I discovered the small black and white snapshot of me as a young child in a shoebox of old photos. My parents thought I might want to sort through them. Bowler hat on my head, smile on my face, I was probably about 4 years old, ready to move my feet and dance for joy. At least that’s the story as I remember it. A few minutes later, I found another pic at the bottom of the box. Several years older, I am now on my knees praying over my sandwich on the back stoop of our home. Whether the shot was posed or snapped while I wasn’t looking, I don’t remember. Regardless, the two photos capture the shift in my childhood from innocent freedom to self-conscious devotion.
I’ve always wanted to dance. All the more ironic that I attended a private parochial high school which, in the era of my adolescence , did not permit dancing as part of the social scene. Yes, the “Footloose” scenario was for real. Rather than senior prom we had the junior/senior banquet. I remember, however, that Jolly Palm had a party one weekend at her house with dancing. Her home was out on Lake Minnetonka where the rich, more progressive families lived. I went to the party, anxiously.
I have danced, but I don’t claim it as part of who I am. I can hear the melody of “Summerplace” on the Johnny Mann Singers’ LP as Mary and I held each other close and danced in the staff cabin at Koronis the summer before we were married. The Christmas Dinner Dance was one of the annual highlights of my years working with youth at the Barn in Ridgewood.
I’ve danced very much alone in the dark of the night to the sound of Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams”. Just a few years ago my granddaughter, Eva, drew all of us into leaping and laughing to the “Nutcracker Suite” one Christmas eve after dinner. Recently, in the glow of a bright South African full moon, a group of young African men – students at the African Leadership Academy- unexpectedly pulled me into their circle, girating and jousting with one another to the pulsating beat of powerful African rhythms.
Of course, I have danced at weddings across the years. Some have noticed, I have learned, that I can dance. But I still don’t own it, don’t practice it, don’t claim it.
Recently Mary and I started taking ballroom dance lessons. We’ve gone to an occasional “Arthur Murray” dance class in the past. But we had never before intentionally decided that we would really learn to dance together. We’ve each noticed, in our own way, at the conclusion of a dance lesson, that we are revived even though tired. We’re strangely energized even if frustrated with our fumbled steps. We’ve re-connected to ourselves and, even after one too many turns, with one another.
I frequently encourage clients with whom I work to own and exercise the disconnected or “fringe” elements of their personalities, if they want to become more fully and completely the leaders they are. What does it take to be more fully who I am?
Maybe I need to dance more?