Friday, November 20, 2009

It is of course possible to dance a prayer. ~ Glade Byron Addams

Somewhere on the inside of this aging body is the soul of a dancer. I had a little friend named Annie when I was around four years old and her parents were Austrian immigrants. Her mother loved classical music and quite often when I'd go over to their house to play, she would have old 78s playing on the record player. My parents loved popular music of the day...Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Patty Page...but it was during the many hours of play at Annie's house that my love of classical music was born. Bach, Strauss, of my favorites was "Swan Lake". I can remember Annie and me dressing in flouncy bouffant underslips that belonged to her older sisters and she and I would dance around their living room, pretending we were prima ballerinas. That is where my love of dance was born, too.

I spent my childhood dancing around our living room on top of my Dad's feet every Saturday night when "The Lawrence Welk" show would come on. At the close of every show, Mr. Welk would go down into the audience and ask ladies to dance with him...that was my signal it was time for me and my Daddy to dance so I'd hop on top of Dad's feet and away we'd go. My Dad was a very elegant dancer and I would feel as if I was transported into the TV, becoming a part of the swirling screen of dancers. I outgrew that when I got too big to stand on top of his feet.

I became a huge fan of "Where the Action Is", a teen music show that would come on TV in the afternoons after school. There were dancers on there called the "Action Kids" and I just loved one of the girls named Lesley. I wanted to grow up to be just like her some day...I was around 10-11 at the time. My childhood best friend Angie pretended she was another dancer named Jerilynn. We had HUGE crushes on Fang (me) and Harpo (Angie) of Paul Revere and the Raiders. We would take my transistor radio out into her back yard and turn it to KBKW radio in Aberdeen and we'd dance all over the grass, learning how to do all the footwork and hand-motions the Action Girls made while they danced, plus the fancy little steps the Raiders would do as they played their instruments. We thought we were so cool! And our vivid imaginations would transport us to another world...we believed we were those girls and that Fang and Harpo were our boyfriends.

I never took formal dance lessons of any sort. We didn't have the money and I don't think I would've ever conformed to something like that, anyway. I was such a free spirit. As I entered in to my teens, my way of escape thru some very hard years was to close myself off into my bedroom, turn on my stereo, and dance for hours on end. I was light as a feather on my feet, as fluid as molten one ever came to investigate because no one ever heard me. I would light candles and put on a stack of albums and dance until they were done...then I'd put on another stack and start all over again. My mind would drift away into the music, my body would take over. I could leave my misery for those blessed hours. And then I got married. And I stopped dancing. Except...every now and then when I was alone in our house or apartment and a song would come on that would deeply move me...I'd find myself disappearing into dance again. But not often. I had no reason to escape anymore.

Circumstances came along that changed my freedom to dance. It was a time in my life where a lot of my creative forces left me because they weren't encouraged. That quiet little spirit of light in my soul died way, way down to just a little flicker in the core of me. But it smoldered quietly there, patiently waiting to find its way back out to the light. When I would do silly little-kid dances with my children to "Music Box Dancer" or "Jungle Book" or "Sesame Street", that little ember would struggle to come out. But I'd push it back down, again and again. And then came a day when I couldn't live that way anymore. There was too much music, my books, my writing, my poetry...especially my dance...that was crying out for release. And I let it out....and at first it was a tentative trickle, kind of feeling its way and wondering if it would be dammed up again. Then I decided I didn't care who might disapprove or condemn me for it, as long as I didn't feel it was coming from the One who leads me along. For me, dancing is a type of worship. I feel close to God when I am letting the very essence of me guide my feet, when I am lost to the outside world around me.

There is something beautiful about being home alone and turning on the stereo...of a quiet house with no one to watch this older woman letting the music flow thru her, flow out of her. There is something beautiful about the peace it brings into this older woman's heart. Because inside the heart of this older woman, the soul of a dancer still lives.


Pam said...

This is such a multi-layered post. I love all your reminisences of your childhood. And I'm inspired by how you've gotten back in touch with your creative side. Good for you! I think that maybe this is a one benefit of getting older. You now have the time, space and wisdom to get back in touch with your inner self. I get little glimpses of this myself. And I enjoy revisiting those parts of myself that have been buried under the responsibilities of adulthood/parenthood/spousalhood. Dance away, Kris!

Jaggy said...

It depends on how much you want to learn, how far you're willing to drive, and how much you're willing to spend. The Man and I used to go to Portland six or eight times a year to go dancing. We stuck to the West Coast Swing spots, but there are plenty of great ballroom spots too. The Lindy Hop groups have a few local haunts, and there's a cool group of strictly international ballroom dancers (they can be snobby tho).

The age range spans every decade, and the ability levels run the gamut. Even as a beginner, I found I could hold on with a few easy steps. I am NOT NOT NOT physically coordinated, and I picked up the basics to ten or twelve dances in two years. I am now proficient and can teach maybe six (?).

Easy (easier) beginning dances include Waltz, Foxtrot, Single-time Swing, Nightclub Two-step (not country!), and Salsa. That gives a person two ballroom, one swing, one club, and one latin-style dances! Pretty good!

But if you were talking about interpretive dancing, jazz, or even hip-hop, well, I can't help ya there.

I don't know where you live, but the Tigard Ambassador Ballroom (forget what the new name is) is awesome! Lessons aren't overpriced and the instructors are great. I've been to the Sunnyside Grange a half-dozen times for WCS, and they teach a one-hour lesson that is often free before the three hours of dancing ($10 admission usually). The Crystal Ballroom is popular. Paradise Ballroom is also a hot spot downtown. LOTS of options for dancing!

I think this is the longest comment I've ever written, sorry.

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