I like dancing. Doesn’t mean I’m good at it, never mistake enthusiasm for competence. But in this case, I don’t think it matters all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I admire good dancers. My nephew dances and he’s excellent, it’s been a passion of his for many years. I love watching him and his partner glide through a ballroom in a twirling waltz, or perform an amazing tango, or Paso Doble, or anything really. They’re stunning. Needless to say, I can’t dance like that. I know the very basic steps to a Viennese waltz, slow waltz, tango and a few other dances but that’s about it. No, my style is a bit more… spontaneous, let’s call it that. What I mean by it, is that I like to move various random body parts vaguely in rhythm with the music.
I used to love going to clubs and giving myself to the music, drawing on the energy of the bodies around me all moving to the same beat, feeling, if only for a few hours at peace with the world, lost in the movement, the lights, the tempo rising and falling, picking up again, carrying all of us into a kind of physical epiphany. I have a complex relationship with my body, we don’t always get along, I’m a bit uneasy about physical contact, especially with strangers, I used to be very scared of crowds. Dancing helped me with all of it. When you dance, the world melts away, there’s just your body, and you feel it, your arms, legs, hips, neck, head, all of it. At first, you’re awkward, you can’t quite put it all together, you feel silly, extra self-conscious, but wait, just keep chasing the music, feel it flowing through you, stop thinking, I think that’s the most important part, empty your mind, just focus on the next beat, on the next move, suddenly it all slots into place, your body is no longer a collection of autonomous and rebellious parts, you become the extension of the rhythm. As is everyone else, you’re all connected, you can hear all the hearts around you thumping the same beat, sailing on the same river, you’re beaming the same energy, feel it, take it in, revel in this strangely primeval communion. It’s an exhilarating feeling…
I dance when I’m on my own. “Dance like no one is watching” – oh you bet I do. And I really do hope no one is watching, because, damn, I get silly. I need to try to do it more. Especially when I’m depressed and not feeling like it. Dancing when you’re happy is all well and good, it’s easy, it’s natural. But dancing when life gets dark, that’s properly therapeutic. Not only is it a physical activity, and any exercise when you’re depressed is invaluable, but if you let it, it can take you far away from your head. Every time I force myself to do it, I get an instant boost of energy.
I dance in my dreams, the best ones anyway. I have recurring dreams, and mostly they’re not so great, lots of running down dark corridors and being trapped on the edge of the abyss. But there’s one, not so much a full dream, but a recurring theme that I love. I’m somewhere up above the world, on a mountain, on top of an enormous tree, I’m not afraid, I just jump, trusting the wind to carry me, and in the air I spin, and move, and dance to an unearthly sweet music, swathed in scarlet silk, veils and ribbons trailing my every movement, weightless and serene…
There’s a poem I wrote some time ago, not so much about dancing, but it captures some of that dream.
in the midst of the howling
create a door
into a forest
sunk in the sunshine
some shadows trembling
when suppressed butterflies
from underneath the fingernails
rainbow circles on the surface of water
lay in the clearing
inhaling herbs grass leaves heavens above
silence seeps through the eyelids
peace to be found
make up a shimmer
whirl from the topmost branches
in reds and purples
there are dragons beyond
the pale cheeks
for stars flowing into
a half-full cup
the spheres are playing
and then the wailing guitar
in the midst of the howling
arms won’t catch you
no one is coming
through the door
Incidentally, ‘music of spheres’ keeps popping up in my poems. I remember long time ago in school reading about ‘musica universalis’ and being very taken with my imagining of it. To this day, every so often I look up at the stars and try to hear what sort of music they’ve got on their playlist.
Myself, appropriately whirling.