In My Humble Opinion | Sacred Spaces

 

Sacred Spaces

by Casey C. Davenport

Before performing, I always had to be alone in my space. As a teacher, it’s the same—I need my 15 minutes by myself. The quiet before the storm, I guess.

Before the school opens, I sip a cup of warm black coffee in the still studio. With just a single row of lights on and a piano solo playing softly in the background, I connect to my body and brain as I warm up. I start with trepidation, my joints creaking like an old home. In my head I review the plans for the lessons to come. Sometimes I move my hands with my thoughts and the music. For me, particularly in times of trial, the studio is a safe space—a special place, a church, a sacred space.

As with so many of my fellow dancers, here in the dance studio I found a tribe. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t weird. I was able to live free of fear. I was allowed to explore myself, my thoughts, my art.

Often I am reminded how the studio can be a safe space for anyone. A place of solace, solidarity, and empowerment. A place for creation, for evolution, and for death. A home for ideas. A place where life lessons, art, dance, history, etiquette, and tradition are passed from one to another, elders to youth, like a torch that forever burns.

Years ago, I discovered in dance class a place without criticism and judgment. Here I could explore. Through my movement I could communicate who I was and what I was feeling better than my words ever could. Class was like a warm blanket wrapping itself around me. In that studio space I found a universe of feeling, movement, and safety; it provided me with strength, voice, consistency, concentration, and the empowerment to better myself.

As with so many of my fellow dancers, here in the dance studio I found a tribe. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t weird. I was able to live free of fear. I was allowed to explore myself, my thoughts, my art.

After spending many years since then searching for my true self, I have concluded that this place—the dance studio—is where I am the most “me.” I’ve tried libraries, sports, activities like hiking and fishing, church, youth groups, and family, and none fulfills me the way the dance studio does. What my friends often say they get from Sunday sermons, I get from taking barre or a jazz warm-up.

Now the studio has become a place I go to make a living. As with anyone in any workplace, some days I merely clock in and clock out. Some days in the studio are stormy and stressful. But in those 15 minutes before class, this is my own space where I am safe.

Students I work with often don’t understand my affinity for this sacred space. Perhaps it is their youth or my inability to explain my complex feelings in words. Their indifference is uncomfortable for me.

Too often I see students disrespect the studio space offered to them, throwing about clothes, food, or destructive comments. Some treat it as just another place where they have to be, as though it were a bedroom, a sorority house, a club. Teachers, administrators, and parents can also fall into that behavior.

Perhaps I feel differently because I’m older and wiser—or perhaps it’s because I’m a Portland, Oregon, hippie at heart. Or perhaps it’s because they don’t understand that none of this has to do with a physical building. The safe space was something my dance teachers created for me every time I stepped into the studio.

I’d like to do as my teachers did and pass this space down to a dancer who, one day, will remember my classroom as a sacred space.

 


Casey C. Davenport teaches ballet in the Portland, Oregon, area and is the founder of the Facebook page Ballet Teachers Unite!