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The full story behind Direct Motion

// TW: mention of SA, food restriction, queer trauma //

Direct Motion’s first day of dance class was January 4, 2023, but the roots of my online dance studio can be traced back nearly three decades to 1997.

1997 was when I took my first dance class, and I immediately fell in love with creative movement… for the most part. My three-year-old self did not enjoy ballet because it was too slow-paced and technical to keep my attention. I’ve absolutely adored tap from day one, though. Getting to dance and make noise at the same time? Heck yes, sign me up for that!

From 2nd-8th grade, I spent most of my non school time at the dance studio after joining the competition team. I’d be required to take a certain amount of hours of technique classes each week, then would often spend another 8-10 hours there every Saturday for competition rehearsals.

Have you seen Dance Moms? It’s not super far-off from what I remember of my childhood. I remember being told that one family from the studio homeschooled their kids so that they could get more dance training in. I know that two of the four went on to become Radio City Rockettes.

For a good part of my upbringing, my dance studio felt more like my home than my actual home. I remember spending as much time as possible locked alone in my bedroom or a bathroom as a child, because that was the only place I felt safe. So going to dance classes offered me a much-needed source of escape, and a source of community, too. I remember our “big/little sister” program on the competition team, and I had a few “adopted-adopted big sisters” at the studio who were also my neighbors. I felt safe when they were around.

But while my dance studio was a refuge from the stress of my home life, it was also simultaneously a source of its own unique stressors and trauma.

My childhood dance studio was where I fell in love with dance, yes.

But it was also where I first learned to criticize my body.

To base my sense of worth on where I was placed in formations.

To see my peers, teammates, and friends as competitors instead of comrades.

To restrict my eating to avoid getting a “food baby” before ballet class (since we were not allowed to wear anything besides a leotard and tights for most of class).

My childhood dance studio was also where I learned that to be queer meant to be ostracized and shamed. I remember when a dancer a few years older than me was outed, and she ended up leaving the studio after parents complained about her being in dressing rooms with their kids.

Then when it was time for me to start high school, I decided to leave my dance studio to focus on academics. I didn’t want to completely stop dancing, so I joined my high school’s dance team, eventually becoming a varsity captain.

I graduated from my all-girls catholic high school and moved to St. Louis in 2012. My first semester at SLU, I auditioned for a student dance team who mainly did the same jazz and contemporary styles I grew up competing in. I picked up the choreography at auditions quickly, and other people auditioning were asking me for help reviewing it before we performed in small groups in front of the entire existing team. I was nervous about how I came off during the “mini interview” part of the auditions, but left feeling confident overall.

But I didn’t make the team, and I had a whole-ass mental breakdown because I thought I’d never dance again. I later found out that a lot of the people who made the team were rushing the sororities that existing teammates were already members of. Spoiler alert: I didn’t participate in Greek life on campus, unless you count academic, leadership, and/or service fraternities.

Ultimately, I joined the co-ed hip hop dance crew on campus my sophomore year. It was the first time I felt like a part of a group of my immediate peers where I truly belonged and fit in - unlike the clique-iness of my childhood dance studio. We all called each other “dance fam” and wore matching hoodies with our team slogan on the front and our “patronuses” on the back - a team bonding tradition back in 2013-2015 (before we knew about the transphobia).

The team called me “Hawk" for the way I attacked choreography, soared through the air when I did leaps/jumps or side aerials, and fiercely protected my teammates when we went out together. Now that I think about it, getting that nickname was one of the first times I experienced gender euphoria. I was proud to instill fear into the hearts of creepy men when the situation called for it.

I felt so included, safe, and cared for on my college dance team - until I was sexually assaulted by one of my teammates. When he showed up to a team party a few weeks later, I grabbed a hammer someone had left out on the kitchen counter from hanging up home decor. I didn’t grab the hammer to attack him, but to protect myself if needed. My teammates knew what he did, but still invited him around. I stopped spending as much time with my team after that. He continued on with medical school.

So I started looking around for off-campus dance & performance opportunities when I came across a Craigslist ad looking for backup dancers for a local production - That’s when my life as a performer truly began.

My first stage name was Victoria Faye. I danced a contemporary routine to Yellow by Coldplay for a show at R-Bar, the lesbian bar in St. Louis that had the best chicken wings I’ve had in my goddamn life. I went on to be a regular go-go dancer there until they closed.

Then I heard that Attitudes in the Grove was looking for dancers to close out drag shows with choreographed group numbers before go-go dancing with the bar patrons for the rest of the night. I auditioned and made the team, and it was during my time as an “Attitudes Flirt” that I fell in love with the art form of drag.

So I went to an open stage night at the Grey Fox Pub and performed as a drag king for the first time - as “Dick-toria Faye.” Then I was adopted into a drag family and became Dickie Belle. Then I left that drag family and became Dickie Rebellion.

Over my drag career I’ve co-hosted & co-produced weekly drag shows, been crowned King of Pride St. Louis, and served as Drag Liaison for the Metro Trans Umbrella Group. Drag became a huge part of my life, and also my identity. Then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down.

I’m now back to performing in person again (thank you, vaccines!), but I also know that in-person social events aren’t a viable option for everyone. That’s part of why I’ve started Direct Motion Creative Collective and inMotion Monthly - to help bridge that gap in access to queer+ community and art.

Direct Motion is an online dance studio born from a mission to make the healing magic(k) of collaborative embodied creativity accessible. Making physical movement part of my own self-care routine has helped me maintain some semblance of emotional stability existing in this batshit dumpster fire of a timeline, providing a physical outlet for anxious, traumatized energy to be released. There’s also something incredibly powerful about making time for this self-care practice in the supportive presence of peers who are here for the same reasons we are.

Providing this experience over video chat means that anyone, anywhere can come to class - and it helps me keep overhead costs down so I can offer drop-in classes for just $11.

As an instructor, it’s incredibly important to me that my students feel safe, seen, and supported (the three S’s). In class, you’ll notice that I do a lot of check-ins, asking how certain choreography feels, whether we want to continue with counts or try with music, etc.

I teach multiple versions of certain movements in my contemporary choreography so that dancers can customize their movement to what feels best for their bodies.

I remind my stretch & strengthening class to listen to their muscles when they need rest, and to see working out as a way to care for our physical selves and say “thank you” to our bodies for being the meat suits that our souls drive around this earth.

I also offer both standing and seated versions of my tap classes.

Direct Motion Creative Collective offers weekly dance and exercise classes with rolling registration, so new dancers & movers are always welcome! Modern/contemporary is on Mondays at 6pm CST; Tap Skills on Wednesdays at 6pm; Tap Choreo on Wednesdays at 7pm; Stretch & Strengthen on Saturdays at 10am; Ballet Barre on Saturdays at 11:15am.

Learn more and sign up at

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