gentle, god-like




eye knew dance forever

eye was three in the studio



pink tights

snatched bun

making friends



a place to wiggle

n run

n take up space

freedom found me in the studio




eye loved it there

where all the girls were

ready to laugh at my jokes

me w my dance bag

ready to whisper


eye kiki-ed w dance

we were homies


dance, my second language

almost my first

show off



even more than the studio made sense to me,

eye loved the stage


three minutes moving

red revlon over vaselined teeth



every tooth showin’

type smile


eye loved dance a long time


before eye started training

before rigor

n class everyday of the week


n u can’t wear that in here

n don’t stop

n don’t rest


and                  what summer program are u going to?



long before eye could put words

to the sensation eye felt in my body


long before the exhaustion mixed w disdain

n self hate

breana looks thoughtfully into the camera. They are wearing black. In the low lit background is a house plant.


dance tried to

rearrange its grasp on me


n eye slipped into the crowd


dance saw me

n eye sped up


walked after me

a couple hastened steps


n eye averted my gaze


pretending eye was someone else

a business major


dance didn’t search for me long


there’s so many of me,

so many hopefuls waiting

in the wings


or so eye was told



near every class


it’s curious

to make a bond


with something,



fall in love



as u are simultaneously told

how expendable u are









for the sake of working

for the privilege


of being told                 no

                                                   not yet

                                                   not enuf




we applaud

the ability

to put feelings aside


not                                           feel



don’t cry in the studio

ignore the menstrual cramps turning u inside out

the strain in ur hamstring

that blister covering the bottom of ur foot

or where the blister used to be

before u did grand allegro


the show must go on                          don’t be daft


perform ill

dance cold

eat later



extend the leg

turn it out




turn it out more


keep the foot pointed



point harder


fully extend thru that leg







                                                                and down

breana is wearing all black and looking toward the light streaming in through the window. Behind them is a houseplant.



dance was chock full of god like figures




folks larger than life



eye stood in awe



hold my wrist



glance             just right



the studio

on a sunday morning



the ultimate site of



and for a time

a site of fasting ritual,                                     purging


what parts of myself

can eye look at today:


the dancer’s eye


what is the difference

between fixating on what is wrong

what can be modified

in the mirror


and hurting one’s self,                                                maybe




one point

in a constellation

of self harm activities

eye employed






two decades later


a certain carriage


way of speaking


holding one’s self

can transport me

back to a room

a place

the studio


that one teacher

a mentor


that dancer eye emulated                                upon emulated

(including the eating disorder)





a workshop

an audition


a number attached to my leotard

(n the run in my tights that eye hoped no one saw)



the barre

under ur hand

the release



the release

n return


place ur hand

but don’t hold on too tight




it took ten years to return to dance

return to movement


eye stopped calling myself a dancer



how could eye live in that space


how do eye go to that place of competition

without imagining my comrade as other

as different

as less than


the breana

that was tired


lacked support


the fourteen year old who walked to the train

to bart

a 45m ride to another county

to walk down fourteenth street

past the gurls finishing their night work

past the folks who worked the corners


thru cold


with a backpack

and a dance bag digging into their shoulder


this was praised

this was the work

the sacrifice


all of the adults around me

expected it

encouraged it

patted me on the back for my ability

to do the hard thing


oh breana wakes up on their own

gets to class


look at that facility

the body


but where is the technique

the strength


hmm I expected …more

I expected you to deliver


long hours

and sleeplessness


being exhausted

n hungry

is a dangerous place

to build the nervous system


a certain type of staccato piano

can create an instant response in my body

A low lit picture of breana smiling. The picture is rotating on its side. In the background you can kind of see a houseplant.




in my thirties

eye have relearned my second language




eye don’t use

the word dancer

even if my training

is forever harboured

in this body                                          stained


usually eye employ some


like movement


never teacher

maybe             facilitator


something that brought me such joy

plugged into deep despair

not instantly

but over time


eye had to grow up

heal up


before eye could find myself

back to the studio



eye feel deep gratitude

for my teachers

the humans that cared for me

as eye was learning to

care for myself


eye found many teachers

that were learning gentleness

tip toeing towards it


but it wasn’t a part of the curriculum

they came up on


they knew tough love

n doing the hard thing


n at times emulating that

has saved my butt


let me be clear

eye am grateful




eye hope to move until my last day

find pleasure n rhythm in this body

w wrinkles on my face

n white in my hair


eye pray for a

relationship to movement

that changes as eye do

n loves me back


a practice where eye am always enuf

n there is always


for gentleness


breana is an interdisciplinary artist, facilitator + healer. they offer movement facilitation virtually and across Albuquerque, NM including at Black Widow Pole Arts + OffCenter Community Art Project. breana serves on the Southwest Contemporary Editorial Advisory Board. their first curatorial work Grief Movement can be found in Encompass opening March 2023 at Harwood Arts Center in Albuquerque, NM.

Note: This poem was first published in Stance on Dance’s spring/summer 2023 print issue. To learn more, visit

One Response to “gentle, god-like”

  1. Ryan Washington

    Loved every word. or should eye say eye loved every word.

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