Tuesday, February 28, 2006
This is a subject that, right off the bat, suggests a public act of physical effort. Note the words "public" and "physical" in the same sentence. It also implies that it be done with another person, a gesture of shared affection, executed with some semblance of coordination. Swell.
To begin with, I do not have any fond memories of dancing or any of the events associated with it, whatsoever. The first was at my sister's wedding. At six years old, I was the ring bearer. I had the little blue suit with the short pants and knee high socks, patent leather shoes and slicked down hair. For six, I was hot. It was no wonder that all the older women wanted to dance with me. None of those that asked me to dance, however, seemed to be concerned about my need to eat, or my desire to keep their feet off of mine, or that I didn't really want to be held that close so that the pattern of their dress ended up pressed into the side of my face. Bad dancing experience number one.
The very next year, and for years afterward, our school took a field trip to downtown Chicago to watch the St. Patrick's Day parade. The only reason I could think that this privilege was bestowed upon me and the rest of that class was that two kids in our class annually danced the Irish Jig on a big float. On these days I asked to stay home from school, and actually told my mother the truth about why I wanted to stay home, as opposed to the assortment of half truths and outright lies about my physical state that I told in the past. And on the basis of understanding how cold, bored and miserable I would be, she almost let me stay home. "Almost" is the operative word there. Bad dancing experience number two through a lot.
I don't dance much. Although I've tried it a few times in my adult life, mostly in an alcohol-induced lapse of judgment, my efforts can be embarrassing. I can number the times I've danced on one hand, not counting the thumb. It's hard. I'm lousy at it. I've embarrassed a countless number of people. I have danced with my wife. She is an excellent dancer, but hasn't danced with me recently. Smart woman. I have danced with every one of my children. They were very forgiving as little kids, and dancing always made them laugh. I have since danced in front of my children, but they are older now, and when they would laugh at my dancing when they were little, they now just shake their head in quiet disdain, wondering if this puddle of the gene pool is ever going to crop up in one of their offspring. I have danced with our dogs over the years. They didn't seem to mind and, for their benefit, I have danced on my knees.
I make a point of dancing almost every day, by myself and often in my underwear.
It makes me feel loose, a little electrified. I can't help but smile when I'm throwing a few of my moves across my carpet. I dance, and I'm happy. I move, thinking I have clouds underneath my size 13 pedals of paradise, and life just soars through my body. I am lighter. I have drifted into another weight category, and have lost that last 20 pounds. My grande jete from the shower to the bedroom includes a pirouette, small ballotte with a final arabesque or some other French-sounding agility and I'm ready for the day. And you'll note that most of my steps are from ballet. I wouldn't know a ballet from a bicycle, but when I put those names to my moves, I'm Nureyev.
There is a popular saying, "Dance as if no one is watching." I want to revise that to say, "Dance, and make sure no one is watching. You'll feel far less self-conscious and you can do it anywhere, provided you begin this process when you're alone.
People wake up to the radio all the time. It's a little tough dancing to NPR, for example, so I suggest putting on a little music. Doesn't have to be dance music, but something with half a beat helps motivate the spirit and move the feet a little.
Try dancing in a variety of places. I have lately used a few steps in the library or the bookstore. I'll be in the aisle, reading a book or looking at some of the titles, and just break out a few smooth glides across the floor in front of the non-fiction section. Nothing huge, just a little practice to see how the feet feel on a waxed floor. I do it quickly, but with a little grace. It gives the dancing a little spark, and it makes me feel like I'm getting away with something.
I have learned to love to dance. It moves my spirit to a new place. Jesus was to have said in the Gnostic gospels "To the Universe belongs the dancer." My dancing universe is usually in my underwear, in the morning, duplicating Barishnikov.