I was being watched.
Not because I was in the midst of performing the mundane task of pouring soft drinks for a table of guests. No-I was being watched by staff members at work because in addition to dispensing a Coke and a sweet tea, I was moving energetically and rhythmically. I was dancing. And I had a captive audience. It was in this moment that I had an epiphany. “I was wrong all those years ago” I thought.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is actually a story that encompasses most of my life and reaches back to my childhood years.
It all began with the creation of my first superhero, the Vacuum-Cleaner Man. Not exactly the most awe-inspiring or fear-inducing name for a superhero, but then, I was only 5 or 6 years old when I created him. Inspired by the amazing Spider-Man, the V-CM was one of my earliest attempts at exploring my artistic side. If I recall correctly (my long-term memory is spotty at times), I designed him with the help of my maternal grandmother (who passed away in the late 90’s; miss you and love you Grandma Greene).
As I got older, I began to collect comic books and became fascinated with copying my favorite characters using tracing paper. Eventually, this led me to try my hand at freehand drawing, though I was hamstrung by my ignorance of anatomy and physiology (leading to some interestingly designed characters). In time, and for reasons I no longer recall, I lost interest in drawing (though I continued to create my own comic book characters and even tried my hand at world-building–the less said about that the better). Since then, I’ve had little interest in returning to the drawing board, so I suspect that was a phase I was going through.
While I no longer had an interest in drawing and thought my days as an artist were over, I did develop an interest in another activity-dancing. Upon turning 21, I became a regular fixture at local gay bars in the small Alabama town of Huntsville, where I could frequently be found on the dance floor. For years, my idea of fun on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night was going to Upscale or the Vieux Carre (or Connections and the Chute in Nashville, TN) and dancing my ass off for hours.I could stay on the dance floor an hour, an hour and half, even two hours straight, pausing only to chug some water or use the restroom. On the dance floor, I felt alive and vibrant, while simultaneously relaxed and at peace. Dancing became an outlet for me-a way to de-stress and temporarily forget any problems or frustrations going on in my life.
When I first started dancing, I danced freestyle. That changed in the early 00s, with the release of the instructional video Darren’s Dance Grooves, by choreographer Darren Henson.
I have fond memories of relocating the living room furniture of my apartment to provide space so that I could practice the moves taught in the video. As I became more skilled, I incorporated moves into my own personal style, which I then brought to the dance floor on weekends. Expanding beyond Henson’s video, I sought out concert videos by artists like N’Sync, 98 Degrees, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and more. The expertly choreographed moves demonstrated by these performers further assisted me in honing my dancing abilities. Don’t get me wrong, though. I was no professional dancer, nor did I ever aspire to be one. For all that I derived much enjoyment from dancing (as well as knowing that I was entertaining others), it was a hobby and nothing more.
Or so I thought.
I no longer think that.
That epiphany I spoke of earlier? The one I had in the wake of my spontaneous dance-fest? For some unknown reason, I had long thought of art as something done by painters, photographers, graphic designers, or sculptors. I never thought of dancing as a form of art (and never bothered to try typing “definition of art” into that newfangled Google thingee). But it is indeed art (performance art, in fact). That moment of clarity made me realize how wrong I was all those years ago: while I may have lost my desire to draw, I never stopped being an artist.