It is an embodiment of feeling, a physical manifestation of emotion. Whether it be a slow sway or a self-conscious display, liquid motion or artless footing, practiced choreography or spontaneous gamboling – dancing – when it’s from the heart – is beautiful to me.
I found my rhythm before I could walk; if my mother is to be believed, before I could crawl. She would lay me on my back, watching my chubby baby limbs move up and down, pulling in toward themselves then stretching outward, one-two, one-two, again and again. And always with a smile.
I still have the smile. (And the chubby limbs.) 🙂
But I dance on my feet now, often with equal bend-stretch simplicity.
The first toys I remember, and the ones I always loved best, were musical instruments, with which I danced and shook and twirled. I got my first record player when I was in preschool, and even when I used it just to listen to read-along stories (Turn the page when you hear the chime, said the disembodied diaphanous Golden Book voice), I was always moving. I rocked to the rhythm of the syllables, spoken or sung, and followed the beat of nothing so much as my own heart.
Dancing became, as I grew, My Thing™. In elementary school, I would test out my new shoes (which my mother had to purchase every three or four months until I was 10 years old because I grew so fast) by dancing in them, usually taking them for at least one turn around my grandparents’ kitchen linoleum. I did not ‘do’ my household chores so much as I danced through them, singing to myself and waltzing sock-footed over hardwoods, with lemon furniture spritz for a microphone and a dust rag for a partner.
By the time I was old enough to logically desire a human partner, I was more or less – unlike other girls my age – uninterested.
Not disinterested. Disinterest implies interest with a temporary distraction. Dispassion.
No, I was UNinterested: not interested at all, completely unconcerned, incurious. I could have cared less about males at all at that time, let alone about dancing with them. (Though, to be clear, males have by far proven to be the most loyal and steadfast friends, a fact that I was fast learning at that stage of my life.) My mother, I think, was relieved. She chalked it up to my life experience with men in general, and to the fact that I was a tomboy, and throughout my teenage years she mostly allowed me to go to school dances whenever I asked because she didn’t have to worry about me ‘getting into trouble’ where boys were concerned. (More on that piece of sexist ridiculousness another time.)
Time waltzed on, as it always does, and I continued dancing to my own tune.
Then one day during my senior year of high school, much to my bewildered consternation, one of my male friends asked me on date.
And after a couple months of indulging his repeated requests to eat dinner and go to movies in a formalized manner, he asked me to go to prom.
I said no. (Of course I said no.)
He asked me again.
I said no again. (Who in God’s name ever actually wants to go prom?)
He was persistent.
So was I. And a large part of the reason why (besides the fact that it would cost money I didn’t have, and that I’d had a completely hideous prom experience when a couple years prior), was because he didn’t dance. What on earth would I want to go to prom with a non-dancer for?
But, despite my capacity for meanness, I am not a complete ogre. (At least I wasn’t back then.)
And so, knowing that he wouldn’t go with anyone else and that that would make me somewhat responsible for his missing out on a ridiculous antiquated teenage mating ritual, I reluctantly changed my mind.
“Do you still want to go to prom?” I asked him.
The lit-up look on his face said it all.
I did my best to hide my grimace at his enthusiasm and said, “Okay, I’ll get a dress.”
Prom night was predictably unmemorable. He, however, was anything but.
Because he danced.
All six feet five inches of his muscle-covered-in-babyfat frame scooted and spun, twisted and stepped, skipped and covorted and swung and bopped. He didn’t care what he looked like. He cared that I was there. With him.
He danced for me.
And when the music slowed, I discarded my heels, placed my feet over his, and let him carry me around the room with my head against his chest.
I knew then that he loved me. I knew it without the words.
Because he danced.
We were together for seven years. And though we have long since parted ways, I have never forgotten the way he danced, or the love lesson learned.
I still dance. To the rhythm inside me, to the beat of my own drummer, to music sometimes only I can hear.
Every man who has truly loved me has understood that about me.
And every one of them has danced.