my ear. She looked at me and, quite matter-of-factly, said “your leg can reach here, so get it up there.” I would love to say that from that point on I leapt and extended my limbs and twirled about as great as I possibly could, but in reality it took a long time for me to realize that that moment was a catalyst of the process of renegotiating my mind into developing a healthy body image and my body into developing healthy relationship with space.
At present, there are times when the wide open spaces of the studios in Kenyon Hall make me feel exposed and vulnerable. Some days, I feel trapped and overwhelmed and leave ballet class immediately after barre. But, on my best days I feel alive and real and radical when I move my body in space; whether that space be the studio, on stage, at parties or grooving silently with headphones around campus. At this point in my life I think I’ve reached a place where I find it hard to separate my perception of the world and the energy I put into it from how I chose to move through it. There is a quote by Judith Jamison, former Alvin Ailey dancer and artistic director. She says, “Dance is bigger than the physical body. Think bigger than that. When you extend your arm, it doesn't stop at the end of your fingers, because you're dancing bigger than that. You're dancing spirit.” I read this quote so vividly in my mind because I think Jamison quite elegantly but so simply articulates dance into a metaphysical existence.