Dancing with Shadows

“Spring is not the gentlest of seasons. It is as though too much has been waiting to happen; too much suppressed, packed down beneath the earth or pinned above the sky. Green shoots grow sharp and the clouds are unforgiving. Spring can be brutal, breaking open secrets. Dragging into light those things unseen and giving voice to words unsaid.”

– Call the Midwife, BBC

Every spring I expect to jump into the gaiety of the season with a joyful leap and an untethered heart. And then something major occurs. I mean MAJOR. And I’m thrown down the deep well of my own pain, longings, memories and overwhelming emotions. This spring, still healing from this winter’s broken back, I’ve once again been forced to slow down and re-evaluate my life. Everything about who I am and how I manifest in the world has come into question as I let the old me die.

Breaking my back has actually been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. And one of the worst. My dance career, in it’s previous manifestation, is over. I can no longer move with the voraciousness and spirit I once did. I can no longer fling my body around. I have been forced, gratefully, to S L O W down. I have been forced not to override.

To this day, every time I say “I broke my back,” my eyes fill with tears and my heart cracks open a little wider. I broke more than my back. I broke the “I can do it no matter what!” attitude of my earlier years. I broke the forcing myself to push my energy in service of my dancers and my endorphins. I broke a lot of things. When I was fully dosed on pain medication, I felt disassociated from my body- sleepy, dreamy, often depressed, and I was in serious pain. When it was time to start physical therapy and body rehab, it was painful to put my attention in my body. I had changed shape. I ‘d grown rounder and softer. I still am. It seems the body I had, the slightly aggressive and invigorated energy I had, and the desire to conquer- has left.

So now what? Now I go back through the years and collect myself. I pick up the pieces that I’ve shamed, disregarded, buried, and forced into the darkness. I gather the shadows I’ve banished myself into. I begin the process of letting go of the imagined Hannah, the supposed to’s, the “shoulds”, the defenses, the habitual coping mechanisms. And most of all, the regrets. I give them to the earth, and I draw myself home. My tender, vulnerable, “doing the best I can” self.

I have been calling myself home… the 9 year old inside of me who so desperately wanted to be seen, that she dressed up and paraded around and did anything to get attention, and felt like she was wearing a mask all the time. I have been calling home the 11 year old me who was thrust into a new social and educational structure and felt lost, immature and unready. I am calling the 14 year old who didn’t know how to stand up for herself and tried everything she could to simply belong. I am calling the 19 year old me who though I had to say yes to men who desired me, to feel wanted in the world. I am calling home the infant in me, who was born in an emergency C-section and left in the nursery while my mother recovered and my father slept. I am calling home the embarrassed, insecure, innocent, surviving, trying so hard, sad, lonely parts of me, so I can fully embody ALL OF ME.

I dance her gently. Slowly. Carefully.

Pushing against a wall for support, draping myself on the ground, leaning against a tree, rolling on the carpet, face down on the floor. I use the contact between my body and objects to support me, so I can welcome myself home with open arms and, yes, compassion. Even a touch of understanding.

Every night before bed, my son and I have a little visualization we do together, a practice my dear friend and intuitive Carolyn Flyer gave me. We imagine a magnet facing us, pulling off all the energy that is not ours. The germs, aches and pains, and other things not in our best interest. We rocket it into space and explode it. My son loves this part. Then we face a magnet away from us and call ourselves home. Energy we have given away, and most importantly, the parts of ourselves we have exiled. We call back the times we’ve been embarrassed or fearful. We call back any parts of ourselves we’ve disliked or dismissed. Then we take that magnet and put it in our bellies. We are coming home.

When I catch myself listening to old thoughts and stories and feeling shame or regret around something I’ve said or done, or feeling insecure and unwelcome in my own skin, I remember that magnet in my belly. I remember that all of me is welcome. Embodying all of me becomes the most important thing.

I’m slowly shedding the disgust, and seeing the beauty in who I’ve been and the choices I’ve made. It’s hard. It’s down and dirty. And it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, how can I stand by my own side? How can I have my own back? And that, is something, I can’t live without.


Touch the earth with your body. Maybe your whole body. Stand with your back against a tree or flatten yourself against a wall. With this support, say to yourself, “Welcome home.”

Storykeeper: Hannah Kinderlehrer

Hannah’s passion is supporting people’s journey of embodiment. She has studied African, contemporary, contact improvisation, 5 Rhythms and jazz. She holds a degree from Naropa University and has a is certified through the Peacemaker Institute. She has been a student of Shambhala Buddhism for over a decade. After discovering a direct connection between dancing, meditation and happiness, Hannah chose to share that through Awaken the Dance. She also co-leads BodyAlive!: sexuality circles using art and movment for women, offers private sessions and teaches embodiment, sensory exploration and movement to developmentally disabled adults. She lives in Boulder, CO with her enormously talented musician husband and adorably edible son. To learn more about Hannah, visit awakenthedance.com


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