I realized as an undergraduate that I had an awful memory. Or an odd one. My clearest childhood experiences happened in two places: 1) Inside books–the heavy curtains and windowseat where a young Jane Eyre read were in my mind more definitely drawn than the sequestered nooks where I escaped a houseful of siblings. 2) At dance–I took a thousand ballet barres, struggling with a form unsuited to my form, endlessly and alternately picking myself apart and finding myself in movement: all between sunsets in a long mirrored studio whose wall of windows faced west.
Art-making and art-experiencing were the methods through which I forged my core, my understanding of the world. But knowing this did not immediately lead to the related epiphany: that my books and my body were connected. How could they be? I accepted the common wisdom that dance and writing were entirely separate spheres of action, that my two chosen loves would never meet (wouldn’t they fight over me?). I felt the same way about artistic creation and scholarship; drawn to both, I was convinced that an invisible barrier kept one from the other. My traditional English background, deeply steeped in Bloom’s Western Canon, suggested that crossover projects that melded academic with creative writing made for muddled, watered-down versions of both.
But these tacit prohibitions—between dance and writing, between academia and art-making—they never sat well with me. I kept staring out my windows wondering if there was another way to look at things. I was always a bit contrary, hard-headed, devoted. I blame it on Miss Eyre.