Dancing My Way Back to Myself

When I was a wee rose bud, I wanted to be a dancer. It didn’t matter what kind; I just wanted to move to music. It also didn’t matter what the music was so long as there was rhythm to it.  Momma taught the jitterbug and the twist in the living room to all of us.  It was magic, a release for pressures my young mind couldn’t yet imagine.

Fred Astaire dancing with his sister, Adele

I loved it, even if I didn’t know what I was doing. I have since subscribed to the motto, just have fun with it.

Many afternoons since have eaten up by musicals.   White Christmas, Royal Wedding, Singing in the Rain  have always captured my imagination.  I still giggle with delight anytime I see Seven Brides for Seven Sisters. The concept is ludicrous, but it worked with the rich music and dancing.  Campy, yes, but that was the fun of it.  The idea that life could be so intense that they only response to it was to break out in song and dance.  John Water’s Hairspray and Cry-Baby have a special place in my heart with the campy, yet valuable moral lessons.

Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Jane Powell and Fred Astaire were gods to me.  Every movement seemed so effortless. I would have loved to seen Fred Astaire dance with his sister, Adele. They started out in Vaudeville together.  She went on to raise a family and he just keep dancing his way into our hearts.

I never asked my parents if I could attend dance classes. There wasn’t enough money for things like dance lessons and even if there was I was much too shy to ask.

John Deep in Cry-Baby

I danced at my prom with a very shy young man whom I asked out, a rare moment of bravery.  It was something I wanted to do so badly and there was a chance of going otherwise. Socially awkward doesn’t begin to describe high school me. I didn’t start to blossom until I was planted among the wild flowers and Hokie stones of Virginia Tech.

College found me in my first serious relationship and learning to be free on the dance floor. Thanks Dave, for getting me out on there. It grew from a few nervous steps to a passioniate outlet for my cornucopia of emotions. I danced at nearly every opportunity.   I have danced in medieval dress to Scotland the Brave and was toss in the air once or twice during Toss the Duchess.  (The secret with that dance is to jump up as your partner is lifting you, less strain for everyone.) My hips have swayed to everything from Metallica to Alan Jackson.

Once off campus, I began dancing around my apartments, sometimes with my roommates.  More often than not, I was alone in my room; lit candles would be spread out, music filling every inch of the room and my body weaving, twisting and wrapping itself around the each note.

After college, I braved three years of belly dancing classes; never progressing beyond the beginner level.  Finances and my lack of progress lead me to stop lessons, but I never gave up dancing.   I have shimmied around every house I have lived in since, and once even led a conga line around the law office I worked at.

In my last home, I stopped there wasn’t enough space in the living room for me than a couple of steps. Plus, an auto accident after moving in made most movements painful.  Not dancing when I was stressed or because of pain caused more stress and I begin to lose that part of myself.  As life continued on, I didn’t even realize it had wandered off.

Thankfully, the lovely schizophrenic weather of Florida stepped in. It was nearly ninety degrees one February afternoon when I stepped out the school door. There was no way, Lisa, my walking partner, and I would be traversing around the lake.  Earlier, I had demonstrated how to shimmy to the reading teacher who insisted that I show the rest of the staff. It was hard to say no since she found it so amusing. (This is the same women who is organizing a teacher only dance routine to entertain the students – Michael Jackson’s Bad for an upcoming event.)

The result was Lisa and I heading back to my place to dance. Honestly in the two months that I have lived there, it never occurred me to push the ottoman out-of-the-way and dance.  That afternoon I showed Lisa the basic moves and found my way back to something my dearest love.  We danced and laughed for about an hour; my heart, though, hasn’t stop dancing since.


National Poetry Month Bonus – This is a poem that I feel in love and is great for getting in touch with the power of your body.

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

2 thoughts on “Dancing My Way Back to Myself

  1. So much of this could have been written by me! I love to dance. And I don’t care if I’m any good or look silly. It makes me happy. 🙂

    (and “Seven Brides for Seven *Sisters*” made me LOL!! I know it was just a typo, but all I kept thinking is I want to see THAT movie!!)


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