by Beth Boswell Jacks
and dance. Great dancers are not great because
of their technique, they are great because of their
passion.” – Martha Graham
When was the last time you danced -- really danced? Turned up the music and let yourself go with the flow? Ignored your two left feet, your annoying avoirdupois (as in sagging stuff around your middle) and cavorted?
As little kids we wiggle and waggle with not a thought as to how foolish we might look. We move with the rhythm of the music. We’re butterflies. We’re elephants. We’re clouds and jesters and beautiful ballerinas. We don’t care. The music is there and the movement naturally follows.
Then we age a bit and our dance turns to cool stuff. We jive and jam and move in whatever fashion the rest of the crowd moves. But we’re still allowing music to speak to our souls.
Then we get older and forget how to dance. We’re too old. Too fat. Too tired. Too clumsy and awkward.
We forget the chill bumps we felt dancing up close and personal to “Since I Fell For You” or “Unforgettable” or “Love Me Tender.” We forget the exhilaration of rocking to “Brown-eyed Handsome Man," "Louie, Louie," or “Mabelline.”
We forget the thrill of being a butterfly.
And what a shame.
I watched the finale of ABC’s summer ballroom competition, Dancing With The Stars, and, of course, I pulled for the older couple, actor John O’Hurley, a Seinfeld alumnus, and his partner. They’d led throughout the competition, but alas! The hip young couple beat them in the championship round.
Whatever. The older folks were dancing and they were gorgeous. They were an impressive example of how dance at any age is a wonderful thing.
And what a surprise the success of this series was for the TV networks! Up to 16 million viewers tuned in every week to watch Dancing With the Stars – so, of course, there will be more. Fox has launched its own show, So You Think You Can Dance. Watch for it.
The word is out. Dance is hot. Audiences love it.
I could have told ‘em.
I’ve loved dancing ever since my friend Keith Dockery Derbes took me to Memphis in 1955 to see Maria Tallchief perform with the Ballet Russe de Mont Carlo. I sat on the edge of my seat, mesmerized throughout the performance, completely transported to another world of unbelievable grace.
Keith and I, along with our buddies, had the good fortune during our “growing-up years” to study dance with a pro – Ruth Hart. Ruth left our town in 1959 to head the dance department at Mississippi University for Women, but her influence remained. She left behind a bunch of girls who love dancing to this day.
At a recent get-together of childhood pals, we put our records (well, OK, tapes . . . ummm, I mean CDs) on the muh-chine and danced our hearts out. We didn’t care how we looked or how we moved or how we ached the next day.
We were groovin’ and movin’.
The fact is, I figure this is just exactly what humans were intended to do, or else music and movement would never have been created. Right? As one sage (listed as "unknown" in my little quotation book) said: "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance!"
So here in this month where we remember the ninety-fourth anniversary of Ginger Rogers’ birthday, the seventy-fourth anniversary of Leslie Caron’s birthday, the ninety-first anniversary of the debut of the Fox Trot, and the twenty-eighth anniversary of the longest belly dance ever performed, let’s celebrate!
Classical ballet, rock ‘n roll, jazz, hip hop, tap, Western line dance – you name it. Let’s get moving!
Turn on the radio or CD player and find music that moves your soul . . . then shuffle like a chicken on a hot griddle.
Yo' mojo will thank you.
Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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