"Her dance observed her self and asked 'How have I come to be here?'
Her dance observed the universe in which self existed and asked, 'How did all this come to be here with me?'
And at last, observing her self in relation to its universe, 'Why am I so alone?' "
--Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Stardance
Somebody said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, so perhaps writing about dancing is like music about architecture, but I'm going to give it a try. I love to dance. I took four years of ballet lessons, my only formal training, and I'm a member of USF's ballroom dancing club. But mostly I like kinda free-form dancing. The reason I ended up dropping out of ballet lessons is that I can't remember choreography for shit, and it usually takes longer to burn a prescribed dance into my muscles than I have before the recital. But just let me improvise...
I know, it's kind of a prima donna thing; you can't be in a troupe of dancers if you aren't doing exactly the same thing as everyone else. You have to be off attracting attention away from others to yourself, or better yet, have the stage all to yourself. But it's more expressive to improvise. Perhaps there are a few pieces of music out there that are best made visual by six or twelve or thirty people all doing the same thing, but not much of what's in my collection. I mostly dance to stuff that falls somewhere in the really broadest interpretation of the category "rock music." Songs like Faith No More's "The Real Thing," Santana's "Black Magic Woman," and Tori Amos's "Precious Things" have little in common except that they make me want to move, to say something that only the body can say. I can feel different things for each song, unlike ballroom dancing where all that matters is an appropriate beat.
The body gets to move in ways it doesn't normally. It's like a baby waving its arms around, bringing its toes up to its face, just discovering that it can. Moving in ways that one never gets a chance to do in everyday life, if one gets to move at all. I most itch to dance when my body's been trapped in a chair for three hours in a class. But at least I get to walk across USF's spread-out campus; it seems like a lot of people drive their cars, sit in their chairs, and lie on their beds, and that's all the movement in their lives. I don't think I could do that. I already have back problems from too much time hunched over books and computers, aggravated by briefly-held jobs where I had to lift things. And I'm probably next in line for carpal tunnel syndrome from computer use. In dancing, I may risk pulling a muscle I don't normally use, but the one thing I'll never get is a repetitive strain injury. A dance that expresses a feeling is anything but repetitive; even to the same song, I never do the same dance twice. Some one element that I particularly like may keep showing up (for example, there's this forceful kick that I seem to put into "Precious Things" at the lines "I want to smash the faces/Of those beautiful boys...") but everything else went unrecorded and unremembered the previous times; how could I reconstruct something that didn't even come from my conscious mind? The higher functions are disconnected in response to a call from the rest of the body. Like sexual arousal -- you could ignore what your body wants, but why not satisfy it if you possibly can?
It glides, flies, tumbles and carries me along without my volition. It scours something inside me that I never knew was dirty. Raw but refreshed, I can survive for a while, even stuck to a chair while a professor drones on. Nietzsche was right to say that "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance." And when I dance, I come closer than at any other time in my life to feeling connected to, and part of, a benevolent universe."Faced always with the impossibility of reaching the absolute, I began to dance again."
-- Anais Nin
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