Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color


We had a ballet recital coming up and the teacher had yet to choose a student for the leading role. “I want you to dance as if you’re a swan taking off.”
I had it in the bag. I’d actually seen swans take off. I took off running across the studio, flapping wildly with my arms. When I reached the end of my runway, I turned on my heel, almost losing my balance, and took off once more. I slowed down when I noticed Liorah executing her version of a swan taking off. She pranced around in circles, undulating with her arms. I was incredulous—no bird could become airborne that way. She also looked extremely silly. She didn’t have a chance.
Liorah got the leading role. I was both disgusted and bewildered. Either I missed something or the teacher did.
I quit ballet.
We talk about losing our voices during our teens. I too lost my voice. I stopped running around, flapping my arms as if I was a swan taking off. I was too self conscious to take up the space to be me.
Forty years after I quit ballet, in the aftermath of the bloody brain, I found my voice, a new voice.
On my last day in inpatient rehab, I performed my grand finale–in front of a stunned audience of brain injury survivors, I danced the grapevine across the gym floor. I started slowly, then picked up the pace with my physical therapist shadowing my every step. When I came to a lurching stop, he grabbed me, preventing me from falling.