I often start my articles by describing where I am. Geographically, physically. Often, the first paragraphs I write are discarded by the time I finish editing the finished piece. For any long-timers reading my work, you may remember that some of these first paragraphs have indeed made it into published articles. I find that by going through the process of writing down descriptives of where I currently sit, I start to unearth where my mind is also currently resting. By tracing the edges of my current situation linguistically, I am able to start to gather my ideas together and really feel out the details of the corner I am about to start speaking from.
Sometimes I have been writing from a market squares in North Africa. On other occasions from fancy cafés in Paris. More recently, I've been writing to you from the window seat of my Birmingham apartment. Often it isn’t my physical environment that will dictate where the article heads - it’s where I’ve stepped just ahead of each of these moments. Perhaps this paragraph will end up on the cutting room floor, or perhaps you’ll be reading this with a smile in realising this little paragraph made the cut!
Welcome to my corner of the world, reader. I am in Belgium, writing from a coffee shop balcony in the city of Liege. I’m dancing here for 5 months as a showgirl at the Trocadéro - my dream show, in fact! This was the extra special contract I dreamt of all those years ago when I first leapt from the doors of my dance training college. It has been a wayward path and quite an unexpected one in many ways. And it feels just the right timing. I wouldn’t have been ready for such a contract as this years ago, and it feels right that it’s occurred so naturally in my life right in this moment. This moment, where I no longer look ahead in panic, or behind myself with worry.
The interesting thing about moving to a new place, working with a whole new team of new faces, is that you can technically become anyone you like. No one here knows me. Aside from perhaps a quick scroll through my social media, I am a relative stranger to my new colleagues. When I moved to Marrakech 6 years ago it was a source of great healing for me to be able to shelf what had just experienced. I could embrace a new environment and be known just as Helen the new dancing colleague, rather than the Helen I had just rescued from an abusive situation of domestic violence and fear. I was able to shed my skin a little. Just enough to make space for new growth. Of course, I eventually told my friends there about what had been happening, and in fact I soon learnt they still could see me for who I am. More than I might have given them credit for.
But now? In this walk of life, 6 years on? Who do I introduce myself as now?
Via the writing of this blog and the encouragement of the curious wonders of life itself I have grown into a person who can fully embrace every step I have taken. Even in the moments I fell down or lost my balance momentarily. Every knock came with ricochet towards something I learnt from or that was all the better for me. Every scrape helped me learn to heal all the more thoroughly. As for the gifts, the flights, the joys of my living experiences - I’m still adjusting to those!
I was on a train back from a day out in Brussels the other evening with one of my new colleagues. He turned and asked me about ‘Living Liberté’ and it’s purpose. I found myself feeling as if I was curled up with an old friend, reading from my favourite story book. Within minutes of starting to share the essence of this journey - the one you are currently joining me on - I was able to connect with him far beyond initial 'new person' chatter. My lights and my darknesses became reasoned purpose to what I was sharing with him. My tattooed stories and onward chapters mixing together with his, as we rolled through light and dark tunnels of conversation and railway track on our journey home together.
I have come to learn the strength of collecting together the artefacts of our daily lives, in embracing them as a complete experience. It’s so easy to select what we want others to see of us. To edit out the bits we don’t want understood about us. To filter, to autotune, to blend. We are societally so often encouraged to shield from view our still-healing scrapes and our wobbly days. The every day question of ‘how are you’ is one of kindness and social grace. But we might not always feel freed enough in ourselves to truly share how we really are.
I want to continue to build values of openness into this world. To use art combined with healthy communication to encourage all the more conversations between people on trains about where they’ve travelled in life. To allow people to feel they can be themselves, all of themselves, and share whatever that might be with the world around them. This is my greatest and deepest ambition, beyond the incredible opportunity of dancing that I am currently living.
A life as a showgirl living out her professional ambitions in a Belgian theatre? A dream realised indeed.
My purpose? You. Every single one of you.
I create my #liberté performance acts to inspire movement, in every sense of the word. I write to speak up for those who can't. I tell new friends stories of escape and adventure on crowded trains so that the message continues to spread in the work I'm doing, supported by every one of you.
I dedicate this work to every person who might be afraid this evening. To every woman who is planning her escape. To every teenager who is dreading the next day's schooling. To any individual who might be at all unsure if their next steps will be possible for them to take. For you, the reader, in the minutes after you finish reading this. Every move I make, every article I publish, every dance I perform; it is all a continuous re-introduction and confirmation cycle of this particular concept of your freedom.
Hello, world. Welcome to our journey!
H E L E N V I C T OR I A
Blogger, Creator, Public Speaker