Putting Down Roots


still stuck in the mountains, and dancing
October 29, 2010, 1:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yesterday, my stepfather died, and I went contra dancing. The car was still stuck in the shop. Rachel and I had taken each other out for a slice of vegan chocolate peanut butter cake, and on our way back, I was trying to decide whether to take my feelings and my head-cold to bed, or whether to take my shoes off and feel the worn dance floor beneath my feet. Knowing that the Tallahassee dance next week would make me pine for the Old Farmer’s Ball, I found the dollar in my pocket and gave it to the folks at the door, who also would have rather been dancing.

The band was great: two fiddles, a flute, a keyboard, a bit of tambourine, a whole lot of kicking up their legs. The first thing I danced was a waltz. Sometimes waltzes are wonderful places for conversation (I heard a story the other day of a couple who’s been together 7 years who met during a contra dance, exchanging enough life details during the 3 minutes of waltzing to begin to fall in love), but I was not in the mood for talking, and certainly not in the mood for trying to figure an honest answer to the question, “how are you?” So we just danced. Mostly in the world, gender roles frustrate me, but there are few things more satisfying than being a capable follower waltzing with a lead who knows what they’re doing. If you’re good enough at dancing, there’s this fluency that bodies take on. When someone presses against your hand, you know which way to turn; when someone raises their arms just the slightest little bit or turns on their heel or rotates their shoulders just a couple degrees away from yours, you know what their body is telling your body to do. It’s something you don’t need words to communicate. It’s such a welcome relief.

When I go to dances, I am acutely aware of just how improbable it is that those bodies are in my arms: that we are woven together in such a way that we can do this sort of movement. I am always pretty amazed at life, but I am most concious of it when I’m at a dance, and thus most concious of death. Dancing feels like a protest, somehow, an assertion of life. Or maybe it’s not that deep. Maybe it’s just that it feels good to spin to fiddle music and know that there’s a set of arms exactly poised to catch you.

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