Remembering Dance

Today I was listening to a friend’s podcast that he recently launched (because if you’re not going to bake sourdough, then you’re going to start a podcast during a pandemic). At first I was pretty skeptical as I knew the focus would be on dance and despite a love of dance, the topic makes me feel uncultured, uneducated. There is something about the topic of dance that feels unattainable, like I cannot belong.

But dance is not unattainable and this podcast reminds me of that each episode. We don’t all dance the same way, but we all experience its impacts.

Garth, podcaster extraordinaire, and I danced together at my wedding reception. Although my dance with my dad and my first dance with Tyler were wonderful, this is the dance that stands out to me during the night. In fairness, Garth is a trained dancer and one thousand times more talented than either of them, but that alone is not what made it special. As we were flying around the dance floor, I remember saying something along the lines of, “We’ve never danced like this before.” Garth clearly thought I was insane (just a little drunk) as we had danced together in college all the time. But what I couldn’t articulate in the moment was I had never felt whole, felt connected, felt strong, felt confident when dancing before, the way I felt then. I had never not cared with others thought. I had never danced with a dancer I admired and felt sure of myself.

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Photo credit: Chris Torres

I enrolled in tap class in elementary school. I was the only student who didn’t take ballet or jazz on top of tap. Ballet and jazz were too quiet, too subtle. I wanted to hear all the taps in unison, feel the shake of the stage with everyone dancing together. For me, dancing wasn’t about subtlety and grace, I didn’t have that. It was about living out loud. But I quit dancing in middle school after an obnoxious kid made fun of me for wearing a leotard. It didn’t seem cool anymore and to be honest, I wasn’t that good.

In high school and college, dancing was everything. It was being front and center at all of our friends’ shows, dancing even when no one else was. It was weekly house parties with crowded, loud living rooms. My senior year my roommates and I went dancing every week. My memory of this time is a blur of dark bars of slick bodies and cheap drinks. The problem was, by this time, my self-confidence was at an all time low. I loved to dance but I could never shake being self-conscious. I could never dance without comparing myself to those around me.

When I moved to Texas, dancing meant two-stepping. It meant dancing with a partner. This was foreign territory for me, but it was the social highlight of my new community so I jumped in. While I never lost the stiffness that comes from caring too much what others think, I learned to love sharing a dance with someone else.

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This past week I had one of my parenting dreams come true. Haines asked me if we could have a dance party. I put on some music (okay, it was Daniel Tiger songs on Pandora) and we danced around the living room. He danced his strange 3-year old dance moves (he holds one armpit at a time) to every song with intense joy and enthusiasm. Austin, in true toddler fashion, bounces his big diapered bottom around to the music and claps at the end of every song.

My first memory of dancing is swing dancing in the living room with my dad. I was ecstatic to be picked up and swung around. My dad is not a great dancer but he is an eager and enthusiastic partner, ready to accept my every dance invitation and as long as I wanted to listen to the “golden oldies” he kept the music coming. 

That little dance party has encouraged me to bring more dancing back to my life. To take more impromptu moments to turn up the music and dance around the living room. Is my family always on board? No, but I no longer care what anyone thinks.

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