A Place to Put Our Feelings

By Emmaly Wiederholt

Happy New Year! It’s new, at least according to our calendar. The world didn’t end on December 21st, though I doubt anyone really believed it would end. But with all this rumination on endings and beginnings, I’d like to pose a question: is anything different?

Last month a horrible tragedy befell a community in Connecticut when a shooter killed his mother and the children in her classroom. Shock and pain abounded. I personally felt numbed. The first national tragedy I can recall feeling deeply affected by was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Then of course, Columbine, followed by 9/11. From there it gets a bit fuzzy. Were there shootings in classrooms, movie theaters, and civic centers in the past few years I simply can’t recall anymore to any degree of certainty? I want to reprimand myself. These were people with loved ones, jobs, hobbies, and dreams; have I really reduced them to fuzzy apathy? The honest answer is there is simply too much tragedy, pain, and violence in our world for me to recall more than a few events.

I don’t propose any answers in response to all this. Rather, I’d like to look at the aftermath. Those were real people who were affected, and when all is said and done and the media has stopped covering it and we’ve stopped hollering about guns for the time being, where does all that pain go?


Let’s take it from the top. Happy New Year! It’s a new year. A time for improvement. Let’s get better! At what you might ask? Anything! Let’s get better at taking care of ourselves, at taking care of others, at being more thoughtful, less rash, etc. Need more specifics? This is a dance blog, so let’s get better at dance. Let’s push harder, let’s delve deeper, let’s investigate, and explore, and analyze, and reexamine. But wait, you might ask, didn’t we do that last year? Aren’t we better yet?

Getting better, whether overall or in a particular pursuit like dance is a slippery slope. Who are we getting better for? Who gets to decide what’s better? Ourselves? Our peers? Perpetuity? We artists might claim our lives are at least richer if not better, but I’ve found richness, like improvement, is in the eye of the beholder.


This year I’m canning my elusive enrichment and instead appreciating dance, and art for that matter, for what it unfailingly does accomplish, year in and year out: it’s a wonderful coping mechanism. When we are grieving and the rest of the world has moved on, that grief has a funny habit of making it into art, whether it’s a poem, a dance, a song, or a painting. We’re not necessarily better for it, but perhaps we feel better for it.

I’m not so sure about progress. It seems like there’s an awful lot of ongoing anguish and suffering we inflict upon each other for anyone to say the world is a better place than last year, or last century, or heck, even last millennium. We’re cleaner, warmer, more plentiful, and have cooler things, but we’re still tackling as many heavy feelings as ever. And all that feeling, it goes somewhere.

So this new year, I have a sneaking suspicion there will continue to be pain and suffering. I wish it weren’t so, but humanity’s got a bad track record. However, we’ve got art. We’ve got a way to share our pain with our loved ones, a way to express our anguish, a medium to pour ourselves into. Not all art is sad, by any means. But all art, in one way or another, is a place for our feelings.