Monday, February 18, 2008

Unexpected Evening...

Those of you who know me well will not believe the next words that I say to you...

I went dancing.

And those of you who know me well likely know my Dancing Story and thus will believe what I say all the less. Yet here we are with the truth laid out for all to see. What's more; I enjoyed it. Enjoyed it enough to do it again the next day. And enough to decide that everyone should dance to the Beatles at least once.

On the day before V-Day, I received a message from one of my favorite Nashville friends asking (telling, actually) me to go dancing the next evening. I tripped over myself to accept the invitation. It'd like to say it was because I'd always thought it would be a lot of fun to try to dancing, if only I had someone interested in going. In truth it was mostly because I simply thought that dancing with her was something that I would like to experience.

Now, mind that this wasn't crazy in the club, leg-humping dancing, but rather traditional styles such as the waltz, rumba, and tango. It turns out it was actually a dance class and I soon found myself nervous upon a dance floor with a very gifted instructor - I don't know anything about dancing, but I know a good teacher when I see one - and 5 participants. We spent the next hour learning the waltz, the rumba, and the push-pull swing. While I've never danced before in my life, I couldn't help but feel the movements were very natural, as if I'd done them thousands of times. And then it hit me; I had.

I've studied Yoseikan 'Aikido' for a number of years now, though sadly no longer regularly, and I've been told a number of times (like most Budoka , I imagine) by non-practitioners that "I bet you could dance very well." But I can't. Not do I think I know a single person that I've met over the years through Yoseikan that can dance at all. Perhaps I shall be the first.

But it hit me as I made my way over and over in the little box I had drawn in my mind around my feet; something about this feels so natural. Eyes focused on my partner, willing myself not to look down as if I balanced on a precipice, trying not to look at her feet even though I feared trampling them (which I didn't do once, I'm proud to say) I realized I had done these steps a thousand times and more. I'll put it in a language my fellow Budoka can understand, and with that language I'm going to teach you some basic dancing in three easy steps; irimi, hiraki, motari komi, mirror it, repeat. Okay, the motari komi part is a joke but wouldn't that be awesome? But I realized these moves were all just Yoseikan without throwing someone at the end. Admittedly the most disappointing part about dancing.

I don't believe myself to be a judgmental person, so I don't think in the past I'd ever have said something such as "dancing would be a silly thing to learn". I mean, really...who dances? But I'm sure I probably thought that to myself, about myself. It's just not for me, I would have thought. But there is something to dancing. I hate to use a term such as "magical", but there it is all the same. There is something about asking a woman to dance, offering your hand to her as she accepts, and leading her out onto the dance floor, still hand-in-hand. Holding your hand to your side, level with her eye, as she accepts it and moves close to you and you rest your hand firmly but gently on her shoulder blade to guide her around the room.

I don't know any fancy moves. I have a small set of what I can do, and I don't stray from it. I don't know any awesome twirls. I don't know how to dip someone. And I was perfectly content to use my small skill-set and dance hour after hour. However, you better believe if I did know such moves - and when I do - I'll be twirling and dipping people like there's no tomorrow, rose clenched between my teeth, and God help you if you get in my way because there's going to be trouble.

The atmosphere of a place like where I went appeals to my nature. Everyone is polite, everyone is respectful. I was raised pretty strictly by these values and they are so burned into my soul I can't help but apply them to everyday life. And this place really worked with that part of me. It felt almost like another world where people act like I feel everyone should. I don't feel awkward when I rise to stand for a lady as I await her to take her seat. I don't worry about getting yelled at for holding a door for someone. I don't get a look of disgust offering my hand to help another over threshold. I don't worry about these things because they know I'm not doing it because I think they are weak or helpless; I'm doing it to be polite and respectful. When I'm moving around the dance floor with someone, I can look them straight in the eye because I am respecting them as a human being, not because I'm being some creepy guy who is staring. Everyone gets that and accepts it, even expects it. Like it should be.

When I was instructed in my lesson to always, always escort a lady off the dance floor, my mind said, "yes! this is right". Why would I not do such a thing? Why am I not escorting women more places in my everyday life?

While I've always heard people speaking of dancing as a form of expression, I never really got it. Painting? Sure, a form of expression, clearly. Music? Obviously! But dancing? It's all just set moves isn't it? Apparently not! It turns out it is one of those situations where you cannot really see the truth of the matter before plunging into it. I've danced with more amazing and beautiful women in the last week than anyone has a right to ever know in a lifetime, let alone dance with. And that was all I needed to do to have "dance as expression" proved to me. I know that one of the women is goofy with an off-the-wall sense of humor who doesn't let much bother her. I know another appreciates bluntness and people who love music the way she does. I know a third who is amazingly disciplined but will be the first person to pull a practical joke on you if you're looking the other way. I learned more about some of these ladies in a dance than I learn from some friends in a year. There is an openness and sharing that took me unawares and left me feeling naked. I wonder what people learned about me?

I'm going to go again. I think it will be good for me. I've spent the last few years coming out of my shell more and more, as close friends will tell you, and I think this will be yet another good exercise for me to peak my head out into the sunlight a little more. One day I will fully bathe in it. But for now I'll keep reaching upwards.