Tag Archives: dancing

My Struggle with Dance

4 Jun

napoleon dance

I wasn’t born a dancer.

I have the long, gangly limbs of an awkward schoolgirl married with the anxieties of a shut-in. Though I’m often mistaken for the kind of person who will get up and dance, it’s one of the pastimes I prefer our culture had never actually developed so that I could never live to be pressured into the misery of participating in it.

I danced once in middle school. I had developed a deep-seated complex about having to shower naked in the open with other girls and so to distract everyone’s attention from my conscientious objection, I stood on one of the benches in the locker room and performed a rousing rendition of “Father Abraham”, which I learned in Christian School.

Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Faaaaather Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s all praise The Lord! (Right Arm!) Father Abraham… had many sons….

It went on in this hokey-pokey like fashion until all my body parts were involved. It was the dancing highlight of my first decade.

About five years later, I took a real stab at it in college. It was a pact between a friend and me– we were both ungifted with grace and thought taking Modern Dance would be an excellent way to help gain control over our gangly limbs. I remember it taking me several weeks simply to memorize the warmup routine. I also remember slamming my head off the stage during the final performance. Mostly.

A few years after that, I made one final and last-ditch effort to fall in line with society’s demand that I dance. After knocking out my gen eds, I transferred to a performing arts conservatory  with a nationally-lauded dance program. I was in the acting track and thought it would be prudent to dip my toes in the dance water to help not embarrass myself in future auditions that require rudimentary movement.  I signed up for “Dancing for Actors” – a class specifically tailored to actors who want to avoid humiliation. We learned basic steps and combinations and had to choreograph a piece and teach it to the class.

I struggled. There was a lot of stepping on toes and attempting to lead, which apparently isn’t permitted by humans with hoo-has. For my final piece, I choreographed “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and featured a freestyle section where everyone was commanded to channel their inner jungle animal and move through the space. It was beautiful.  It’s the only assignment on which I got an A.

And also the only assignment for which I didn’t dance.

My least favorite part of being a non-dancing human is weddings. People will always try to get me to dance at weddings. Somewhere along the way, someone told society that if you’re in an environment where other people are dancing and you’re not, you must not be having fun. The reality of the situation is that I’m highly skilled in self-entertainment (as a child I spent a lot of hours sitting in the car alone while my mom ran errands). But because society has been taught that dancing is fun and non-dancers are miserable, it becomes everyone’s personal mission to make non-dancers dance at weddings.

As if it’s not humiliating enough to have to scramble for a bouquet of flowers in front of everyone.

I have made two attempts at dancing in the past several months (a new record). The first was at a wedding where my friends pulled me onto the dance floor against my will and gang-danced me into a circular cage until I had to either move or ruin everyone’s fun. The second was last week.

I was at the wedding of a lovely and fantastic couple and feeling quite safe about the experience because Dave has been very vocal about his distaste for dancing. I remembered that quality being one of the things I checked off my “ideal man” list that I keep in my pocket at all times for cross-referencing. However, at this particular wedding, he was dancing.

This was an entirely new kind of pressure. Dave is a very attractive man, and weddings typically feature moderately attractive women. So added to the weight of ruining a wedding with my sourpuss non-dancing and the pressure of my friends egging me to do so publicly, I now had to consider that if I didn’t get out there and dance with him, some other boobed lady beast would.  So I did what any self-respecting woman would do: I asked the DJ to play “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness and threw caution to the wind. He followed it up with “Brick House” and two things occurred to me: 1) I don’t mind dancing if it’s to amusing music and 2) I don’t mind dancing as much now that I’m not so fat.

That last part is a big one.

For those of you following along at home, I’m halfway through a venture I’ve dubbed Project Fatass 365, wherein I must work out every day all year. There on that dance floor I realized that there was much less jiggle in my jiggy and that I wasn’t nearly as concerned with people’s eyes being on me as I used to. Not just because there is less of me and because I can better control what I have, but because I just care a lot less about what people think. Now that I’ve shed some of the megagut I was using to store my food for winter all year long, I have more energy to be my middle-school self.

I’m still not a dancer. I will probably never be one. I’m living proof that slides, be they of the cha-cha or the electric variety, are not universally demonstrated. But that’s okay because I do one hell of a Father Abraham.

So here’s to a new Jackie – a Jackie who dances not because she’s egged on or pressured or gang-danced to humiliation, but because she hears Brick House and wants to get funky and doesn’t really care what it looks like to everyone else. It’s a shame that I ever lost that spark that got me on the locker room bench in the first place.

But you still can’t make me shower in public.

Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Faaaather Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s all praise the Lord (LEFT ARM!) Father Abraham….

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