A Love Letter to Dancing
Because that's what happens when you let go and dance. We weren't dancing to look hot for men, for the "ubiquitous male gaze", we were dancing for ourselves, for our very own bodies - to get fit, get happy and shake our tooshies just because we can! Every time I step into a zumba class I feel that same magic; sure it seems like just another work out fad, but the power of women, and a few brave men, being comfortable with themselves, loving their bodies and shaking them hips, freely and expressively, is beautiful. One of the last songs we did tonight was a jungle-sounding beat, we had to stomp and swing our arms wildly and probably looked completely ridiculous, and it was that song that got the most applause and shouts at the end.
Dancing is power. In Peru, arriving with little Spanish, I made friends by dancing - showing up to the party, trying my best at salsa, teaching them some American style pop. In the country of Georgia, with no Georgian language skills at all, I wooed my entire neighborhood by attempting traditional Georgian steps. I was a supra super star! Georgians don't care too much about your skill - everyone dances, young and old, drunk and sober, no worries, just stomp those feet. This is wonderful. How I wish the good ol' USA had this relationship with dancing.
Dancing is so often vilified here - and I get it, it can be over sexualized. So are tv shows and children's Halloween costumes. And then there are all those people who "only dance with a few drinks in me". Ok, fine, but you are missing the point. No one "can't dance". As a man much wiser than me once said "everybody has a body don't they?" Little kids dance all the time, to any sort of music. It's only when we start getting older and all embarrassed that the dancing stops, and I think Anglo-Saxon cultures have "I'm too embarrassed to dance"-itis worse than anybody. (Especially a lot of white straight men, I've noticed. Guys, you're missing out!)
I grew up with a dancing family - a mom and aunt who were dance teachers, and a whole passel of relatives who love to break it down on the dance floor. Anytime we had an excuse, especially weddings, we were grooving. We're even known to start at an impromptu dance party after Thanksgiving dinner. One of my favorite photos ever is a picture of my 88-year old Gran having a dance off with my little brother, surrounded by her grandchildren.
Here in New Orleans I'm learning how to zydeco dance! Washboards and Louisiana French and songs about swamps and alligators and octogenarians swinging past us. I went to check it out with a friend of mine and had numerous older couples telling us exactly how it was done. It was hard and I wasn't very good at it and I'm so glad I went. Next we're checking out some swing dancing at D.B.A.'s on Frenchman, and eventually I hope to try salsa at Mojitos.
Because dance (or lack there-of) is another puzzle piece of the culture. Music, food, language, kinship, dancing. It's all part of it. And dancing is a very powerful part. So shake it. Don't break it. Took your mama nine months to make it.