Dancing

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve left a lot of life’s goodies behind.  “Sure I did this in my 20’s but not anymore.”  To which I say “Why not?”  Take dancing for instance.

Last night woke me up.  I went to hear Angelique Kidjo sing.  She’s a dynamic songstress from Benin in Africa.  She strode out onstage with a huge smile, wearing traditional garb – a red, yellow and white “sari” and a headdress that matched.  I know that “sari” isn’t the right word but it’s all I know.

Angelique belted out all these fast African songs, each with a great beat.  And she danced!  Throwing her head back and zooming all over the stage, arms and legs moving every whichway.  And she was so happy!  I marvelled at the expressions of a full human being.

And then … towards the end of the concert, Angelique invited us all up on the stage to dance with her and her band!  1100 of us.  About 100 human beings took her up on it.  And there I was, boogieing my butt off in close quarters with dancers of all ages (including one 7-year-old girl, a whirl of limbs).  The music blasted, the audience wowed.  I looked out from the stage and took in all of Koerner Hall … such beauty in the walls, on the ceiling, in the seats.  And I too was happy.  I remembered other dancing times and smiled beneath the sweat:

1. Jody and I at an evening street dance in Vieux Fort, a tiny town in St. Lucia. We all were so packed in at that intersection that the only place to move was up and down.  So I bounced!

2. A staff Christmas party at a fancy restaurant in downtown London.  Jody later told me that people stared as I vibrated all body parts at a frantic pace in some skewed version of dancing.

3. Last summer in London’s Victoria Park, I threw everything around with hundreds of others to the music of Five Alarm Funk at Sunfest, our world music festival.  I looked around at a lot of 20-somethings, and precious few 60-somethings.  Too bad for those who missed out.

The truth is … I don’t want to miss out!  I want to dance.  If I’m to be with a lovely woman again, may she love to move and groove.  And if no such blithe spirit comes my way, I’ll dance alone through my remaining years on the planet.

So there.

Dancing Eyes

My friend Eleanor told me about a local “Dancing With The Stars” competition three weeks ago.  It was to be held in a historic railway station in St. Thomas, Ontario, built in the 1870’s to the tune of 354 feet long and 36 feet wide.  It was fascinating to hear that the seven couples had no ballroom experience but were getting two months of instruction from a skilled teacher.

And then I forgot about the whole thing.

A week ago, I saw Eleanor again and discovered that the show was sold out.  “Strike while the iron is hot” – so said someone from my deep dark past.  No striking from this guy.

For the past few days, I’ve had three folks trying to score me a ticket for last night’s performance.  I phoned the first two and they weren’t successful in their quest.  “Oh well, I don’t need any particular life experience to be happy,” chirped my little Buddhist soul.  But I sure wanted to go!

Thursday evening, just before the big hockey game on TV, here comes a phone call.  Eleanor’s sister-in-law was to go with a friend, but that person’s husband was ill, so she had to cancel.  “Do you know anyone who needs a ticket, Eleanor?”  “Well, I do know this guy named Bruce.”

And so I got to go, plus I got to sit in the second row, perfect for checking out flying feet.  Thank you, universe, for aligning the CASO Station and me.

Here are my personal highlights:

1.  I sat next to Lora and we laughed all night, ending up with a marriage ceremony planned for next Tuesday at 2:00.

2.  I talked to Bonnie, an old friend from the Port Stanley Community Choir.  I got to renew my zest for sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.  Maybe I’ll have a future back there.

3.  I watched one of the couples swirl across the dance floor with great love in their eyes.  Their bodies moved beautifully but it was the eyes that held me.  Afterwards, I told them how vividly their love shone.

4.  With another couple, the woman’s face was so darn alive.  I didn’t think skin could do all that.  I told her later about the joy I saw.

5.  Another pair were the driving force behind the St. Thomas Performing Arts Series – many years of concerts in a sublime circular sanctuary.  At the end, I thanked him for bringing the Barra MacNeils and many other artists to a small city.

6.  The last dancers included a woman I know well.  She was Jody’s nurse practitioner as my dear wife fell towards death.  I hadn’t seen her since Jodiette went to the hospital for the last few days of her life.  On a break, I walked up to Laura.  We smiled, we hugged, and I thanked her for taking such good care of Jody.

***

Eleanor was the coach for one of the dancing pairs and they won the People’s Choice Award.  She bounced up and down and presented us all with a huge smile.  In the audience, I was smiling pretty widely too.  Lots to be happy about.

Dancing

Long ago I ruptured a tendon in my right ankle and ended up on crutches for 17 weeks.  Jody and I went to a New Year’s Eve party that year and after dinner I sat watching couples swing and sway on the dance floor.  I love dancing.  Jody loves dancing.  It was hard.

SunFest started last night.  It’s the world music festival in London that’s expected to draw 250,000 people to Victoria Park.  Soon after I arrived, I wandered over to the beer garden, where a group from Colombia was moving and grooving.  So were about a hundred dancers in front of the stage.  I stood just outside the fence and watched.  Most of them were young but certainly not all.  Pockets of friends grooved together.  A fellow in his 70’s dipped and dived to his wife, who moved a bit and smiled a lot.  One young woman near me gyrated in a delightfully sexual way, her purse on the ground in front of her.  The wild abandon and the sensible caution … sounds like a human being.

The leader of the band told the group to “Get down!” and 200 legs obliged.  Then it was hands to the sky.  So wonderful to see all those upraised arms – full self-expression.  I stood there fascinated.  All that energy.  All those smiles.  What life should be about.

After the Colombian folks were done, I meandered down the paths of crafts booths, knowing that I would make my appearance on the dance floor a bit later.  One of the kiosks held some marvelous creations from Bali, Indonesia.  And there it hung on a wall … a wooden plaque hand-painted, revealing a human being in full lotus meditation posture, one leg tucked into the other.  And in vibrant colours were the seven chakras, or energy centres, in the body.  Actually, the crown chakra is above the head.  I just stared, and brought out my MasterCard.  My heart danced.

Speaking of which, it was time to head back to the beer garden, and to the music of Five Alarm Funk, nine guys from Vancouver sporting a drum set, three guitars, bongo drums, saxophone, trumpet and trombone.  Hmm … guess I missed somebody.  The music was loud, raucous and so very danceable.  So we did.  I found myself next to a young woman and her boyfriend.  I heard “Hi, Mr.Kerr.”  Ten years ago, she was an elementary student at the school where I taught a blind child.  It was weird and yet wonderful to dance my heart out next to her.  Little kids grow up.

For awhile I threw my arms everywhere, but as the folks packed in tighter, my movements became vertical.  I tried moving my feet in a spastic sort of way but I had to stare at them to keep from crushing someone else’s foot.  When I mustered up the energy, I bounced for a bit, arms flopping at my sides.  Finally, my bodily organs told me to calm down or my days on the planet might be numbered.  Come to think of it, my days are numbered, bouncing or not.

I sweated and strained and joyed in living.  The folks around me were mostly young and radiant, but there were two fellow grey hairs off to my right.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, Jody.  Thank you, O powers of the universe, for letting me dance again.  It’s such a part of me.  And hey, maybe during SunFest 2035, it’ll be me and my walker showing those young’uns a step or two!

Flying Like a Bird … Dropping Like a Stone

I loved walking by the water’s edge in Cuba, dipsy doodling along the sand.  Nowhere to go and no hurry to get there.  And I enjoyed saying “Hola!” to the people I met.  It was such a blessing to meet and greet, even if many folks gave me a very tight “Hola” in return, or sometimes no greeting at all.  Not being attached to the other’s response created a lightness that I wish all human beings could experience.

Then there were words from Jody on one warm afternoon: “I’m so glad you’re dancing up a storm in the disco, husband.  You’re having so much fun.  Why don’t you try some moving and grooving on the beach?”

Hmmm.  Well, I guess I could dance a bit by the waves.  Sing a few lines from a favorite song or two.  But my goodness, what would people think?  >  Who cares what they think?  >  Well, I do … sort of  >  Will you still be alive at the end of the dance, with all of your body parts intact?  >  Well, sure  >  What’s the worst that could happen?  >  Some of them will think I’m drunk  >  So?  Are you?  >  No, of course not  >  So, how about if you start shaking a leg?  >  (Pause)  Okay

A sudden tightness in the step.  Furtive glances to the left and right.  Waiting for a moment when very few folks were near.  Blah, blah, blah …  Just do it.

So I did.  The singing came first, and then the arms lifted … oh so little.  They floated to the sides, to up and to down.  Rotate that trunk.  Loosen those wrists.  Dip down for the chorus.  Tilt that sexy head of yours … And I was off, soon lost in the melody.  I held Jody like a bird and we floated over the world.  Pirouette.  Bow.  Smile.  For a few yards … till the next beach bar … for three miles or more.  My love and I, tripping the light fantastic, so deeply joined in spirit.

Sunbathers watched.  Strollers noted the mystery couple.  There were smiles, frowns, grimaces, high fives, looking away, looking into, communing, disowning.  Fear, love, anger, peace … the whole enchilada.  And I was fine with it all.  My beloved and I graced the world.

I was lighter than goose down, as rhythmic as Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Lucky me.

And then I pulled a muscle in my right calf.  Pain shot up and down the leg.  I staggered.  I plodded.  I hobbled.  The dance was dead.  I was old.  I was feeble.  I was pretty much extinct.

Such a long walk back to my hotel room.  Sunbathers watched.  Strollers noted.  Sympathy, apathy, fear that it might become them.

Floating and bloating
Reaching to the sun and crumbling to the earth
In God’s green heaven and in the devil’s fiery furnace

All in a day’s work