I’m a Dancing Girl

loreena b:w girl dancingI have always been drawn to people and communities who dance. My theory is that when a culture loses its dancing–as a community–it loses its vitality, passion, and reason for living, what the French call raison d’être.

Conversely when a culture finds its soul again and expresses its soulfulness in song and dance, it is fully alive. The cobwebs are cleared out, the blues are dispelled in a whisper, and a collective joy for live, joie de vivre is found.

The first time I danced was in the sixth grade, and the first time I square danced. The boys hated dancing, or at least that’s how I remember it. We girls would twirl and our full skirts would fly out around us as we spun. I loved dancing to the old dances that were brought over to America by our English/Irish/Scottish ancestors. The ones who were fleeing poverty or persecution, and hoping for a bit of land to farm and call their own.

A Maori communal dance in New Zealand.

A Maori communal dance in New Zealand.

When a culture loses its music and dance, it loses its way. As Americans we have become too isolated from each other–and perhaps ourselves–as we hunker down before our televisions for the midwinter of our discontent. Man- and woman-kind were not meant to be alone. We die a bit everyday when we are not connected to others.

Although hell can indeed be other people, as John Paul Sartre wrote (and being quite a bastard himself, he should know), I’ll go him one further and say hell is even more the oblivion of being alone.

Dust off your soul, find a way to dance, and look for someone who ain’t looking through you, as Bruce Springsteen wrote in his intoxicating Badlands, which is my personal anthem:

For the ones who had a notion
A notion deep inside
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place
I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

Many a dreary day Bruce’s music has reminded me who I am. Sometimes I have grown lonesome for the days when I ran in my grandparents’ backyard while Papaw plowed the garden and Mamaw shelled butter beans on the back porch steps. I guess you could call that being lonesome for what was–or maybe what never was.

My Papaw with me, his first grandchild.

My Papaw with me, his first grandchild.

Through the rose-colored glasses of my memories, I more readily recall my beloved Papaw’s rangy, hardworking, man-of-few-words-and-an-occasional-smile side. I tend to forget his judgmental, Calvinistic, my-way-or-the-highway occasional cruelty, and his merciless teasing of my father for not being the man he wanted Daddy to be. You’d never catch my Papaw dancing. Lord no.

But I do have good memories from when I felt I might have been his favorite, the first grandchild, the oldest, and perhaps because in some ways I was so much like him. Before I fell from grace, and got a mind of my own.

When I told my grandparents I was getting a divorce–what would be the first and only divorce in our family (until my second one)–Papaw said with deathless economy, “You made your bed; you lay in it.”

Mamaw said, “But, Thomas, if she doesn’t love him, she’s doin’ the right thing, right?”

Bless her heart. Mamaw played Turkey in the Straw on the piano. She had the broad Irish smile and a quick laugh with a small lap because her belly was round and full of her own good cooking. I’ll bet Mamaw danced when she was young–in fact, I know she must have.

In Mamaw’s spirit, and in carrying on the tradition of my Mamaw’s quick, easy laugh, I dance.

And tomorrow I dance at the wedding of my son Justin–the first dance with the groom–as he marries the love of his life, Tracy. When Justin asked me what song I wanted them to play for our dance, I suggested Lee Ann Womack’s soaring anthem “I Hope You Dance”.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking,
Loving might be a mistake but it’s worth making . . .

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
I hope you dance . . . I hope you dance.
I hope you dance . . . I hope you dance.

Justin, I hope you always dance.

Anna – 3/5/16

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Bruce Springsteen, Creativity, Dance, Happiness, Joy (Joie de General), Love, Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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