body memory

body memory

I wrote this story to illustrate something about my own experience of how the body holds on to memory as part of my residency at Fabrica.


In the summer of 1975 my dad was driving me, my brother and my sister up to Liverpool.

Just outside St. Helens, we pulled out onto a dual carriageway and a car ploughed into us. I shot through the windscreen and landed someway up the road. No one was that badly hurt at the time – I had a few stitches in my leg and there were various cuts, bruises and bumps all round. It was pretty shocking and I remember looking back along the road for the car wondering where I was and what had happened, but nothing and no one was broken.

In 1989 while I was studying dance, I started to feel something sharp sticking out of my leg in the place where I’d had my stitches. I went and saw a nurse and she retrieved a small shard of glass which had been in there since that accident – I think all the dancing had dislodged it. I still have the little piece of glass in a jar.

When I was 24, and working along with 3 others in the U.S.A, the choreographer we were working with paid for us all to go and see a renowned Osteopath in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. I had never been to an osteopath before. I remember I was quite stressed out at the time and had seized up a bit around the shoulders and neck.

While I was being treated, he made two manipulations in my spine – one somewhere around the seventh thoracic vertebra and one around the sixth cervical – during each of these I had what were almost like visions. One was of my head hitting a bathroom sink and one was of flying through the windscreen of a car.

The osteopath asked me afterwards if there were any injuries I had had that I hadn’t mentioned because he thought there had been some quite severe impacts on my spine; one at about 7 or 8 years old and one at maybe 13 – 15 years old. I remember being really amazed at how he could be so specific about when particular things had taken place in my body – it was like he was reading the rings of a tree. I was 8 on that drive up to Liverpool and about 15 when my dad smashed my head on the bathroom sink and broke my nose.

I often suffered from pain and stiffness in my upper back and neck when I got stressed out or overworked, but never thought that it may have had it’s root in specific incidents. I knew that my nose was broken and I knew that I had stitches in my leg and that was it.

It seems my body was holding on to it’s own version of events, had recorded those incidents at the moment of impact, and released the information to me when prompted by the osteopath.