The music was loud. I could feel it reverberating in my spine and down the back of my calves as I stood watching the crowd of people dance. After two days of 14-hour lectures with few breaks, the 100 or so photographers were letting loose and dancing. The throng pulsated; there were shouts and shots and glasses held in the air. Somehow, the group hired a DJ and he sat crammed in the corner of the bar, spinning the latest hits as the crowd roared with approval.
They were beautiful, this crowd. And I stood watching, as I always do, guarding the purses that had been tossed onto chairs and under soggy coats.
The mass of people parted as one man — one speaker — tall, so he could see over the tops of other bobbing heads that I wasn’t dancing, made his way out. Eye contact with me. Smiling. Arm outstretched. He was inviting me into the group, to experience what they were experiencing.
And I clutched a chair and shook my head side-to-side, quickly, no, but he pulled me in, and someone else grabbed me and carried me — carried me — twirling and laughing. And still others grabbed my hands and moved me around like a rag doll. I felt stiff and self-conscious, and I yelled over the music, “I didn’t even dance at my own wedding!”
I’m a wallflower. Always have been; always thought I would be. My sister is the dancer in the family — she’s taken a million classes, was employed by a professional basketball team, and now dangles off aerial silks for fun. Me, I took one beginner jazz class to get a class credit in middle school; the instructor, knowing who my sister was, smiled when she saw my feet, but quickly learned that I was just one flapping, uncoordinated mess. I could see what she was doing but having my body mimic the movement just… did not work.
So I never danced.
I love to watch dancers. Sometimes I feel a sad sense of loss, like — had I shown any interest when I was a kid, had I been pressured, had I applied myself, could I be more graceful? Coordinated? Limber? Could I dance at parties instead of hovering by the door? Would I have more spacial awareness of my body? (I still run into counter corners and doorknobs.)
I devour dance movies in gulps… good, bad, documentary, fiction. Sometimes I feel like Lady Catherine de Bourgh: “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Well, maybe not that proficient, but I would have been better along than I am now.
It finally occurred to me that I can’t just lament my lack of dance knowledge anymore — not if I want it to change. I’m going to be 30 this year and I want to be able to at least feel comfortable on a dance floor.
Last month, I signed up for beginner ballet lessons. Tuesday, I went to my first class. It wasn’t what I was expecting, in that I was expecting a bonafide ballet studio complete with mirrors, piano accompanist, and a wooden barre. It was smaller, our instructor was young and smiling, and we did our exercises to old ’90s R&B. And because it was the basics, we held positions and learned vocabulary and learned how to stand. But every journey, no matter how random, starts with a small step.
And so this is mine.
I’m going to learn how to dance! Probably not well. Probably without rhythm. Probably against my body’s protests. But I’m going to learn!
Wish me luck :)
Images are from an aerialist shoot I did at Houston’s Barringer bar. Aerialists are Chieko (my sister) and Ori.