Monday, October 31, 2005

Writers Can't Help But Dance

I have to admit it. My life is surrounded by books and writing and plays and ever more words. Fortunately, I am married to someone who has the same caliber of bookish values as I do. Our usual night out might include dinner, followed by a poetry reading, an inexpensive, local play, a bookstore browsing session or a coffeehouse to read or write while sipping java. So it was a little unusual when we both signed up for a dance class together at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Or was it?

Before I was a writer, I was a dancer. I used to tear it up on the disco floor. Before that, I took ballet, tap and acrobatics for seven years. My husband, too, had studied Aztec ceremonial dancing and knows a lot of other tribal steps.

So last weekend, we revisited and explored our dancer selves once again, and set a new foot forward into the dance mode, tripping the light fantastic, starting with Mexican Folkloric dancing. We moved our feet quickly to follow the pattern of the teacher's staccato dance steps, which seemed to be landing in a combination of dance locales -- reminiscent of Irish stepdancing, tap and flamenco.

While I danced, I remembered how years ago, a poet friend Effie created a literary magazine called "Salome," entirely devoted to dance. I had contributed a number of dance poems and also helped her edit others' submissions. Effie took all sorts of dance classes as both afficianado and researcher, and reviewed the performances of any dance troupe that came through town. She invited me to a few of the modern dance classes, to participate, and to a vast number of performances, to perform as spectator. At one venue we frequented, MoMing Dance Theater, my then future husband worked in its artist-in-residence program. We met for real years later.

But back to the Mexican Zapateado class. We danced solo. We danced as a pair. We danced in a circle with all the others. We danced in a line dance. There was guitar, clapping, our feet stamping, a singer shreiking calls and songs, a loud din of energy and mindless release and memory. Afterward, we were exhausted but invigorated. The possibilities of where these out-of-mind and into-body experiences could take us seemed endless. But one look at the syllabus and we learned that in weeks to come our feet would venture to the middle of Amazon country in a traditional Indian dance, to Northeast Brazil, home of the farro, and finish off doing the samba like it's carnivale.

But come on, shouldn't you be sitting alone in your room writing in your journal? For the most part, that sounds pretty good to me. But there arrives a time to come hear the music play. Because writers can't help but dance. And dancers can't help but write. ◦

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