As a child, I loved to dance, as all children love to dance, completely unselfconsciously, hearing only the music, never having the thought that there could be a right way or a wrong way, just the melody and the beat becoming something alive and three-dimensional for the duration of a four-minute song.
Then I had a boyfriend who was an awesome dancer. His brother – who also had serious dance moves – told him that he should cool it, that women don’t like to dance with someone who’s a better dancer, that he was being insensitive. The boyfriend kept on dancing his way. This wasn’t a problem for me – I loved to dance and to dance with him and to see his joy in the music.
Until the day he told me I was doing it wrong.
Suddenly, everything I did seemed wooden and flat and out of time and horribly off. “No,” he’d say, “watch me. See how I go right once, then left, then right twice? You can’t just bop back and forth like that. You have to pay attention.”
He ruined my confidence in my dancing, and my sense of the music. Or to be more accurate, I lost my confidence.
Years ago, I met a woman in our homeschooling community who was also part of a regular drum circle. I was fascinated. I love the sound of hand drums, especially with an African or Caribbean beat.
Walking around her living room, I reached out to touch the drums, but did not allow myself to pick one up, to give it a thump. She noticed my hesitation. “You should join us. Come next time.” I backed away, trying to laugh. “Oh no, I couldn’t. I would only embarrass myself. I have no sense of rhythm of at all.” She took great – deeply personal – offense at this, and got right in my face to say,
That’s horseshit. Of course you have rhythm. Do you want to know how I know that? Because everyone has rhythm. Do you hear me?
RHYTHM IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT.
I’ve never forgotten this. I’m not sure I’ve ever believed it really applied to me, but I’ve always remembered the passion with which this kind woman spoke. She spoke these words as a Truth. Everyone has rhythm.
My husband has rhythm, and he gets music. He remembers the lyrics to every song he listened to while studying in high school and college. Yes, 80s hair-bands, I’m looking at you. He knows every little bop and boop and drum beat and cymbal crash, and he can move his body. And he would NEVER tell me I was doing it wrong.
Yet, we don’t dance together. We did once, years ago, at his employer’s Christmas party with a live band. But it’s harder to cut loose with your moves when the folks who report to you on Monday morning are watching. In the back of my mind, I worried that I had embarrassed him.
When DaMomma first talked about Zumba classes, I laughed. (I tried to link to the post, but I’m getting an error. DaMomma had some technical difficulties recently – might be related. I wish you could read it, because it’s very real and very funny.) Liz talked about feeling uncoordinated, about the very-nice-dance-instructor-who-could-not-possibly-have-room-for-organs, about the Latin party music.
And I knew that I couldn’t take a Zumba class, no matter how fun they sound. I can’t dance, remember?
What is my fear? Looking foolish or stupid? Being corrected and embarrassed? Fear of – again – being told that I’m doing it wrong? That I’m not good enough?
Those are lame fears. Not to be unkind to myself, but really, my fear of earthquakes is far more justified. My fear of general anaesthetic is at least a function of real events.
Being afraid of looking foolish? Lame. I know better.
I will stare those fears down. To that end, I make it a point to have a regular solo dance party. I turn up the music, and I let it rip. I even added “make a dance video” to my life list (item #2), inspired by Joy’s. Damn. That lady has some fierce body love going on.
At dinner a few weeks ago, my husband said, “So, I brought home a Kinect. I need to learn more about it for work.” I surprised all of us by swiveling my head to him, with a squeaky, excited, “Really?!?!” (Kristina digs on the video games; me, not so much.) The next day we stopped by a game store, saw the dance games, and all my old fears resurfaced.
I withdrew like a groundhog haunted by crazed zombie shadows. On Mother’s Day, there was a lovely card on the table. And two Kinect games: one a multi-sport my daughter and I played and laughed with all afternoon; the other, Zumba.
Zumba. As in dancing. A latin dance party. Oh dear.
I stared at it for a few days, feeling taunted by the splashy text and sparkly colours. I have finally taken it out of the box. I started with the tutorial sessions – instruction a real dancer would find painfully basic. I had to redo each brief tutorial at least once. Feeling a little confidence, I moved on to a 20-minute warm-up routine. I wish I could tell you that after my tutorial practice I rocked the dance routines, and was sprinkling in new moves of my own.
But I had fun. And it is a great workout. And I (sort of) danced. And I had fun. Which is the part that will get me back to do it again. And when I do, I hope that I start to trust my rhythm. I want to find my mojo again.
I still haven’t joined a drum circle. But I might, someday.
I’ve been listening to The Be Good Tanyas, and this song.