Thursday, October 15, 2009

do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight

It may be true that white men can't jump, but the real problem is that they won't dance.  And if they won't dance, it seems unlikely that they would have anything important to say about movement education.  Dance, after all, is entry-level.  After sex, gathering and hunting, 
it is the original human movement.

Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal

I attended a private Christian school from Kindergarten through graduation from High School.  The teachers were all mid-western imports from  exotic places like Gary, Indiana and Flint, Michigan.  They were missionaries called by god to save Haitians from a fiery afterlife that was surely awaiting them because the Haitian culture was so satan saturated.

Dancing is one of those sins that ranked right up there with genocide that wasn't sanctioned by the Old Testament god or actually marrying someone who didn't share your skin color.  Dancing leads to all sorts of horrible things.  If you spent time dancing, most damningly with a partner, adultery, pedophilia, and (gasp) homosexuality were going to be the way you wrapped up your evening.  Dancing is the gateway sin.

In Kindergarten, as my class was preparing our part for the annual Christmas pagent, my teacher, Mrs. Gadness (oh how thrilled I was to discover that my mother, first grade teacher, was "serving the Lord with gadness!") took my mother aside with deep concern.  "I understand that Jenny, um, likes to dance, but dancing to Silent Night is a bit excessive, don't you think?"

Later, in my Bible classes, i glared at those teachers who insisted that moving the temple of the Holy Spirit to the beat was just asking for demonic possession.  I would quote the passage about King David, a man after god's own heart, exploding into exuberant dance behind the ark of the covenant as it was taken to the temple.  I would gloss over the part of his strict reprimand by all the killjoys around him.

At home, I consumed any PG movie that had dancing scenes in it.  One summer, my sister and I watched "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (starring Helen Hunt and Sarah Jessica Parker) 58 times.  And then, there were Turbo and Ozone and Kelly (Special K...every good dancer has a street name).  White Nights was rented from the video club...over and over and over.  Gregory Hines's solo grew fuzzier with time because I rewound and played, rewound and played.  Misha (that's Mikael Baryshnikov to you) danced deep into my dreams in his JEANS!

I finally accepted my one-way strobe-lit and bass driven ticket to hell.  But, I found a different sort of salvation.  I began to dance a different way. I abandoned the chaste side-stepping I did to Olivia Newton John and opened my hips, liquified my spine, and bared my feet.  Haitian folklore was similar to African dance, but, focused more on the slithering torso than the punctuating limbs.  I danced to the drums, the same drums that were used in West Africa by my ancestors.  All of a sudden, I was out of my head and it was the most spiritual experience i'd ever had to date.  i could feel the cultural, genetic umbilical chord stretching back into time.

i was more than myself.  i was the goddess, the god, the forest, the freedom fighter, the snake (who only symbolizes evil in the judeo/christian tradition: in every other the snake is the symbol for healing, knowledge, and the divine feminine.).  it was so simple, really.  it was my body and some hollowed out wood with some goat skin stretched tautly across it.  but, the sound was the same sound that humans had always made since we could.  the drum was the first external heartbeat.

of course, dancing to me was more than my salvation.  it was what showed me that there was nothing from which to BE saved.  i was primal, ancient.  moving to a hand-driven beat with others doing the same taught me what it meant to be human, to be in my own flesh.

to dance was among our original movements.  it was the original workout.  how sad it is to realize how far we've come.  dancing hard for hours only nourished me.  i couldn't do a step-aerobics class for more than thirty minutes before a homicidal desire to use that far too cheerful instructors noggin as my step took over.  lifting weights was like a metronome, dull and uninspired.  but, dancing, our earliest form of community, expression, and celebration feeds us.  so, turn on the music, feel the joy, and, like my son liked to say when he was three, "do the booty dance".

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