Monday, August 27, 2007

If It Ain't Got That Swing

If you want to make me a happy woman, take me dancing. Especially swing or salsa. It doesn't matter that I'm really not any good at it. I imagine that I look like one of the ridiculous hippos on Fantasia, floundering around with an unlucky alligator at my mercy. Don't roll your eyes. That's not an "I'm so fat, woe is me." remark. But it is what it is. I'm a fluffy girl. Yes, I am currently in a body image crisis. That's a different story and the Fantasia mental picture is unaffected.

I guess I was like any other little girl. I was exceptionally amazing, and destined to dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov. I dreamed about dancing. I lived for my ballet class and the highlight of my life was being casted in the Christmas production. At 9 years old I regularly snuck and watched Michael Jackson videos to try to memorize the choreography. I was certain that I was going to be a real dancer someday.

I couldn't wait till to be old enough to begin pointe class. My best friend Abby was a year older and she already had hers. I held my breath for a year dreaming of the day I would don the coveted toe shoes and float around like a swan. I was so close I could almost feel the blisters and the cotton balls between my toes.

Then the move happened. We were off to California and dance was left behind. In my innocent little 11 year old mind I assumed that this was my big break. Los Angeles! Real dancers! The classes simply had to be better, didn't they? Would someone famous be my instructor?

I waited patiently. Maybe mom and dad were going to put us in dance in the fall. It was February. Fall would be better.

Fall came and went. I asked and hinted as much as I could get away with. It just wasn't to be. And then there's the irony of Becky K. Bubbly Becky we called her. The ultimate Valley Girl. Cheerleader and dancer extraordinaire. Her Mom took her to classes and tryouts and I heard about them every week when they hosted the youth group in their home. Not to mention the honer of seeing her routines whenever she had something fabulous to show off. Becky was sweet. We weren't close, but we were friends and I never mentioned how painfully jealous I was. Because watching her made me realize that it was all a joke. I wasn't ever any good. And the dance classes I took were not even serious. I had no idea what real dancing was about and the obvious had never occurred to me. I would never have a slim dancer's body. Professional dancers would be starving themselves already if they weighed what I did at 13. It was a useless whim and I was embarrassed to even assume that I had any right to be called a dancer. But I got to watch her be one. Oh, and drive by Michael Jackson's ranch any time I went to visit my friend Tori in her mansion. I often wondered if the llamas in his yard danced better than me.

Time blurs reality, and our memories are prejudice and selective. I haven't thought about it in years, but all of this came back to me a few days ago when I caught up with someone from the good ol' dance days in Virginia. I'd forgotten about all of the bitterness and anger I had about it. All the hurt that comes when reality hits and a little girls dream dies. I've been mulling over all those memories, which I'm sure are skewed a bit. Our memories always are.

I realize now that my parents were getting those classes for us almost free. And a homeschooling mom of 10 has enough on her plate. I survived without dancing. Actually, we started taking Spanish classes with Mrs. Forehand. I may not have learned much Spanish with her, but I did learn to love it and that's what drew me to South America. How would that have happened if dance was in the way?

In reality, the dream didn't die completely. In college I started going swing dancing. In Bolivia I took some Flamenco classes. I've still got that big old skirt. I sure wish I'd kept the shoes! When I returned from Bolivia I went swing and salsa dancing pretty often. It makes my heart so happy to dance, still.

I hoped and hoped I would marry a man who would dance with me. Well, that and drink coffee. I always imagined morning talks over a cup of coffee and evenings out with our dance shoes on. Well, it's been almost 7 years. About twice a year we go to a wedding and Travis will dance with me. I go home wishing we had a wedding to go to every weekend.

My church had a fundraiser last night. A 1920's East Coast Swing style Prom. A chance to dance with childcare included in the price! You know I almost skipped it over not having anything to wear. Yesterday afternoon I got ambitious and bought 3 yards of fabric for $3 at Walmart and made a dress, just in time to throw it over my head and buckle on my Mary Janes from college. I threw my hair in a bun with finger waves in my bangs and off we went.

So, all this introspective blubbering is about last night. Last night I had a chance to dance. My husband danced with me and I think he actually enjoyed it for once. My feet are paying for it today, but my heart is full of life. And I want more.


Kelly Bolger Robinson said...

Reading that brings back so many of my own dance ambitions. I don't know if I wanted to be a dancer because it's what other girls did? I LOVED Michael Jackson (the 80's version)! I wanted to be Paula Abdul B.D.(before drugs), Laker Girl, Choreographer and Dancer extrodinaire. I, of course, not only lacked the dancer body but all the grace required to do it. I still watch music videos and think, "I could do that" Maybe I'm still in denial a little!

Poojo C. said...

It's nice to be able to relive that dream you had as a little girl...
I do hope you have many more weddings to go to.
Thanks for the lovely post! :)