Dear home studio,
Before we take the long awaited first step back into the building at Seventh and Market Street, I wanted to take a moment and thank you. It’s been you and me for the past year and half. I wouldn’t say it was always easy. You definitely got in my way sometimes. Your wooden chest loved to jump out when I lifted my leg above 45 degrees and your carpet was keen on tripping me when I least expected it. But you were there, faithful, every day I had the motivation to move. You were sweet to my socked feet and kind to my spine. Not so forgiving to my knees though, but I learned my lesson.
You taught me what it felt like to take class alone. Even though I wasn’t really alone. Without other bodies beside me, the voice in my head got louder. And I listened. You gave me a lot to notice too. Your walls, your floor, your texture in the ceiling. They were there, reminding me to pay attention to the small things I might have missed before: my need to be known, my need to move fully and freely, my need to relearn some things I thought I knew. And my often, sadly overlooked, need to just have fun, to enjoy dancing whether it is good or impressive or even noticed.
Despite your size, you worked with me. You let me rearrange you and entertain you. You watched me try new things. Sometimes I looked like a fool. Sometimes I felt like a failure. But you never faltered. You stayed open to me even when everything else seemed closed. Cut off. Cut short. Canceled. You were there when I was ready. You had to endure some tough blows: every jump, stomp and turn that didn’t end in elegance. But you enjoyed the music. Sometimes it was loud, sometimes it was soft, but you adjusted. You even joined in once and a while, letting the notes resound off your walls, surrounding me in a hum that said keep going. Keep going.
Your table held my computer so carefully during class. It was close enough to an outlet to keep the battery booking, but far enough away for my toes to stay in frame (at least, for the most part). You tried your best to keep a stable internet connection too, and I appreciated that. I know it wasn’t always easy. You weren’t used to having to provide me so much support. But you knew that there were people on my screen that I wanted to see, people in their own spaces with their own reasons for dancing through the days. You knew that I lit up when those little squares were watching me move during class. They were my audience, my rush of adrenaline (along with the occasional onlooker from the kitchen). And they made a difference.
I don’t know. Will performing in-person ever feel the same again? Even when we are unmasked and basked in bright spotlights, I don’t think it will. When something is so long gone it’s hard to forget what it felt like without. Being without one something brings the other somethings into focus. Into thoughtfulness. Into a place where we cannot, should not, forget.
And even in the without, there wasn’t emptiness. We found much more. We found rest. Relief. Old habits. New facets. Fear we didn’t know we had. Hope we never really lost. And you, home studio, I found you. And along with you, the realization that I can dance from anywhere and it can still be intimate. Meaningful. Even fulfilling.
I just wanted you to know that even though I say I can’t wait to get back to people, and studios with real barres, and teachers that can look me in the face, I won’t forget you. The year and half we have spent together, while sometimes draining, even heartaching, helped remake me. And I will be forever grateful.
Erin McKay is an alum of LINES Ballet’s BFA at Dominican and currently serves as LINES Ballet’s Digital Strategist and a contributor to the LINESConnected Blog. Throughout the pandemic, she has been taking LINES Dance Center classes online from her home in the Bay Area.