Photo by Taylor James, courtesy Dana Wilson

"Dance Is My Time For Make-Believe"

"I don't wanna go to dance!" As a kid, these were my famous words.

When packing into the car for the interminable ride to the studio, I would kick and scream so much that I earned the nickname "The Hornet." I am so glad my parents put up with my sting, because looking back, it was just the going part that I didn't like. The dance part, I loved. I always have.


One of the most resounding reasons I love dance is because I love people. I have always been a people person; I enjoy being around people, people-watching and telling and listening to their stories. I enjoy the feeling of collective energy when I dance–like I am a small part of something big, while simultaneously feeling singularly special.

Perhaps my favorite thing about people is our incredible power and ability to create. Humans have imagination, and dancers have the power to communicate what is imagined. Dancing with Justin Timberlake is a perfect example of this. His music lends itself to a certain mood, and when I'm on stage, it's my job to go beyond the actual steps and take on that essence to transport the audience to a different place.

Photo by Taylor James, courtesy Dana Wilson

This is a magical thing! It takes great discipline and skill to translate ideas into a physical form. But then again, kids do it all the time. I'm a big kid now, but my inner child still loves to play.

Some things never change. I still don't like going to dance–I don't like traffic, waiting at red lights, looking for parking or feeling late (which happens sometimes regardless of how hard I try). These are elements that I cannot control, and they dictate how (and when) I move through space.


When I am dancing, however, I am free of those externalities that confine, regulate and restrict me. When I'm dancing on stage, in a studio or at a party, I feel free. I control my timing, and the texture of my movements, but I also use my imagination to control how I am feeling. It is my time for make-believe. It might be the only point during the day that I am in control of when and how I move through the world.

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TaraMarie Perri in tree pose at Storm King Art Center. Photo by Sophie Kuller, Courtesy Perri

5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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