My friend Adam used to tease me in high school because I could never hold still. Even while in conversation, I’d be swaying back and forth or would be absentmindedly practicing jazz squares. My friends tease me when we watch home videos of elementary school choir concerts. Everyone was poised properly and then there was me…a freakishly tall string bean, bopping along to the music from the back row. My darling college roommate, Corinne, put up with a lot (understatement) of prancing around our teeny tiny apartment over the course of four years. My dancing was also the core to several attempted pick-up lines: “You look so good dancing there by yourself, I almost don’t want to cut-in” (cheesy. Sorry, fella, though you did give little first year me a nice ego-boost). I attribute losing my baby weight to all the dancing I do around the house (“no wonder you’re so skinny!” my mother regularly exclaims).
If I were to say, “I love to dance,” that statement would be the understatement of the year. To say that I “love” to dance would be putting it mildly. Dancing is what makes me happy. When I’m happy, I’m dance.
I took dance classes all of my life. I started with ballet when I was little, but quit because it was too proper. When my parents persuaded me back to dance classes, I returned to do jazz and tap. I resisted ballet until high school when one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Susan, convinced me that I would become a better dancer if I studied ballet. She was right.
Even as a ballerina, I was never a great performing dancer, but I was a good dancer. I had to work twice as hard as my classmates, taking extra classes to improve my technique. I was never featured in a piece. I was rarely selected to partner with a male counterpart. Those parts were reserved for the petite, short girls. I’m slender but I’ve always been tall for my age–proudly so. But, I still loved to dance. Despite not having the right type of body and not being a technically perfect dancer, I’m finally beginning to see that I was great in other ways. I was great because dancing made me happy.
Before we were friends, my now-friend Willa approached me after a recital in high school. “You were my favorite,” she shared, surprising me to my core. “You were so elegant and graceful.” (I bet now that she knows me, she realizes how ungraceful I truly am). Her words touched me. While I don’t know how elegant I was that night, I know she saw how much I loved to dance. I watch recordings of my old recitals and am sometimes embarrassed by how much looser I look compared to my peers. “Not enough muscle control,” I think. But was that truly the problem? In retrospect, I don’t think it was. I think that I truly enjoyed myself more than the other dancers and it showed! Not to say that all the dancers were miserable, but some were on-stage because their parents wanted them to be or some were so veiled in arrogance (you know, that kind that goes along with any form of performing arts) that they weren’t truly present in the performance. When I performed, I was there. And I was happy to my core.
After high school, I stopped taking classes, but dancing has remained a central part of my life. When I went out on weekends, it was not to get drunk, it was to dance. I drove some of my friends crazy because whenever they asked to buy a drink for me, I asked for water because the alcohol made me feel sick when I tried to dance. While dating, I knew my now-husband Jesse was something special when he agreed to go Salsa dancing for my birthday, only one month into our relationship. He was super adorable, by the way. He wasn’t able to get the exact steps but he kept up in his own Jesse-style (anyone who has seen him dance knows exactly what I mean). I fell hardcore in love with him as he threw me around the dance floor at his brother’s wedding. I think after watching the two of us dance, his family and friends knew we were destined to be wed. Now married, we engage in impromptu dance parties in our kitchen when we’re feeling particularly in love.
I was recently discussing with Corinne whether she thought I’d scar my son with my regular dance performances that are carried out throughout our house. Thankfully, at the moment, Bug gets a kick out of watching me boogie and loves it even more if I bop him around with me. I cannot wait until he is big enough to enroll in his first creative movement class so I can watch my little man learn the joy of expressing himself through movement.