I danced before I walked, so says my mother. She was grateful that The Mickey Mouse Club was on the black and white TV while she prepared dinner, because I’d pull myself up by the rails of my wooden playpen and dance for the hour, completely enraptured by its music and my ability to move.
A few years older, and my mother signed me up for the “de rigueur” ballet classes. I always felt awkward and self-conscious given my size, and what I sensed was my mother’s embarrassment that I was big and “chubby” compared to the tiny bodies of my classmates and their slender mothers. I can just catch the wisp of a criticism made by the teacher about my body not being able to do something or other. I didn’t last long there.
Instead, I’d turn on the hifi when no one was home, and dance out my worries, dance in my joy. I don’t recall to what music… the genre didn’t matter… I simply gave over to the tempo and melody and choreographed these “one off” solo performances for my own need and for the sacred, silent, unseen ones who watched over me.
I won the free dance competition at a summer camp one year. Seventy-five or so pubescent girls, many whose parents were foster and group homes. Their wild, uninhibited lives were a stark contrast to mine and my hometown chums. But every night on the dance floor, with budding breasts and gyrating hips, we belonged to the same salty-sweaty tribe who danced without caution for our lives.
Fast forward to grad school. I enrolled in an adult Cechetti ballet class and loved its precision and discipline, and the walk home with my new neighbor, Mary. And every weekend my best friend, Linda, and I drove to the next city to cut loose at that university’s all-night disco. The perfect counter point. A perfect antidote. I swore I got through grad school dancing.
I met The Scientist on that same dance floor. Struck by his unique and fluid way of moving… tai chi meets the Talking Heads. That, and his short cropped hair and handlebar moustache (I’ve never seen him without either) and signature grey beret, he caught my eye and soon received my heart. It’s been nearly thirty-two years since I took that bold step and said, as we passed each other on the floor, “I like the way you move, and your hat…” A year or so later and we both stepped down the aisle to make our life together, to dance our “pas de deux.”
Last night I participated in the Sufi-based Dances for Universal Peace. I’ve been captivated by Sufism for several years since reading Awakening by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, the son of the man who brought Sufism to the west over one hundred years ago, Hazrat Inayat Khan. The second of my life changing, $2.00, brand new books – the first opened up the world of process painting, Life, Paint and Passion by Michele Cassou – it deeply resonated with my heart. Since then I’ve been gingerly exploring its many edges and lineages. Spontaneously an email arrived a month ago announcing the local MeetUp group hosting these dances. I circled the date and with my intrepid self taking the lead, I followed. With a dozen or so men and women, I circle danced the embodied prayer of the Zikr practice of polishing the heart where sacred phrases are sung along with movement.
This past summer, I read the third of those life changing, $2.00, brand new books, Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers. With the same intense curiosity and need to venture in, as when I read Life, Paint and Passion, I emailed Ms. Roth to find out where, here I could begin to study her method. No reply, but last night’s after-dance conversation resulted in some local threads to follow. Today a phone call made, a request for when and how to begin.
I’m stoking an ancient fire whose softly lit embers have always rested deep within my belly and being since my earliest days. Today, as I stand “in between the years” (a most lovely German expression I’ve recently learned from my two German “sisters”), and know the potency and auspiciousness of this coming year, I delight in knowing that The Scientist and I will dance it in together at the Blue Chair Café. I’ve just entered the next year’s worth of monthly dates for the Dances of Universal Peace. The year 2012 will find me sweating my prayers… polishing my heart… dancing for peace… esctatically… for life.