By Caitlin Kelly
I am a dancing fool.
I take two dance classes (so far) a week, jazz and modern. This fall I’m adding a third one, studying something I’ve wanted to try for decades — choreography.
They’re my happiest three hours of the week — 90 exhausting minutes each. I come home sore, weary and happy.
There, we use a totally different vocabulary — spins, leaps, turns, pirouettes, chasses, contractions — without saying a word. It’s a blessed break from the tyranny of diction. There, our arms and legs do the talking, our heads and shoulders and neck twisting and bending, our wrists to the floor, our toes to the ceiling.
Two of my classmates are also self-employed writers, happy to flee our daily isolation, and the computer and our clients. In one recent class, our teacher had us take turns improvising (shriek) and the rest of us had to follow. It was both terrifying and exhiliarating to make it up on the fly and see what spontaneously erupted when we just…riff.
Not surprisingly, we all moved very differently.
Our teacher stopped to correct us: “Stop thinking! I can see you planning every movement. Keep going. Keep moving. Just…do it!”
I loved her demand that we just dance.
So much of our lives is dictated by others’ rhythms: rushing for the subway car or elevator before the doors slam shut; answering a call or email or text rightaway!; feeding a hungry baby over and over; walking the dog several times a day; having your keystrokes counted by an invisible boss.
We also need to dance to our own tunes.
I have friends addicted to the tango, to tap, to ballet, to swing. I’ve been dancing, and taking lessons, since I was young and hoped against hope to become (like many little girls) a ballerina.
But I didn’t have the skills or the right body shape. I still took five dance classes a week in my 20s, three ballet, two jazz.
Even as my left hip was destroyed by arthritis and steroids to heal the inflammation, I kept taking class, my movements shrinking each month as the pain increased. Now, with my new hip, my battements look like the real thing once more.
And even with classmates half or even a third my age, and 50 pounds lighter, I do just fine.
But it’s not just dance class. It’s dancing, anywhere, any time.
If there’s a Rolling Stones album nearby, clear the floor, kids! Same for Stevie Wonder. If it’s “My Sharona” or “Rock The Casbah”….move!
Here’s an older list of great dance tunes, from The Telegraph.
And a newer list of 25 from Buzzfeed, with some of my favorites like “You Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer or “Thriller” by Michael Jackson.
Here are some amazing images of dancers in everyday, non-performance or classroom spots — Pennsylvania Avenue, shoveling gravel in pointe shoes, exulting in a Barnes and Noble, a post-shopping battement.
Here’s a great recent post, chosen by Freshly Pressed, about the body as narrative:
before we learn how to use verbal language as our primary tool of conscious expression, we have our bodies and nothing else. Even after we have learned to use our words, we continue use our bodies as a means of expression until our last breath, even if we don’t know it. The human form is fundamental to our expression, and it will always tell a story, no matter how simple or complex, whether we want it to or not. So it is no wonder dancing predates almost every form of storytelling mankind has devised. It’s a part of who we are. It’s ingrained in our DNA, and yet so many men in the modern world deny it, brand it as feminine.
Do you love to dance?
What are some of your go-to tunes?