I had music playing in my brain; soaring, pulsing music, a piece they often played in my dance class. It had made such an impression on me, I’d asked the instructor the name of the song and downloaded it to my iPod.
The insistent beat kept reverberating through me, like I was riding a wave, a vibration, that was moving me irrevocably through space and time. A hypnotic awareness of being… alive, hyper-conscious of everything, attached to nothing, seeing with a stunning clarity all that swirled around me. Even my lingering fear wasn’t immune to this upward surging pulse.
The music was stuck in my head with all the insistence of the most annoying ad jingle, except this music filled me and steadied me, as I walked down the street with my two escorts on our way to class. They showed no visible signs of the all-nighter they’d just pulled. They still seemed to radiate a vitality and, yes, masculine force, an essential confidence that felt like it was buoying me up from left and right, as they unobtrusively kept me between them. I deliberately tried to tune into that protective vibe, needing to test it out, if only against the sparse, and surely benign, flow of oblivious Saturday morning pedestrians.
We climbed the steps to the studio, and entered the big room to find a small crowd: seven other dancers, and my favorite instructor. All the faces were familiar; except, of course, for my entourage. As always, we began by sitting barefoot on the floor, and sharing our names. My Belarus visitor introduced himself as Boris. It made me wonder if he had a sense of humor after all.
This was not a class for people who have a problem with self-expression. We started cross-legged, swaying to soft music. From there we lay flat on the floor, stretching, rolling, letting the pace of the music gradually bring us to our feet, expanding our movements and our steps, each following his – or her – own bodily impulses.
All my life, I’ve loved to dance. I’ve danced to let loose, danced to cast off shadows of the moment, danced just to feel the sheer joy of being alive, being in a body that knows how to move. I admit, I was more than half expecting to feel stupid or self-conscious with my new acquaintances in the room, but with that inner music pulsing in my head, this bodily release was clearly the best and only thing to do. The craziness of this day was more than my mind could handle anyway. What the hell – might as well dance.
Maybe it helped to see that I didn’t have to worry about my new friends after all; to look at them, you’d think they’d dropped into 2010 just for this, just to show up and let loose.
Let’s face it, lots of men move awkwardly; they just aren’t engineered to undulate. While I wasn’t really watching them – no, seriously – I couldn’t help but note that they both moved like athletes, unself-conscious, their movements graceful and strong. Even “Boris” seemed to kind of groove to his own thing, doing something that looked a little like tai chi.
Here’s the thing. Dancing is sexy. My Saturday dance class was the closest I’d come to sex in a really long time. It wasn’t normally something I thought much about, because most often, there were only women in the class, and we all felt free with each other, free to swivel our hips and shake our booties. Since it was all about expressing emotion, getting in touch with one’s feelings and one’s body, the occasional guy who wandered in tended to come off as slightly clueless. Mostly, the guys looked kind of lost and didn’t come back. Sure, it could be a great place to watch women, but only if you’re cool enough to have some moves of your own.
But here I am, we’ve loosened up and now the pace gets hotter: Wilson Pickett, singing Midnight Hour. How can you not groove to that? So here’s a room full of people getting their funk on, a little eye contact here and there but mostly each of us just lost in our own private thing.
I’m having a good time, really letting go, and the more uninhibited I am, the braver I start to feel. I whip around and there I am face to face with Captain Jim, who’s not doing so bad himself. We kind of stake out that space between us, not touching but falling into sync, and whatever dirty dancing moves I throw out there, he just grins and tosses some back himself.
Obviously this guy does not have any trouble with inhibition.
And there’s no mistaking that little gleam in his eye, either. I file that little observation away for future reference.
Probably a good thing the music changed just then, swelled into something more dramatic. I spun off; spinning felt so good; I felt like some dervish, lost in bliss. Keeping to the edges of the room, clear of the other dancers, I claimed my own space to whirl across the length of the studio. I needed every bit of that space to release all I was carrying inside me. Whirling, leaping, letting that involuntary smile of wonder take me over.
As that grand music faded, leaving me sweating but inspired, it transitioned into more prayerful, more powerful than before, enveloping the room and everyone in it. Of course – the same piece that had been echoing in my head since I woke, lodging once more into some primal place inside; commanding us all to reach deeper still.
Sometimes we danced this prayerful phase in small groups, sometimes alone. Today, the instructor directed the dancers to find a partner nearby, to share and create a space for each other, letting connection rise in its own instinctive form. I looked around and into the unreadable eyes of Boris from Belarus.
I felt my heart jolt, then consciously willed myself to ride that inner wave, keep riding it, trusting it. Focus on the music, not him. I faced him, closing my eyes, letting the hypnotic music seep in. Following the soft guidance of the instructor, we began to sway, mirroring the movement of each other’s outstretched palms, not touching, just…sensing. It’s an intimate exercise with anyone. Now it felt like pure nakedness.
Eyes half open now, I felt an unexpected heat between our open palms. His hands were long and graceful, our mirrored movements fluid and spontaneous. And letting myself look into his angular, serious face, his dark alien eyes, I felt myself getting lost, slipping into some depths I couldn’t identify. The lingering hesitation in my heart, the wisps of fear that had been rooted there for so long, all that lower pain, felt like it was being engulfed by something larger, something amazing, infinite. I realized there were tears welling in my eyes, though they didn’t fall. There was, in that moment, no sadness or isolation to push them out, only that wordless exploration of some vast unknown, some shared… resonance, filling the space between us with a kind of sub-atomic conversation.
And then it was over. The music shifted again. We each returned to the floor, to our own space, for our own individual meditations. When the session ended, we all stood, gathered our things and started home. Right on schedule, I noted.
Nothing was said about what I swear had been telegraphed between me and Mr. Spock, or between me and Jim, for that matter. Two entirely different, but equally intense, exchanges. Jim talked about how he felt invigorated. Mr. Spock only remarked that the experience had been “fascinating”.
But, of course, we had more important matters ahead of us.