I love to dance. I always have. When I was a child and young teenager it was expressed through ballet. It was considered an "appropriate" dance form for a young Christian girl. Although I could name all of the French positions and execute them with excellence and flair, I simply did not have the body for it. I was too short and too compact with flexibility in only half of all the right places. I was certain my hamstrings were held together by metal strands and not tendons like everyone else. All of the other pretty ballerinas could stretch their top halves so gracefully down past the floor scraping their bun-adorned heads, while I grunted in pain and eyes bulging from the effort. Hoping, always hoping that the tip of my longest finger would miraculously graze the floor. Needless to say, by 16 years old I had come to terms with the fact that I was not cut out for such a graceful dance form.
But what would I do with this leftover rhythm and a heart that burst every time I heard a good beat? Squash it? Quell it? Live cathartically through old re-runs of Dirty Dancing and Footloose? Sure, as I got older I found some release in the club and bar scene, but I'd always been told that dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire. I didn't really believe it though. Dancing didn't make me want to have illicit sex; it made me want--for nothing. Because in that moment I was free, in control, exuberant, passionate. Breathing, sweating, smiling and alive. If this is sin, then a life of piety is not for me.
When I would dip south of the American border I found new thrill in learning the salsa and meringue. The locals seemed to have a natural gift for dance, and I would pick up their steps quickly. For Latinos, dancing is so much a part of their culture, to take it away would be to remove their heart. Many of them live on meager portions, many in poverty, and yet they dance--confidently. Kings and queens of the Kingdom Dance Floor wrapped in wealth, impoverished no longer.
As of late, my soul has felt heavy and impoverished, hankering for a spiritual and physical release. I found a bit of relief for it in an odd place. Zumba. It's the latest North American fitness craze that combines Latin and international music with dancing and aerobics. I found classes that are pay as you go and wasted no time. I jumped in with both feet (pun intended) the very next night with hopeful expectation and only a bit of apprehension. I wouldn't know a soul there, but in a sense it gave me a bit of comfort to know I was going to be shaking it like a saltshaker in a room of strangers who probably wouldn't judge me.
As they shouldn't. The class was full of mostly middle-aged women with not two, but three left feet if that's possible, looking to get fit and feel young again. Eighty percent of the class looked ridiculous trying to follow the moves of our Latina instructor. I am certain that if a man had happened to drop in on the class, sex would have been the last thing on his mind. Very un-sexy things were happening in all that sweat and spandex. However, we women strangers were free.
For one hour, we were released from the restraints of work, relationships, life and all the inhibitions that come with it. Free from the memories, free from the sorrow. Free from tomorrow. Heart pounding and hips shaking I let go. I laughed at myself when I couldn't catch onto some of the steps and smiled to myself when I got them right. It was just the dancing therapy I've been craving for some time.
I've also come to terms with the fact that I probably won't ever be a back up dancer for Janet Jackson or wow the television audiences on ABC's Dancing With The Stars. For now, I'll stick with being satisfied at givin'er at wedding receptions and the hardwood floor of my living room. Here, I am the dancing queen. I will dance and jive having the time of my life. Unabashedly, without reproach, and alive. So alive...