The concept of Retrograde has followed me for the past six years, occasionally brushing up against me if I pause for long enough, taking my breath away and forcing me to accidentally grasp onto a greater understanding of myself as I try to catch it again.
I took a Philosophy of Science class my sophomore year of college, which always surprises me when I remember it because the majority of my undergraduate studies was a blur of English literature, Spanish language intensives, and poetry workshops. This class was one of those surprisingly enjoyable ones that you only get the opportunity to take when you’re trying to fulfill a science requirement that falls outside of your normal study ( without taking an actual science class ). At one point in the semester, we spent an entire class period discussing retrograde motion and how it had stumped astronomers in their models of the solar system for years. Retrograde motion is a phenomenon that occurs when two planets orbit the same sun at different speeds. At some point, one of the planets will pass the other, but for the short time the two planets are within the same sections of their orbits, it creates the illusion of the other planet slowing, moving in the reverse direction, slowing again and continuing ( at different speeds, in differently sized orbits ) in the same direction.
For me, it became this fascinating idea of returning to something again and seeing it from a new angle or experiencing it a new way. Life is full of patterns and cycles and not everything is carefully aligned, but if you pay attention closely you notice that sometimes people, things, ideas, and events reoccur as if drawn to you by magnetic force. I didn’t cling to this concept in some sad attempt to explain away something in my life, it worked its way into me. After that unit, I forgot about retrograde motion until it would creep up and surprise me with something I had experienced before. I used it as a theme in my poems and short stories for several workshop pieces. I even experienced it in my own relationship, my travels to Spain, and my connection with dance.
I danced from the time I was four years old all the way through high school. When I entered college, I knew I did not want to pursue it professionally, so I thought I would be done once I entered college. But something that had been a major part of my identity for 14 years is not something you can easily shed, so a semester later I joined a dance student organization that helped me continue my love for dance until graduation.
This time it took me three years. Dance is not something that’s easy to pursue in the adult world, at least not the kind I want. I finally found a studio here in Portland that offers drop-in classes for adult dancers who are looking for something more than just a “hip-hop sweat-it-out booty workout” cardio class. And last night I finally worked up the courage to go.
After three years, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. Yes, I’ve kept my flexibility up somewhat through yoga and endurance through running, but it’s not even close to the same thing. However, I went to that class and the music played and my body craved the movements, breathing in the notes and exhaling the steps almost by instinct. Each time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I was amazed to see how comfortable and natural I looked in these movements. I felt at home and I felt alive and before I knew it the hour was over. I returned to my car in the Portland rain to make my way home, crying and laughing and touched and full, remembering all my “last dances” and knowing that this was not one of them.
Glowing and tingling, I went straight to my laptop when I returned home to find the song that had just reintroduced me to a piece of myself I thought I had let go three years ago:
“Retrograde” by James Blake