Green grass. Hill. Grape arbor and grey tree. I tell my mom I want to be a dancer. She tells me I am too fat to be a dancer. My seven-year-old brain has a hard time with her logic. My seven-year-old brain thinks that if I took dance lessons, I might lose weight. Like my ten-year-old sister who is all sinew and spring – I think it’s because of her gymnastics lessons.
I climb the grey tree and stay there for a while. Watch the Chinese red poppies shimmer in the breeze. Their silky petals like faces in the garden at the edge of our property that my mother tended.
Half way through college I sign up for modern dance. My professor is the real-life version of Debbie Allen’s character in Fame. “Own it, “ she says, “Take ownership of everything you do – from the tilt of your head, to your timing, to the shape of your movement. I want you ladies to take that ownership out of this room and into your lives. I am talking everything.”
Tears! My eyes well up. I know what she means. She doesn’t want us giving our lives up to men who would beat us, or give up to crack or heroin, or to settle for mediocrity. She knows someone has to give a shit about us, and she wants us to care about ourselves. We work hard. I work hard. Sprints – oh, I have never felt my calves and the arches of my feet hurt like that.
At the end of the semester, my professor asks me if I am going to major in dance. Oh! I already have two majors, and am very close to graduating.
What if I had taken dance during my first semester?
Haze. Nothing so clear as rhythm. The beat. I could close my eyes and not feel blind as long as there was sound. Ecstatic sway.
Body in space. Total awareness. Other bodies in space. Swish of air being pushed.
Dance dance dance dance. I have a stiff upper body, but the lower part of me is all loose and fluid. Actually, my upper body is comparatively stiff to my lower body, but compared to most bodies . . .
Body. Funny thing about dance is that it takes me out of body. I’m not feeling it so much as I am feeling the action.
Yogi song – I am not this body, this body is not me.
But I am judged by my body. Or, I was judged by my body.
Dancing. Blinky light disco. Christmas-time when my step-brothers visit. KC and the Sunshine Band. My brother picks me up by my arm and my leg and spins around – like on Dance Fever. We are going great until he drops me. Concrete floor. I land on my teeth.
I am usually the first person out on the dance floor.
Sober. Smiling. Straight white teeth. All originals.
– April, 2011 Flagstaff, AZ
Photo by George Tiboni circa 1992