GUEST BLOG: My Journey as a Dyspraxic Dancer

Belle Bluestocking on knee surgery, neurodiversity, and finding your Inner Strength

Belle Bluestocking is a dancer recovering from surgery. In this image, she is pictured outside, in front of a graffitied wall. She is mid-leap, wearing a long-sleeved black dress and black knee-length leggings.
All of our performers have unique perspectives on living with mental health issues and channeling this through their art. For International Women’s Day, we asked members of our troupe to write about womanhood, or their experiences as women. In this blog, dyspraxic dancer and English Literature nerd, Belle Bluestocking, talks about finding her strength through hardship, and rewriting the narrative of being a Damsel in Distress. As a dancer recovering from surgery, Belle knows a thing or two about strength.

I received my trusty copy of Pocket RuPaul Wisdom: Witty Quotes and Wise Words from a Drag Superstar as a gift from one of the most inspiring women I know. I just knew I’d find the perfect pithy summary for what I’m feeling and what I want to share with you all. Namely, that perspective is one hell of a powerful tool. 

‘By changing my own mind, the whole world changed’

RuPaul

I had a bit of a shitter of a year in 2019, the real cherry on top being knee surgery which stopped me walking – let alone dancing – for two months. Being a dancer recovering from surgery is so frustrating. It’s been nine months and I’ve only very recently celebrated my first pirouette on my healed leg (snaps for me!). 

But this unfortunate circumstance prompted me to start questioning my view of things. I had to get over my fear of asking for help, because I needed help with everything. Asking for help is hard for men I know, there’s an expectation that they can handle it all. But it’s hard as a woman because we always feel that we have to prove that we don’t need help from anybody, that we’re not delicate fucking flowers that need protecting. It was so hard being ‘weak’. It was hard always trying to hide what I perceived to be my mental ‘weakness’, but there was no hiding this physical difficulty I was having.

I’ve also finally stopped taking my body for granted. As frustrating as the whole damn process has been, I now REVERE my body and what it has gone through. I’m so grateful I have another chance, to be a dancer recovering from surgery. Now I get up and do yoga every day. Go to pilates every week, even if it means getting up before 6am. Whilst I’m not quite dancing properly again – it’s a bit scary – my body is stronger and more flexible than ever. Someone a long time ago managed to fool everyone by putting out there the perception that women are the ‘weaker sex’. I ask you, what are drag queens doing when they inhabit femininity, but showing how fucking fierce womanhood is? 

Roxxxy Andrews serving burlesque realness

This newfound strength led me on a journey to seek help when my neurodiversity started impacting my work (my day job – and passion – is working as a script editor in TV drama). Dyspraxia is often described as like having dyslexia but with your hands. It means that time management and organisation is really hard, and that you have a poor working memory. I had this awesome consultation with a woman called Lennie from DYSPLA (an organisation that works with neurodiverse storymakers) and she basically called me out. She told me that I hadn’t managed to do everything I’d done in spite of my dyspraxia, but because of it . Yes, there are a lot of things I’ve struggled with, but no one can be good at everything. There are things that I’m good at because I have an unusual way of looking at things. A different perspective. So the least I could do for myself was to reframe my way of thinking

Dyspraxic people are particularly hardworking, empathetic people with strong verbal skills.

Actually, 70% of people working in the creative industries are neurodiverse (this includes ADD, autism, discalcula and discographia as well as dyslexia and dyspraxia). Dyspraxic people are particularly hardworking, empathetic people with strong verbal skills. Because I have depression and anxiety, I can put myself in other people’s shoes easily. This means I can tell stories better. Because I have always felt I hard to work harder than everyone else to keep up, I can persevere and organise my thoughts into enough of an order to write this article. And because of all these qualities, I’ve realised I am pretty strong, and pretty brave, and I can get up on stage and use the amazing opportunity Invisible Cabaret has given me to share my struggles through dance. I’m finding my authentic power as a proudly dyspraxic dancer!

Belle Bluestocking is a dancer recovering from surgery. This image was taken of her dancing at the Invisible Cabaret show at Vault Festival. She is mid-dance here with her arms in fourth position, and one leg extended to the side. She is wearing a white, flowing, Grecian-looking mini-dress, and a gold leaf crown. She has collar-length brown hair. Her eyes are closed and she looks focused and serene. Behind her are several audience members watching on.
Belle Bluestocking

So do yourself a favour, and whether you were born a woman or have become one, change your perspective and embrace your STRENGTH! What makes you different – like being a dyspraxic dancer – is what makes you fucking great. And chances are, you’ve probably heard a small voice inside whispering this to you all along. My friend Jane wrote of this: ‘We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be’. Take a tip from Ms Austen and listen to that voice!  

Listen to Belle talk more about being a dyspraxic dancer, as well as mental health and toxic positivity, on our podcast!

'When I Was a Fig in the Cabaret…' | Toxic Positivity & Dancing Through Life with Belle Bluestocking The Invisible Cabaret Podcast: Mental Health & The Arts

Today we’re joined by dancer and troupe sister Belle Bluestocking to talk about mental health and creativity, and what the two mean to her (kind of our theme, in case you hadn’t noticed). Belle opens up about dancing through her emotions, her beloved Sylvia Plath, and why ‘toxic positivity’ can be damaging to our mental health. Plus, did you know you can have a panic attack from happy excitement? Neither did we. Listen to the end to find out more… You can find Belle Bluestocking on Instagram as @issybee22. NB brief CW at 36 mins  Are you an artist (of any description) with a mental health story to tell? Email invisiblecabaret@gmail.com for more details about how to be a future guest on the podcast. *** Things mentioned in the podcast: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. New York: Harper and Row, 1971 Limón contemporary dance technique, developed by Mexican dancer & choreographer José Limón Martha Graham (American modern dancer & choreographer) Alvin Ailey (American dancer and choreographer) 'Toxic positivity' Digging for diamonds cartoon Dyspraxia – some great support resources on the ArtsMinds website Long-read about dance & mental health ‘I May Destroy You’ on BBC iPlayer ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ on Amazon Prime What to do if your friend has a panic attack *** Be in the next episode of #InvisiblePodcast! Tweet or DM us with what you're grateful for this week, or – better still – send us a voice message! The Invisible Cabaret Podcast is all about mental health and creativity. Invisible Cabaret is a cabaret and burlesque troupe devoted to raising mental health awareness, founded by Rosie Verbose and Ferrero Rochelle. When the world's not in a global pandemic, Invisible Cabaret makes burlesque and cabaret shows all about mental health. Think vaudeville variety, dance, original music, comedy, poetry and more. You can see some clips of Invisible Cabaret in action on YouTube. Mixed by Matt Ennis, www.mennismixing.co.uk Music: Shades of Spring by Kevin MacLeod , available by license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Photo credit: Steve Gregson Photography http://www.invisiblecabaret.org — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/invisible-cabaret/message

Happy International Women’s Day 2020 with love from Belle Bluestocking xoxo

3 thoughts on “GUEST BLOG: My Journey as a Dyspraxic Dancer

  1. A very interesting article the battle between physical and mental health is changing as I know myself. Your all very brave and a great example to many people

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