It began before I was a year old. My grandmother said if music was on I would wiggle and sway when I crawled, when laid in the crib, or when being fed—with arms outstretched and fingers waggling. As soon as I could stand my Irish grandfather would take my hand and, with me holding on to his thick fingers, jig.
As a kid I would hear my parents’ Big Band music playing on the phonograph as it floated up and into the attic. I would sway between the stacks of boxes and pretend to dance with my Guardian Angel. No matter the hardships, dancing allowed a sort of disconnect, relieving anxieties.
I was a teenager in Detroit, and so Motown was my rhythm of choice. Though still shy as a young adult, I would occasionally dance at wedding receptions when asked.
When I went to college in my mid twenties, I thought it would help my shyness if I registered for a modern-dance class. I thought that everyone in class would be somewhat inexperienced, and I was eager to let go of my fear. In my excitement, I spent part of my tuition on matching Danskin leotard, tights and long flowing skirt—I looked lovely in burgundy.
Eager and bright eyed on the first day of class I walked into a mirrored room with ballet bars on three sides. Lean men and women in ragged tees and scrunched legwarmers over tights were stretching and swaying as they waited for the instructor…who walked in just behind me. I sat cross legged on the floor—in my perfectly matched outfit—and waited with the other students for the usual introduction to class requirements.
Somewhere near the end of the instructor’s directives, she looked directly at me and said “…and if you are here to lose weight or get in shape, this is not the class for you as a non-theater major.” That moment of being totally clueless still makes me laugh. I envision it as a Norman Rockwell painting: short and slightly overweight young woman in coordinating leotards, happily sitting on a wooden dance room floor, looking up in eager anticipation, while the avant garde with tight buns and worn ballet slippers looked down at her with humor and disdain. I dropped the class and registered for Arthurian Literature Then and Now.
Sometimes I still dance in my upstairs flat. When I can’t think of what to write, when I’m overjoyed, when I simply need to shake loose of earthly bonds or relieve stress, I will dance. Though now a days it probably looks something like this: