wat’s up? – Adam Sawatsky


The last time I danced publicly, I was passing a kidney stone.

The painful process began while preparing for a Dance Victoria fundraiser. My final rehearsal was cut short so I could rush to the hospital. The doctor said the feeling is the closest a man will get to experience childbirth.

I was working with Monique Salez, who’s now Artistic Director of Raino Dance. She calls my dance debut a “heightened” experience that we should all strive for. Not the pain part, but the opportunity to sense our body’s potential.

Salez says many of us are disconnected from our bodies – just heads walking down the street. During rehearsals, my head was attached to two left feet.

After months of practicing Flamenco, I didn’t get the routine right once.

Before performance day I was terrified of failure. As we were waiting in the wings of the McPherson Playhouse, I wasn’t thinking about my moves or the sold-out crowd, I was consumed by pain.

When we walked on stage and started the routine, something unexpected happened. Just like the movies, everything was in slow motion. The pain was gone. The fear was gone. And I remembered every step.

The feeling was unlike anything else. It was bigger than the rush of adrenaline and wave of goodwill that crashes over you as hundreds applaud.

Salez says I was simply “present” in my body. “You were throwing yourself off a cliff and birthing at the same time. The pain forced you to be aware of your body. You cannot successfully perform if your mind is somewhere else.”

AS: “What do you think the world would be like if everybody danced?”

MS: “A lot healthier.”

AS: “Because we’d be more fit?”

MS: “Because we wouldn’t be so cerebral. We’re all blah, blah, blah. The body holds emotion that is unresolved. In the physical world you can express your fear and anger and sadness. It just releases all those feelings that are held. If you don’t hold on to that, it can’t turn into illness.”

My body stopped holding on to the kidney stone it created shortly after the show. After struggling so much to dance so little, I was left with a new appreciation for what a good performer seems to do effortlessly. Now I sit back and watch dancers work with a sense of ‘wow.’ A lesson learned through feeling ‘ow.’

Adam Sawatsky reports on arts & lifestyle weekdays on ‘CTV News Vancouver Island with Hudson Mack’. On weekends he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.