I stand in the shadows, taking a quiet moment in the wings before the curtain rises and I step into the spotlight. A hush falls over the audience as the lights dims, only their breathing rises and falls in anticipation. The first notes of music begin to play, I take one final breath, rise up on my on my toes and move into the spotlight on my little string of pearls. This was the beginning of my life on the stage. I was born to perform.
The first stories I told were on the stage. A Saturday morning arts class when I was four years old introduced me to ballet, tap and theatre, and I was infatuated. I have spent most of my life on the stage. Ballet was my first love, but I adored all forms of dance, and I learned as many different styles as I could – salsa, ballroom, belly dance, flamenco, swing. From dance I twirled my way into acting, and that became my new focus, but I always returned to dance – and then a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis changed my choreography.
RA messed with my voice, sometimes making it a little gravely; it changed how I moved, interfering in all those intricate dance moves I executed so effortlessly. Inflamed, painful joints sapped my energy and slowed me down, but RA didn’t stop me from doing what I loved, it simply forced me to transform the way I did it.
The wonderful thing about creativity is it comes in many forms – writing, painting, knitting, weaving, acting, dance, woodwork, metalwork, pottery – these forms can work and blend with each other, so if you lose one, there’s always an alternative. My extensive dance training was a base that I could use to help me keep dancing with RA.
In my latest essay with CreakyJoints Canada, I write about how I keep dancing with RA.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.