Thursday, April 25, 2013

Everybody Dance Now!

There are very particular points in life that I can look back to now and realize, wow, that really saved my life. Some are literal (like my dad giving me the Heimlich at age 8.5 when I choked on a Sweet Tart the first day we moved into our new Pasadena apartment), but most are metaphorical (though no less significant to me). One is deciding to really give myself over to becoming a writer (an event that is nearing its tenth anniversary). One is "discovering" therapy. And one is learning how to dance.

When I was ages six and seven and eight, I took ballet classes. My best schoolyard friend, Yvette, was a tomboy, so I was embarrassed to tell her where I was going after school on ballet days. I made up excuses like doctors and dentists appointments to throw her off the scent. She must have thought I was very sick indeed. A personal childhood highlight was getting to be Little Miss Muffet in our local Reedley mini-production, mostly because my dress was real pretty and my mom even let me wear blush!

And then dance disappeared from my life with a series of family moves. I took ice skating, which was fun, but I had no real aptitude for. I loathed sports. And I lived in dread of gym class. Until my freshman year of high school, when you could elect to take modern dance instead of P.E. That moment saved my life. I went from hating the look of my pale, chubby thighs in tight polyester navy blue gym shorts among lithe girls and just-about-to-be-pubescent boys, to finding myself in an all-girls class with a strong, beautiful african american dance teacher who saw the tiniest inkling of something in me and helped me see it too. She taught me that I had rhythm. And being the goody two shoes that I was at the time, she even let me help lead the class in warm up exercises. My head exploded with how amazing that was. And from then on, I let myself enjoy dance. I am not great, I will never be forging a career in it, but I have been able to express my love of dance in many, many ways:

I taught some girls in my church routines during a Summer arts program (they are all now wildly successful in their lives, as I know from my Facebook stalking). I developed a system of drawing names during my one semester as student body president in the eighth grade (I was student body president of 8 eighth graders) so everyone had at least one dance partner during the slow dances (primarily so I too would have one, lacking the social skills to accomplish this except through a random drawing). I choreographed and performed a solo modern dance during my one and only beauty pageant experience. I learned early on in my clubbing experience that an empty dance floor is just one dancer away from quickly filling up, and was happy to be the excuse for others to join in. I swung in Chico, foxtrotted in Princeton, and argentine tangoed in New Zealand. And don't get me started about how I really do think we could achieve world peace through Zumba.

Which is to say, I loooooooooove to dance. And I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for that teacher in the 9th grade who reminded me of something I knew when I was 7, because it has served me well as being a necessary form of self-expression.

Which is why, this 26th of April at noon in San Francisco's Union Square, I am dancing in a very well advertised flash mob (is it really a flash mob if you tell everyone about it in advance?) to kick off National Dance Week. This is a week of free dance classes everywhere (like ODC, which is awesome). So it's a great week to dance your little dance, groove your little groove, and have fun remembering what you probably knew as a wee little person; dancing is a way of life.

2 comments:

  1. "walking on broken glass," was beautiful, and i remember being surprised by your talent and passion.

    dancing on april 26th :-)


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  2. You are so awesome Denise. And yes! April 26th. I think my mom would've liked her birthday celebrated with dance.

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