Once, I heard a young woman speak on television about the danger of pedicures. She had contracted a fungus that caused an infection and she lost all of her toes. Years later, my toes swelled up. They looked like ten lollipops. “There’s no blood reaching them,” explained the podiatrist. I was at risk of losing them. I decided that I would get my blood circulating even better than before. I danced each morning with Pina Bausch. I became her pupil lifting my leg up in the air like a flamingo except feeling more awake than I’ve ever been.
Bausch was a German dancer who created colorful worlds with her dancers who were sometimes mute except for when they were shouting some important scripts. I wanted to yell like them for the blood to flow into my legs and feet. My body curved in many positions until blood recognized where to go.
In my mind, I became a fluid dancer. I gently rocked my body then picked up speed when I ran backwards then fell into a blue velvet loveseat. My toes were always cradled in warmth as the winter became more harsh. Snow fell up to my knees. I couldn’t wear my shoes with batteries to heat up my toes. The snow prevented me from traveling to the local gym. My savior was Pina’s disciples on the screen. Some wore beige dresses, and others wore bright poppy red silk gowns. They released anger by tossing buckets of water down from the edge of a rock. They stood on a subway platform and twirled with a blue satin ribbon with no fear of falling off.
My story is where personal experience meets a fascinating medium of expression/ dance as art form, and as a healing art. As an autoethonographer, I see myself as a living breathing miracle. With many forms of illnesses or injuries in the world we can make use of the arts as a way to heal. I have nothing but love sweet love for Pina. Hence, the poem below and dance video that accompanies this piece are to bring hope to the human race, as to reduce feelings of helplessness in our own medical care. We can fully participate in our care and not only rely on our doctors for all answers. Indeed, they are needed, but we are the first in the line of defense.
Pina Bausch died of cancer in a number of days after receiving her diagnosis. I wonder how modern dance would’ve played a role in her healing if she were alive?
Jerrice J. Baptiste is an author of eight books and a poet in residence at the Prattsville Art Center & Residency in NY. She's published in The Yale Review, Mantis, The Shawangunk Review, Eco Theo Review, and The Caribbean Writer. She's also been a featured poet at the International Women’s Writing Guild.