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Everything Hurts and I'm Thriving

March 7, 2019

Ruth Bieber-Stanley ’21

Movement has always been important to me. Anyone who’s read this blog before (or who knows me personally) will know that during high school I danced semi-professionally in a local ballet company in my hometown of Albuquerque, NM. My weekly ballet classes were hard, rehearsals were long, it wasn’t unusual for me to go to bed with aching (and/or bleeding) feet and wake up the next morning still hurting, but dancing in performances was where I found the most joy during my pre-college life. When I got to Oberlin, I knew that I would really miss dancing and performing the way I did in high school, but I was also excited about the opportunities I would have to try new dance forms and new ways of moving. 

My first year at Oberlin, I was able to take a Contemporary Dance course in the dance department, but sadly I haven’t been able to take a class since due to scheduling conflicts. Besides working with the Girls in Motion after-school program, which helped me (re)learn how to ~get goofy~ with my body and my movement, my first year I also took both of the swing dance excos. I went to dances almost every weekend, and I was able to attend a swing dance workshop during Spring 2018 for free (read about it here). I was also lucky enough to get to perform in a ballet piece in Student Dance Showcase that same semester (I also wrote a post about that experience). So, while I miss ballet and performing a lot, I have been able to try new things and keep dance in my life.

This semester, I’m doing even more to explore different ways of moving and to push myself to try new things that scare me! Over the summer, I started rock climbing after my younger sister harassed me endlessly and I gave in. Despite my fear of heights, muscled, ropy climber folk, appearing weak, and just the general intimidation factor that comes with entering a large gym full of outdoorsy people who are way fitter than I will ever be (among these, somehow, my elementary school crush, senior year English teacher, and also like between 2 and 9 other people I know because Albuquerque is just like that), I started to go a few times a week and got really addicted. I’m not the best climber, and I get really frustrated at times when I can’t get a move or a climb. There is something that feels so visible about climbing, and even though no one cares even a little bit about how I’m climbing, it’s hard to be “bad” at something when it feels like other people are watching, for me at least. However, I LOVE the mental challenge of climbing and I’m stubborn and self-competitive enough that I kept going. This year, I started going to the Oberlin climbing wall more and more, a cozy yet fun space in Philips Gym. They have free gear rental for students, and my going there was further incentivized by the fact that one of my best friends works there (hi, Piper :) ). The wall also has a women and trans night on Mondays, which I really enjoy going to, because generally it is less crowded and is a very supportive and kind space! This semester I’ve been climbing at least once a week, and even though I still can’t do very difficult climbs, I have a lot of fun going and challenging myself (also, I’m getting really strong. Having toned deltoids is like…super empowering). 

Besides climbing, your average gym workouts, and biking and walking around campus for exercise, I’m also taking two movement-related excos this semester! The first one is Intro Tap! I’ve studied a lot of dance forms, including ballet, jazz, modern/contemporary, swing dance, and African dance, but never tap. I love the feeling of internalizing a rhythm, and playing with musicality and phrasing was one of my favorite things to do in ballet class once I got to a higher level. We’ve only had a few tap classes so far, but I LOVE IT! I love watching Broadway and musical-style choreography, so I’m excited to dip my toes (so to speak) into a new dance form. The best part about tap is that both the Intro and the Continuing Tap excos get to perform in the Student Dance Showcase each semester. SDS is a student run performance separate from the dance department in the college, where all the student dance groups get to strut their stuff: it’s an absolutely amazing show with performers ranging from urban dance and hip-hop to Rapper Sword Dancing. I got to be part of the show last spring, and I’m so excited to be in it again! 

The second exco I’m taking is Tumbling (or TumbleCo) taught by fellow blogger Teague! Every Sunday night the group sets up huge blue mats in Hales Gym and works on tumbling and tricking skills for two hours. The first few weeks were really challenging, but now I’m getting more used to the set-up of the class, and even though I have so much to learn, I look forward to it every week. This past weekend the Tumbling Club hosted a local tricker for some workshops. I was able to go to a few of them, and now I can do all sorts of fun new things like tornado kicks and round kicks and sweeps and butterfly kicks and blaster scoots (yes, this is a real name of a real thing that I can do). I have a lot of goals in tumbling now, and it—like climbing—is addictive. Every time I see a new thing I want to try it! 

As a result of these new fun ways of moving: tapping, climbing, tumbling, it is not unusual for me to be sore for literally the entire week. By the time I finally get to Sunday and am feeling better, I go to tumbling for two hours and wake up the next morning sore in places I didn’t even know had muscles! But I love it. I love feeling like I worked, and tried something new, and that I’m getting stronger because of it.

Both of my excos, but particularly tumbling, have been really good for me so far because I tend to be perfectionistic and get easily frustrated when I can’t do something right away. Movement has been a really safe place for me to try new things and challenge my perfectionism. It is familiar enough that I can pick things up at a reasonable pace, and fun enough that even when I can’t do something as well as I want to, I am determined enough that I will try again and again until I see improvement. I still struggle with being patient with myself and with feeling like I am not good at something (especially when I feel other people are watching me). But taking excos has been a great way for me to paradiddle, shuffle, tumble, or cartwheel my way out of my comfort zone. 

TL;DR: I love moving, and excos are providing me a wonderful space in which to do so! I highly recommend the practicum-based excos to every Obie, present or future. They are a fun way to challenge yourself surrounded by other supportive people who are doing the exact same thing. So go forth, move that body in the ways that you can with your wonderful, unique self, and let me know if you want to come climb, tumble, dance, or fly with me. I will (almost) always say yes. 

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